On June 22-24, regional association executive staff and leaders from around the country gathered in Grapevine, Texas, for the 2011 RAC Leadership Development Workshop (LDW). They came together for three days of education and networking opportunities with their peers and industry experts.
LDW focused on developing future regional leaders and enhancing relationships among the 28 nonprofit associations in the promotional products industry. The event’s curriculum—with sessions geared toward first-time attendees as well as content for the more experienced—provided participants with challenging general sessions, interactive breakout discussions and idea-sharing activities.
The Executive Director Learning Forum (EDLF) and the PPAI Leadership Conference were also held at the same location. EDLF was an all-day training and sharing program for the executive directors of the 28 regional promotional products industry associations. At the PPAI Leadership Conference, members of PPAI’s Board of Directors, committees and action groups convened for a full day of meetings and planning sessions.
LDW is a valuable asset to regional associations developing strong leadership and volunteers. Dan Jenne, CAS, RAC board president and CEO of CMG Promos (UPIC: CMGPRO) in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, says: “LDW offers invaluable education on how to recruit good volunteers and how to run a board in a professional and legal manner. A lot of folks don’t realize until they come to LDW all of the legal responsibilities board members have. LDW is regional associations working together and working as regions of the country, so we can share ideas and plan together.”
Speaking at LDW’s opening session, Cynthia D’Amour, MBA, grabbed the audience’s attention and imagination. The author of seven books, including The Lazy Leader’s Guide to Outrageous Results and How to Turn Generation Me into Active Members of Your Association, leadership strategist and president of People Power Unlimited, she gave participants immediate, actionable lessons on getting people involved, working with volunteers and organization leadership.
Participants were able to tailor their experiences to suit their needs and the needs of their regional associations. Breakout sessions, leadership labs and discussion panels throughout the event approached association management from every angle. Subjects ranged from attracting membership to professional development to association governance, and everywhere in between. Presenters at LDW included PPAI staff and board members, as well as experts from within and outside the industry. The event’s curriculum has progressed over the years to be more responsive to the needs of its participants and the changing marketplace. This flexibility has equipped regional associations with the right skills at the right time to grow, flourish and attract new generations of volunteers.
This year’s hot topic was social media. LDW featured panel discussions, breakout sessions and the opportunity for one-on-one consultations on the subject. Subjects included social media strategy, online marketing and how to fit social media within the regional association framework. It was an issue top of mind with many attendees.
“Social media is a new area that our regional has been venturing into, so it’s an opportunity to learn different ways to be able to apply it,” says Ashanti Pretlow, executive director of the Sunbelt Promotional Products Association (SPPA).
The emphasis on social media and its encroachment on so many parts of the industry was also felt at LDW. Donna Vorce, CAS, RAC vice president and owner of First Impressions (UPIC: firstimp) in Columbus, Ohio, says: “This time I’m getting messages on Facebook and there are tweets going out while people are in. It’s connected us in a way that we’ve never been able to do before.”
LDW has proven a valuable venue for regional association leaders spread across the United States to share ideas and learn from each other. “The biggest thing I get out of LDW is the opportunity to speak with other executive directors that may be experiencing similar issues that we have in our region,” says Pretlow. “I find that a lot of the other regions are experiencing the exact same problems, and it’s an opportunity to sit down in a roundtable format and bounce ideas off of each other and learn about successes and failures and how we can apply that to our own region.”
This has been one of the truisms of LDW. Despite the geographic distances involved, the local challenges regional associations face are frequently similar. “What an incredible opportunity to come together with members from other parts of the country that do the same thing that we do at our local association and have the same challenges that we have,” says Vorce. “It’s nice to meet people and learn from them. To find out what they’ve done that works and what they’ve done that hasn’t. I learn every time I come, and this is my seventh LDW.”
Everyone’s experience at LDW was different. Each came with their questions and issues, and their own histories in the industry and at the event. It was an opportunity to prepare themselves for new roles in their regional associations. “I am new to LDW, but I’ve been involved with my board for about 12 years as a board and committee member,” says Heidi Forsythe of the Incentive Agency in Lakewood, Colorado, and vice president of the Rocky Mountain Region Promotional Products Association (RMRPPA). “Next year I am going to be the board president, so that’s why I came. I had no expectations, and so far, I love it. Attending LDW is important because, in our board meetings, we’ve seen declining education, declining attendance and nobody wants to volunteer because we aren’t showing them any reason to. What we learn here we can bring back and apply to our association.”
In 2011, LDW continued the tradition it has established over the past 11 years, bringing together regional leadership as colleagues and serving as a clearing house of valuable, actionable ideas to help the 28 nonprofits serving the promotional products industry thrive.
Raj Menon, president of Flat World Design (UPIC: fwd) and a member of the Promotional Products Association Southwest (PPAS) board, says: “I am a new member of the PPAS board, and this is my first LDW. I came … to get an idea of what other associations are doing and how we can benefit from PPAI support to improve the organization, recruit more people and so forth. And that’s exactly what it’s been. There’s a lot I’ve learned and a lot to learn, and I’m looking forward to coming next year, for sure.”