Partnering to Improve Member Participation; a Conversation with Kevin Grega, President, Greater Lehigh Valley CSI

Updated: Oct. 12, 2020  |  Categories: Low Engagement  

Partnering to Improve Member Participation

The Greater Lehigh Valley Chapter of CSI (GLV-CSI), the Construction Specification Institute, is partnering with other local association chapters to deliver events that increase member participation, while providing opportunities to interact with those in overlapping industries. Recently, we connected with their chapter president, Kevin S. Grega, CSI, CCPR, to learn what they’re doing, with whom, and what they’re learning from other association chapters.

Tell us about some of your partnerships.

The Greater Lehigh Valley Chapter of CSI welcomes the entire construction community, including architects, engineers, contractors, product representatives, designers, distributors, and students. The AIA is a professional organization for architects.

Our joint January meeting with AIA typically has the highest attendance meeting throughout the year, with more than 85 attendees. We try to schedule at least two joint events per year. Previously all were in person but since Covid-19 we plan to have more joint virtual events. 

Our partnership started well before my time; there is a great synergy between these two organizations because of our shared interests. It offers a great collaboration between groups and enables those chance connections to pull from through the years. 

In addition to AIA, we’ve partnered with the Philadelphia chapter of CSI and are also actively looking at other construction related organizations to team with. 

What kinds of events have you held recently, which may be different than those you’ve held before?

Our most recent event was an in-person GLV-CSI Long Range Planning meeting for CSI chapter leaders followed by a celebration for two chapter members receiving awards. It was held outside in one of our member’s large backyards. Expenses were graciously covered by the host, who volunteered this location because it has a space large enough outdoors for proper social distancing. Nine people attended the long-range planning and roughly 20 people came for the awards celebration. The feedback included that it was a beautiful night to spend time outside with friends. Marketing for the event included an email invitation, which read, in part:  “Collaborate with fellow CSI members to advance the chapter, the industry, and your own professional and personal development. Long Range Planning is a unique opportunity to make a huge difference in ALL of these areas through a fun, casual, but effective "think-tank" session.”

Shortly, we will be joining AIA in a virtual presentation regarding a Philadelphia architect. We’ll also join them for several events in October, including a Trunk & Treat and a virtual presentation on Historic Building Restoration. Pre-COVID, we hosted several events with AIA, including two young professional events:  Pints & Pumpkins (pumpkin carving competition at a brewery) and an axe throwing event around Valentine’s Day.

In April, we held a joint virtual meeting with the CSI Philadelphia chapter. That meeting, the third in a series of shared panel discussions, was well attended and was also one of the first virtual meetings for CSI. Traditionally the Grill Series is held outside as a picnic panel discussion or at a host location. Due to COVID, we chose to have a virtual meeting. The panel typically includes an architect; construction manager; and general contractor or sub-contractor, the major players in a construction project. The submittals are shop drawings, product data, samples, and mock-ups to be delivered to the design professional (architect or engineer) for review and action as required by the contract documents. 

Due to the current situation and that people may be apprehensive about attending live events, we’re looking at holding more virtual joint events.

There’s no need to reinvent the wheel.

Your chapter leadership has a lot more than usual to deal with these days; finding new activities shouldn’t take up their time as well. Take pieces of what others are doing and see how it could work in your own association chapter. Or partner with like-minded organizations to overcome the pressure of holding in-person events, or virtual meetings, on your own, to reach out and increase collaboration in your local community.

Do a little crowdsourcing; look to others to see what’s working well and what isn’t and hear about topics that have gotten a lot of interest. As you can see from the successes of GLV-CSI, other local association chapters don’t need to be seen as competitors. Working together can take some of the pressure off of your organization to better engage your association members, outside of holding one Zoom event after another.

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