ACRA Frequently Asked Questions
Questions about how ACRA operates:
- Why do the larger firms take advantage of the smaller ACRA member firms?
ACRA, the American Cultural Resources Association is a trade association made up of dues paying corporate members and associate members. ACRA-L is an Internet listserv to discuss cultural resource management issues, and is provided by ACRA to the CRM community at large as a public service. ACRA-L is free and open to anyone willing to abide by its simple rules of etiquette.
MembersOnly is, as its name implies, a mailing list only for corporate members of ACRA. It is a place where members can discuss issues and help each other in a setting where people will feel more at ease and be more willing to open up. Subscription is private and a user ID and password are required to examine its archives.
To subscribe, unsubscribe, get the digest and other listserv functions, please click here and follow the instructions.
Marketing your firm to clients via our website, promotion of the ACRAWEB ring, and by linking our website to other trade organizations whose members may need cultural resource services. Developing a table top display for cultural resource conferences and for client based conferences and conventions. Negotiated a discount for ACRA member firms on ENI-Net.
Consultants Web Page
ACRA has developed a new section of its website that lists individual companies and branches by discipline and by geographic region. We are marketing this part of our site to potential clients and client organizations as a place to find experienced and professional cultural resource consultants across the country.
- Conducting ACRA OSHA training course (perhaps going to web based training course).
- Conducting ACRA Contracting workshop training course.
- Seeking other opportunities to develop online/distance learning courses for your employees.
- Exploring the idea of working with universities to set up adult training courses, internships, etc.) directed toward the needs of cultural resources consulting firms.
- Hiring a government relations specialist, Nellie Longsworth, to follow legislative and regulatory issues in Washington D.C, and provide corporate members with regular online updates via our MembersOnly e-mail list.
- Dealing with Army Environmental Center on the PAA 99 issue through our lawyer.
- Initiating discussions with federal agencies about contracting and quality control issues.
- Working with the Department of the Interior to improve the practice of archaeology.
Getting Info out to Members and Non-Members
- Sending ACRA's newsletter, ACRA-Edition, to members as pdf files via e-mail.
- Establishing the MembersOnly e-mail listserv.
- Publishing this FAQ page on our website.
- Establishing a password protected section of our web site just for corporate members.
- Continuing to sponsor ACRA-L which currently has over 1200 members from all sectors of CRM.
The following are random quotations from member firms when they were recently asked what they would tell prospective members about joining ACRA:
"For those of us in small companies ACRA is the best avenue to date for us to keep up on what's going on at many levels. ACRA and the information it provides really does give meaning to the old saying "knowledge is power." Another way I like to look at it is I may be somewhat isolated working in a small shop, but thanks to ACRA, isolation does not have to mean insulation from what's going on in CRM."
"1. A problem shared is a problem diminished: ACRA is a forum in which we can learn solutions to our common CRM and business problems
2. ACRA is engendering a professional and business ethic among its members and membership will soon come to indicate a company's standing in the CRM community. Don't be marginalized, join today."
"ACRA can provide the forum for discussing items of mutual interest which should lead toward actions of mutual benefit. That is my primary reason for joining."
"I helped to found, joined, and have served ACRA for many reasons. Of these and at the most basic level, no other organization in the country serves the CRM industry exclusively. As an organization of businesses, not individuals, ACRA (with all of its warts and pimples) seeks to raise the bar of professionalism in a confusing and undisciplined array of outlaws, rouges, and legitimate business enterprises. We attempt to lead by example, not by any vested authority or police power. I think that ACRA can make perhaps its most substantive and long-lasting contribution in the industry by working with other related groups to promote a national system of licensing that includes requirements for continuing education credits."
"Although we share common interests with a number of other organizations, there is no organization that specifically represents, and is a voice for, the interest of professionals involved in cultural resources investigations within the contractual compliance framework."
"At the conclusion of an audit by our biggest client this week -- a large corporation for which several ACRA members throughout the country have contracts -- the auditor expressed her dismay that there wasn't more consistency among cultural resource consulting firms. She proceeded to tell some "horror stories" regarding firms who have caused her a number of problems as a result of poor business practices, ranging from shoddy record-keeping to disreputable treatment of the client. I told her that Alpine was a member of the American Cultural Resources Association, and that one of ACRA's goals was to promote responsible and ethnical business practices.
That was ALL she needed to hear! She wrote down ACRA's name, and expressed her desire to limit her company's contracting to ACRA member firms. She plans to present this concept to her corporation leadership. I gave her ACRA's website address.
A good reason to belong to ACRA? -- you bet!"
Please visit the 2009 Salary Survey
The average number of employees in ACRA member firms is 17. ACRA has over 120 corporate members representing most of the medium to large-sized firms nationally, and many of the smaller firms. Assuming that there are another 200-300 firms (mostly individual consultants) that are not members, we estimate the total number of CRM staff in the private sector to be over 6,000 people.
Discipline % of Employees Historians 9< Architectural Historians 13 Archaeologists 50 Historical Architects 2 Landscape Architects <1 City Planners 4 Anthropologists 3 Geoarchaeologists 2 Suppliers <1 Preservation Planners 2 HABS/HAER Specialists 3 Underwater Archaeologists 1 Subsistence Specialists 1 Other CR Professionals 9
ACRA's consultants website lists our members by discipline and region of the company with links to their websites. ACRA also maintains a webring, ACRAWEB, that can be accessed from any participating member's website or from the ACRA website.
It is true that there are more archaeologists in ACRA than non-archaeologists, but they do not dominate the association's business. From the very beginning ACRA has made an attempt to recruit all disciplines, genders and regions of the country to serve on our board of directors and committees. Our officers, including president, have been historians and architects, not just archaeologists. If archaeologists seem to dominate the conversation on occasion it is due in part to other disciplines not speaking up.
Actually, the smaller firms pay significantly lower dues but have equal representation on the board of directors. As a practical matter, the smaller firms find it difficult to take the time and underwrite the cost required to participate fully. As they grow, they have been able to devote more time and resources to ACRA activities. On issues involving member input in a timely manner, all companies are equal unless they do not have the capacity for or regularly follow e-mail. It should be remembered that virtually all ACRA members are small businesses by federal standards.
The largest firms pay $1975 in dues and the smallest pay $100, based on their gross income. This does not mean, of course, that they are making that much greater a profit or even breaking even, but gross income was chosen over net income since it generally does not fluctuate quite so much from year to year, and because the dues are a smaller percentage of overall costs for large firms. Gross rather than net profit was also used because the smaller firms would feel taken advantage of if they made a profit that would require high dues one year while a much larger company did not make a profit and paid much lower dues.
Smaller firms do indeed pay much lower dues than large firms. But the bylaws were written to try and attract as many firms as possible. If everyone paid higher dues, the smaller firms would not join. If everyone paid the lower dues, ACRA's budget would be one-fourth to one-third of what it is now, and we could not have accomplished as much as we have in such a short period. In a sense, the larger firms are subsidizing the smaller firms in part because they recognize and are willing to pay for the benefits of an organization that can carry some clout with other sectors of CRM and with government agencies, among others.
ACRA was set up to make a difference, and it was felt at the time of incorporation that we needed the commitment of companies in terms of their manpower and funds to do what needed to be done to get the attention of the public, clients, and the other sectors of CRM, etc. Other organizations had faltered because of the lack of such support (the Society for Conservation Archaeology and the Society of Professional Archaeologists, among them) or had not fully met their potential. We needed significant amounts of money, and individual dues of $50 or $75 would have produced only a tenth of what corporate dues were capable of, given that most employees of CRM firms are not interested in the business of CRM and would not have joined. Having corporate membership has proved to be one of the keys to our success so far.
Come to the general member meetings we hold at most major conferences to get to know other members, come to board meetings in your area (they are open to the membership), volunteer to run for a board seat, volunteer to join a committee, participate on ACRA-L and MembersOnly, and finally come to the annual conference and introduce yourself.
Not in the foreseeable future. ACRA does encourage its members to join the appropriate certification organizations as part of our mission to promote professionalism in CRM. We are a business organization, not a discipline oriented association. We cover too many disciplines to be able to set standards in all of them, and some of them already have standards boards (AIA and RPA, for example). In addition, the DOI standards are in general use already. As far as certification and a way of enforcing certification, if ACRA were somehow to be sanctioned by a state government as a regulatory body or if ACRA membership or certification were to be required to conduct CRM in that state, we could legitimately be accused of restraint of trade unless we allowed every applicant to join or we certified non-members in a non-discriminatory way. Since we are exclusively for the promotion of private sector CRM firms and an advocate for such firms, we do discriminate in our membership and rightly so. Thus, we could not allow all applicants to join without entirely changing the character and purpose of the association. Simply put, a trade association cannot also be a regulatory agency, nor should it. Most state licensing boards do that and nothing else, and to assure their objectivity they are usually made up of representatives of the various professional associations, business sectors, academics and the public at large, etc.