GPAA Tech – Ten Years in the Making
Giving local attention to a national membership base
By Brandon Johnson
My first day working for the GPAA was a very exciting day in my life. I had grown up around this organization from the age of about 9, and looked up to those who were involved at the time like they were generals leading an army of prospectors. People like my grandfather George “Buzzard” Massie, Tom and Perry Massie, my grandmother Wilma Massie, Corey Rudolph, Jake and Lynn Hardwick, Woody Caldwell and others. They were always so busy during the outings, but I do remember that, at the end of the day, they always had a smile on their face. It was very exciting to think that, one day, I would be part of the team. What kid doesn’t get excited at the idea of playing in the dirt with friends as a profession?
I officially came on board in April of 2007, and my stepfather Tom Massie was completing a purchase of the organization from the Outdoor Channel. This would insure that the Gold Prospectors Association of America, and the Lost Dutchman’s Mining Association would stay family organizations moving forward. At that point, both organizations had been subsidiaries of the television network and a legacy for the Massie family. I was excited, nervous, energized and determined to contribute in any way I could.
Day one quickly transformed into the end of week one, and then month one and so on. Everything was happening so quickly around me and time flew by as I absorbed new information constantly – only starting to understand what it took to administer the membership nationwide. I focused on small improvements and changes as I went along, knowing that the staff was hard at work keeping the lights on, phones ringing and publications running on time. With each small improvement came a greater understanding and appreciation for what drove our membership. Ultimately, members looked to us to spread knowledge, provide support and access to properties, facilitate an ever-growing network connecting chapters, members, vendors, manufacturers and land rights organizations, and to do what we could to help them find more gold.
Feedback from our membership would come in on a regular basis, covering all types of topics. Each day the office takes in 300-500 phone calls, and every call gives us useful information to add to the knowledge and support we share in our publications. The problem is not that our members do not want to share good information, or that they don’t have feedback to share, but how to evaluate the quality of new information and how to maintain it on a national scale. Some of you may have heard me say that prospecting is not as national as it is regional, and it is not as regional as it is local. The basics do not change, but to get the most out of your time and effort you need to know how to prospect the area you are in. Is there a low water table, presence of clay, should I be metal detecting or sluicing or dry washing?
To get the most out of our membership, we needed a forum where members could share the knowledge they had gathered on a claim-by-claim basis, fellow members could evaluate that information and support those they felt provided the most reliable feedback, and we could gather the best information to share with all members in our print publications. Providing better information about our properties, not to mention allowing members to collaborate with each other directly, would encourage members to spend more time prospecting (and boost recovery)!
As most of you have probably already guessed, I am talking about the online version of the GPAA’s Mining Guide. It has been a goal of mine from the early days of my involvement, and is shaping up to be a driving force to grow our membership. Since we introduced the online Mining Guide in January 2017, feedback has come in daily from our membership. It is now the most popular portion of our website, we have added new properties in real-time, we have started to feature information from local experts in the most recent edition of the Pick & Shovel Gazette, and plan to release a new version of the GPAA Claims Club Membership Mining Guide with tons of property specific feedback collected from local experts.
While we continue to correct mistakes that are reported from our members, outside of our efforts to add new properties, we are working hard to make improvements which will make places to go, recent activity and local experts easier to find. You will be able to filter the information you are requesting by state and county, based on the types of prospecting you are interested in, and you can isolate on only the highest quality information as rated by fellow members. Each member review has a print-friendly version so you can easily take the best information with you into the field. Future versions will also give members the ability to drop videos and links into their reviews, in case you want to tell someone where the best pitstops are or demonstrate your techniques.
The range of information we collect does not have to be limited to our club claims and leases. We can work together on public areas that are open to prospecting, pay-to-digs that offer discounts to members, rock and gem, coin and relic, and regional information that might help members know where to file new claims. It is truly an exciting time for the GPAA, and it’s not just us members who are looking to participate.
Major manufacturers, vendors, local businesses and prospecting shop owners are looking to support our efforts to share helpful information. They know that growing the level of involvement and sharing knowledge will translate into lifelong passion and security of our heritage. This goes beyond the scope of what I had originally envisioned, but the idea that our partners would be willing to incentivize us to help each other become more successful prospectors is very exciting.
For most of us, the only thing better than finding gold is helping someone else catch the fever, and the smile I see on their face reminds me what it was like when I found my first gold. Within the next few months, GPAA will push updated features to the online Mining Guide, we will continue to feature valuable information from members in our print publications, expand the number of properties featured within the online guide, and we will work with our partners to aggressively grow the volume of feedback for each property page.
It is truly an exciting time for our organization; one reminiscent of my first days in the office. If we can help one more member find their first gold, connect with a new group of friends, dramatically shorten the learning curve when prospecting in their area or spend a bit more quality time outdoors, we will have done our part to continue the great legacy of the Gold Prospectors Association of America. I am very proud to be a member today. I want to thank all of those who have submitted the hundreds of reviews we have received thus far. We will continue to support your efforts to share valuable information to the benefit of our membership, and can’t wait to show you the gratitude our industry partners have in store for you!
Brandon Johnson is the President of the Gold Prospectors Association of America and the Lost Dutchman’s Mining Association. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org