connections management news

November 2014
Vol. 13, Number 9


QRCA Management News
Conference News
Chapter News
Committee News
SIG News
Member News
mark sumpter
Mark Sumpter

From the President

Mark Sumpter,

What an exciting QRCA Annual Conference we had this year in New Orleans! Many thanks to Jay Zaltzman, Abby Leafe, and all the other volunteers who gave many hours and their hearts and souls to make the conference such a success.

Membership Expansion was discussed during the Leadership and Town Hall meetings this year. For those unable to attend, I wanted to share perspective on why we explored this topic (again) and the resulting recommendations. We planned the presentations to precede lunch so that questions, answers, and additional conversations could continue, but unfortunately this resulted in some feeling as if they did not have the chance to speak. For this, I apologize and take responsibility; but please know that was not the intention. There are several ways you may still join this conversation:

Why did we explore this issue?
QRCA is a healthy organization. Financially, QRCA has strong income to offset expenditures and we have strong reserves. While finances are an important part of the organization’s overall health, it was not the primary factor. We all understand that membership is the backbone of QRCA. It’s not just about numbers — maintaining a healthy, vibrant membership is critical to the long-term viability of QRCA. Ultimately, the Board of Directors is responsible for the overall health of the organization and must keep an eye on all areas affecting its health.

The issue of QRCA membership criteria comes up both from members wanting to know why we aren’t more inclusive, and from researchers who don’t qualify requesting to join QRCA. Though this topic has been discussed many times, we have never fully researched it among our existing members. Therefore, the Board wanted to take a holistic, expansive look to be able to answer these questions.

Who qualifies for membership and how is that determined?
Who decides member qualification? Through the research of the Membership Expansion Task Force (METF) we learned of several misunderstandings that need to be clarified. First, this is not and cannot be a Board decision — we only commissioned the work to learn and understand what opportunities might exist. Second, membership changes will require a change in QRCA bylaws with a 60% plurality for approval (at least 30% of membership must vote with 60% agreeing to any changes). So, in the end, the membership (you) makes the decision.

We have bylaws and policy, so who qualifies now? We also learned there is confusion and varying opinions among the membership regarding who does and does not qualify for membership. Some of this misunderstanding is due to varying levels of knowledge about bylaws and policies. Bylaws are the fundamental governing rules that can only be changed by the membership. They tend to be written broadly to allow the organization flexibility and generally do not include exclusionary language. Policies define the operations of the organization and may be changed by the Board of Directors. Policies represent the will of the membership, but allow the organization flexibility to grow and change over time without requiring member approval. The Board of Directors works with all of our committees to keep policies updated.

How do our bylaws currently define membership? To be a member, one must first pass bylaws criteria before going through the higher level of scrutiny afforded via policy. Our bylaws state that to qualify for an individual membership one must, first and foremost, specialize in qualitative research as a consultant or research supplier. However, our bylaws go a step further, currently including exclusionary language by requiring researchers to own their own firm or work for a qualitative or full-service research firm. If an individual is employed under any employment structure other than a qualitative or research firm, they do not qualify for membership even if they do what we do.

How does this align with the current qualitative industry (and our mission)? We have all seen the ever-changing and evolving qualitative research tools and methods that are emerging with the growth of technology. We are also seeing a change in the employment structure of qualitative researchers — independent consultants, QRs working in research firms, marketing and strategy companies with fulltime QRs, client and advertising agencies with fulltime QRs, and even vendors with QRs. Our current bylaws on membership do not take into account what is happening in the field of research and will not fully deliver the QRCA mission (dedicated to advancing the discipline of qualitative research worldwide) if we are not more representative of the industry.

What did the METF learn?
Generally speaking, the membership is open to expanding the current requirement for QRCA membership, with more than twice as many members indicating they were “supportive (of) expanding QRCA membership to new categories” of QRCs (47%) than were “opposed” (21%). Most important to membership is protecting our current culture, which drove opinions on whom should/should not be considered for membership.

  • Client-side qualitative researchers are a non-starter. Most feel this group would change the dynamics of the organization and are opposed to including them as members.
  • Including academics is a “no-brainer.” College professors and graduate students who teach research or conduct QR are readily accepted both qualitatively and quantitatively. Academics are seen as experts who add a theoretical counterweight to our speed-oriented client focus, and most feel this group would not change the culture of QRCA.
  • Other QR consultants — such as those in product design, branding, and user experience who primarily practice QR — are considered similar to current QRCA members in many respects, thus garnering more support than opposition. They are less threatening to QRCA’s culture because most members do not consider them to be clients and believe that they take an unbiased approach to research much as our current membership does.
  • Allowing ad agency researchers to join was seen as a conundrum because they are often viewed as potential clients, but also as exciting “new blood” that could reinvigorate QRCA. This was the most polarizing group, with those opposing inclusion vehemently opposed (believing they conduct biased research and will change our culture) and those in support expressing strong desire for including them (they can tell a brand story well and would bring new ideas to QRCA).

Board Recommendations/Next Steps
Based on the METF research on the current desire of QRCA members, the Board will be presenting a bylaws vote that will allow the membership to the opportunity to decide if academic and other QR consultants should be allowed as members. Client-side or agency researchers will not be included in the vote at this point in time.

We are targeting February 2015 for a vote, which will be after our primary membership renewal timeframe. The Board will share both the proposed bylaws language change and the policies that would be put into place to coincide with the change, should membership approve.

As always, the Board and I want to hear from you on the forum, or by direct contact to Shannon or me. Thanks to all who have participated in this discussion so far and I look forward to hearing from more of you!

In your service,

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jay zaltzman
Jay Zaltzman

Action! From the Board

Jay Zaltzman, QRCA Secretary,

The board of directors held a full-day meeting in New Orleans on October 14, the day before the annual conference started. As a new member of the board, this was the first time I got the full overview of all the volunteer activities done by our members, and all I can say is, “wow!”

During our meeting, we discussed a lot of great work done by our volunteers. Some highlights:

  • We reviewed the findings of the extensive research conducted by the Membership Expansion Task Force among QRCA members. Based on those findings, we are planning to ask the membership to vote for a bylaws change that would allow us to accept academics and qualitative researchers who work at companies other than research companies, such as product design, branding, and user experience companies. Based on the research findings, we are not currently asking our members to vote to accept qualitative researchers who work at ad agencies, because our members are polarized on the topic. However, this can be revisited in the future.
  • We discussed the great usability research the Technology Committee did on our QRCA website and approved recommendations to make the site more effective and user-friendly.
  • We approved the first Legacy Fund Advisory Team: Judy Langer and J.R. Harris, along with our treasurer, Manny Schrager. The Legacy Fund is a board-restricted fund to which members can contribute to support specific QRCA initiatives or as a memorial for those who have passed. It will be used to support QRCA in professional development activities organization to further its mission. Possible activities include funding scholarships to attend conferences, pro bono research projects, professional development initiatives and other programs.
  • We approved Kendall Nash as co-chair of the Membership Committee. She joins Philip Smith in this important role.

And those are just the highlights of the many wonderful things being done by our volunteers to make the QRCA great! Volunteering is work, but volunteers always say they are enriched by the experience.

Would YOU like to get more involved in the QRCA? Contact our QRCA “Matchmaker,” Jeff Walkowski ( — he will help find the right role for you!

We look forward to seeing everyone at next year’s annual conference, which will take place in Orlando, October 7-9, 2015. It’s sure to be an event you won’t want to miss!

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judy langer
Judy Langer

2014 President’s Award

Mark Sumpter,

It was my great honor to present the 2014 President’s Award at the QRCA Annual Conference in New Orleans.  The official description of this award states that it is given "for exemplary service and dedication to QRCA.”  The President’s Award often goes to someone who has a long history of contributions to QRCA and the 2014 winner, Judy Langer, exemplifies this.

Judy is one of the founding members of QRCA and has served in many roles, including serving on the Board which culminated in her role as President.  Judy regularly presents at conferences, has been a long-standing leader of the Field Committee, and this year worked to implement the QRCA Legacy Fund.  To demonstrate why Judy was recognized with this award, some comments from members are shared below:

  • “The dedication she continues to show today is amazing. I'm not sure any other member with her tenure is as involved as she continues to be with many, many aspects of QRCA.”
  • “According to Wikipedia, a mensch is ‘a person of integrity and honor.  A stand-up person, with the qualities one would hope for in a friend or trusted colleague.’  Judy is both to me.  Judy is a consummate professional.  Her giving to our industry knows no seasons. She was there at the start with the founding of QRCA.  Judy has contributed one of the gold standard and most thorough books on focus groups.  She has provided key leadership to FieldCom over a number of years, helping assure the highest level of professionalism with all things relating to the respondents and our field partners.  She has been a mentor, friend and source of inspiration to a great many.  In spite of her many accomplishments, Judy is humble, gracious, caring, and imperturbable.  Judy is the best of the best and we are fortunate to have her in our community.” –Jan Lohs
  • “Judy Langer has been at the forefront of qualitative research in the U.S.  Her name and her iconic career represent excellence personified.  Judy inspired the meetings in New York City that led to the founding of QRCA, and she was fittingly elected QRCA's first president. In particular, Judy's passionate devotion to integrity in field work has benefited our entire industry. We are all grateful to Judy for enhancing our profession with her initiatives and with the remarkable organization that QRCA has turned out to be." –Pat Sabena
  • “Judy is who I want to be when I grow up.  She's the cool, feisty aunt that everyone says has 'moxie'.  She's the leader who can keep everyone focused and on task.  She is supportive, tenacious, and committed.  Simply put, Judy is QRCA.  I'm so lucky to be her partner in crime and her friend.” –Michelle Finzel

It was an honor to present the President’s Award to my esteemed colleague, Judy Langer, and thank her for her outstanding and generous service to QRCA.  The entire Board joins with our members to congratulate her on this recognition!

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lloyd harris
Lloyd Harris

How You Can Help Create a Legacy: the QRCA Legacy Fund

Judy Langer,

QRCA does a great job of providing benefits to our members—learning, friendship, support, connection, local meetings, an annual bash (also known as the conference), and fun (who enjoyed bowling and dancing in New Orleans?).  We’re fiscally healthy but, like many non-profit organizations, our budget is fairly lean.  With just a little from a lot of us, it can achieve a better weight!  

In research, we look at causes/reasons why and at the immediate motivating factor.  Lloyd Harris’s death, sadly, was the immediate factor sparking the establishment of a fund to memorialize members we’ve lost. 

The Legacy Fund looks toward the future to by enabling QRCA to do more for qualitative research and qualitative researchers.  QRCA has done so much for so many of us—this is our way of paying it forward. 

The Fund will be used for educational purposes.  The Board has set up an Advisory Committee—Manny Schrager (current QRCA treasurer), J.R./Bob Harris (past QRCA president and Lloyd’s brother) and Judy Langer (past QRCA president)—who will recommend specific projects for the Board’s approval.

Here are some of the ideas the committee has discussed so far, and yours are very welcome:

  • More Young Professional Grants for the next generation of qualitative researchers—this year 91 people applied and 15 received a grant to attend the conference. 
  • More Global Scholarships allowing researchers from outside the U.S. to attend the conference.  This year’s winners came from China and Brazil.
  • More presentations of conference sessions on Qcasts or at local chapter meetings.  The Fund could pay speakers’ expenses so more members can be involved. 
  • Conducting pro bono research, which would help to raise QRCA’s profile.

Why should members donate to the Legacy Fund?  Here’s the thing:  just a few dollars more from us—the price of a Starbucks latte or a movie—can make a huge difference in what QRCA can do to advance qualitative research and benefit members.  

J.R. Harris says, “If your membership in QRCA has been beneficial to you and you want to ensure that future members get to experience benefits that are equally valuable, the QRCA Legacy Fund is an excellent way to pay it forward.  Your contribution would go above and beyond the caring and learning that QRCA already provides.  If you would like to memorialize a member who has passed away, or if you simply want to expand QRCA’s outreach and ability to give to others as it has given to you, consider contributing to the Legacy Fund." 

There are 3 ways you can contribute:

  • Donate now.  You can donate once or sign up for monthly payments.  As our president, Mark Sumpter, says, “If 400 members donated just five dollars a month for a year, we would have $24,000 in the Legacy Fund to help support QRCA educational opportunities!”   
  • Pledge to donate in 2015.
  • Pledge planned giving by including the Legacy Fund in your will. 

Currently contributions are not tax-deductible because it takes some time (and money) to apply for 501(c)(3) status, but we hope this will be the case within the next year or so.  By contributing or pledging now, you can help make this happen.  Non-member individuals and companies can also contribute to honor the organization and their loved ones. 

Legacy Fund donors’ names will be listed in QRCA publications, on the website, and will be announced at the conference (unless they prefer to remain anonymous).  The amounts will not be disclosed publicly. 

Click here for more information and for the online donation form.

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please send an e-mail to,, or

Whatever you decide to give will be much appreciated in enhancing QRCA now and in the future! 

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