StarChapter of September: AAF Cincinnati

Oftentimes, chapters struggle with attracting more members to volunteer for different positions on the board. AAF Cincinnati seems to have figure out how to recruit the right candidates with the right skillset to lead the chapter. Judy Thompson, their Executive Director, provides a unique perspective on chapter management practices, including how to tap into members’ volunteer spirits, and how StarChapter assisted in establishing their brand while removing the technical difficulties of running the chapter. Plus, she talks about successes and failures of the past year, and how they learned from them.


1. What was AAF Cincinnati's strategy for engaging new members in the past year?

 This past year, we focused on getting prospects to come to our no-charge "20 Minutes+ A Beer" functions, where our Membership Committee would zero in, get business cards, and engage the potential members. Unfortunately, the conversions weren't in the quantity we had expected. While we will keep doing that, we will also be looking at other ways to get people more involved. For our Board retreat in August, we brought Carol Weisman as our facilitator. Carol is a consultant with an impressive track record for helping non-profit boards. With Carol's help, we hope to get our 2016-2017 club year off to a great start.


2. Tell us about a successful event/meeting you organized last year.

One of our more successful luncheon meetings this year featured generational scholar Chuck Underwood on the topic "Connecting with Millennials: It's About Core Values." We have had Chuck as a speaker before, but his topics have involved Boomers and GenX. With the current interest in targeting Millennials as purchasers as well as entry-level employees, the time seemed right to bring him back. 

Attendance was good but below what we had expected, and those who attended were truly impressed. GenX participants were especially impressed with how Mr. Underwood knew and accurately defined the differences between them and their younger Millennial co-workers. And Boomers were pretty pumped over the similarities in Millennials and their own Boomer generation. It was one of our most talked-about luncheons, one that our members and prospects alike will remember while utilizing some of the good advice that Chuck provided. In fact, some actually decided to purchase Chuck's latest book on Amazon after attending that luncheon meeting.


3. The AAF network is extensive. Do you get ideas on how to improve membership value from other AAF chapters?

AAF has a very strong network of Executive Directors across the country. While we all get together in person just once a year at our June National Conference, we stay connected throughout the year, using our shared email addresses as well as an active LinkedIn and Facebook connections. We reach out to each other when we are facing issues, when we enjoy a fabulous success, and when we are looking for brilliant new ideas and new ways of doing business. As an example, in discussing the need for more non-dues revenue, another executive director told me what great success they'd had in charging for non-members to post Job Openings on their StarChapter website. So, as a trial, I asked my intern to figure out what we had to do to begin charging non-members to post jobs there. She helped me set it up; we set the charge at $75 per posting. And without promoting it or reaching out at all, we let it just sit there, and earned $600 over about six months. In the coming year, we plan to promote it and see how it will grow our non-dues revenues.


4. Do you have any tips/advice to share with other board volunteers?

My best advice for other chapter leaders (and I was a volunteer leader AAF Cincinnati long before becoming its Executive Director) would be to encourage participation by each of your members. So often, there are potential leaders who simply go undiscovered because no one asks them to help out with one small task. Remarkably, that one small task can be all it takes to tap into their volunteer spirit. I've found over the years that, if you go after ONLY those who raise their hand first, you can overlook a lot of untapped talent.


5. What is in store for the members of AAF Cincinnati next year?

With our half day Board Retreat in the last week of August, I am looking forward to a most exceptional year. Our volunteer President has decided to stay on for a second term, to reach some of the goals that weren't reached in his first year as a president. This year's Board nominees were recruited more methodically than in the recent past, zeroing in on the qualities we'd been missing. Key was that nominees had all received explicit endorsement from their companies' senior management. Further, the nominating committee was instructed not to tell any "little white lies" about the workload inherent in accepting a board role. Instead, we focused on ensuring potential candidates that, while the responsibilities weren't always easy, the outcomes were always rewarding. Further, we explained those rewards in terms those candidates would find meaningful.


6. How did StarChapter help you run AAF Cincinnati and reach its goals?  

StarChapter has made a huge difference in how we manage our organization. The simplicity of website updating and messaging consistency has helped us to focus on establishing our brand, rather than just dealing with the technology. What's more, we have found the StarChapter "help" assistance to be consistently easy-to-reach and useful (without being patronizing) in their explanations, instructions and advice -- most refreshingly so! Having contracted with another company with a similar -- but far more expensive -- product, I used to wait for 2 hours or more on "hold" for their 800 # help line, only to get someone who enjoyed making me feel like an idiot.  So, StarChapter is a joy! With StarChapter's newer bells and whistles, which never causes the customer price increases! We find them and utilize them at our own pace. Nobody is pushing us to utilize and we can implement whatever we'd like whenever we'd like. I couldn't be happier!


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