Chapters' Future is Bright: Leadership Conference Motivates Leaders
Chapters are an important part of how GEAPS began. It was chapters that came first, before the International organization, and after last month's Leadership Conference, it is clear that chapters are a critical part of GEAPS' future success, too. Seventy-four GEAPS members and leaders from across the U.S. and Canada met for the 20th annual GEAPS Leadership Conference, July16-18 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Bloomington, Minn.
This year's event, titled "Get Your Chapter Runnin'," took a close look at the current state of the GEAPS chapter network as well as the future direction and priorities to advance its evolution. "We had 22 chapters participating in the event," said Slav Waplak, GEAPS International president. "Some with multiple leader representatives."
On the first day of the conference, facilitator Bud Crouch introduced several association governance trends and best practices for chapter leaders to consider, and then challenged participants to define a successful future for chapters, asking "What could the GEAPS chapter network look like in 5 years?"
Attendees rolled up their sleeves to think about what is and is not currently working for chapters. They concluded that there is a gap between where we are and where we want to be, which leaves a great opportunity to improve the relevance and value of the GEAPS chapter network.
Bud then presented three fundamental areas of focus for chapter improvement: governance, operations and programming. He explained what improvements in each area might involve.
• Governance: Raising the bar for chapter governance would include taking a hard look at chapter leadership capacity and functionality; not only who is in leadership, but also the process by which leaders make decisions.
• Operations: Operations improvements would involve paying attention to running a chapter effectively and efficiently as a business enterprise, developing best practices for policies, procedures and how a chapter uses marketing and communications. Of particular importance would be standardizing these best practices so they become user-friendly and "natural" for future leaders.
• Programming: Elevating chapter programming performance to meet the GEAPS brand promise of being the knowledge resource for our industry would require evaluation of the types of programs currently provided and the methods used to create or find program content and speakers.
In small groups, workshop participants discussed goals for chapters in each area, agreeing on 17 characteristics that would describe a future, optimal state of chapters.
Attendees took the second day of the conference to define strategies for achieving this optimal future state, asking "How can we get there?," "What can chapters do by themselves?" and "What can GEAPS build or create for chapters to ensure they all become high-functioning, quality chapters?" They developed many tactics for improving chapter performance.
Moving forward, GEAPS staff will work with committees and the International Board to enact changes at the International and chapter levels which will put many of these tactics into practice. "We've got a lot of momentum rolling out of this conference," said Waplak. "And a lot of work to do to keep chapters moving in the right direction." International Board Chair Bill Lyster said that achieving optimal performance also involves bringing together International and chapter leadership. "Chapters are our future and that future is bright," he said. "As a Board we've got to look at how we can better and more fully support them. One of the resources that helps us succeed at the International level is GEAPS professional staff, and we need to consider how we can make them more accessible to chapter leaders to improve our chapter performance."
So what is it going to take to "Get our chapter network runnin'"? We need to change our process and our behavior at both the International and chapter levels.
What change does your chapter need to make to get it runnin' at full capacity?