In late September, PPAI and the Regional Association Council (RAC) co-hosted the 14th annual Leadership Development Workshop (LDW) bringing 148 regional volunteersand executive directors from all 27 regional associations across the U.S. and Puerto Rico to Grapevine, Texas, near PPAI’s headquarters in Irving.
LDW is a long tradition, but PPAI’s support of the regional associations goes back even further—to the mid-’90s and the later formation of the Regional Association Council (RAC). All the regional associations belong to RAC, which was developed to enhance their success through representation, advocacy and communication.
Many PPAI volunteers begin their service at the regional level and engage with PPAI as they gain comfort in a volunteer role and see the opportunity to have an impact on a national level. Over the years, this practice has benefited PPAI by providing a wealth of qualified and experienced volunteers (many of whom also continue to be involved in their regional associations) and has helped to promote a healthy relationship between PPAI and these independent regionals.
It has long been suggested that PPAI seeks to “take over” the regionals. Staff has heard this conspiracy theory for at least a dozen years. If this theory is true, either PPAI is not really very good at accomplishing its objectives or it is incredibly patient. The fact is there is no such conspiracy or desire by PPAI to take over the regionals. Rather, we are committed to helping the regionals and their management teams succeed.
Regional associations accomplish a great deal in spite of the fact that often times the executive director functions as the sole, consistent steward of the association with the remainder of the work supported by their volunteer boards and committees. Regional associations are further challenged by limited financial resources; this shared challenge can best be met “head on” by collaborative activities, best practice sharing and cooperative programs. During LDW the regional association community was challenged to tear down the protective walls of membership, programs and financial information that provide the details, insight and opportunities that can lead to the identification of associations in need of support, those coping well and those that are flourishing in their industry communities. This voluntary sharing of information can only make the community stronger as a whole.
PPAI believes that supporting the regional associations is a crucial factor in the industry’s continued success and we do more than talk about it. This year alone, PPAI invested more than $120,000 to produce the recent Leadership Development Workshop by funding the program, speakers and materials, and brought up to four regional volunteers from each regional association as well as their executive director to attend the three-day event. On an annual basis, PPAI’s regional relations budget is just over $500,000, which, in addition to LDW, pays for maintaining PPAI staff to support regional activities, travel to at least one show per year for every regional association, the RAC website with its many tools and resources, development of the government relations tool, Little Black Book, strategic planning assistance for all regional associations who request it and more. PPAI also provides targeted training for executive directors during Education Day at The PPAI Expo and extends its FedEx discount shipping program to regional association members. The PPAI Regional Relations staff works on a continuous basis to identify new comprehensive areas of support.
Believing that working together makes the industry stronger, PPAI and the regional associations join forces on many initiatives such as the RAC Business Recovery Fund, which raises money to help companies recover from natural disasters. We also enjoy robust regional participation in PPAI’s L.E.A.D. program, which organizes visits with Washington, D.C., legislators each spring. This past February, the regional associations also did a superb job of supporting the inaugural Promotional Products Work! Week.
Further, with 27 executive directors facing many of the same challenges and issues as their peers, we provide support that helps make it more efficient and less expensive to operate their associations through myriad services and programs including 20 hours of PPAI marketing support, a turnkey newsletter production service, an online meeting management program and Idea Share, a web forum where executive directors can exchange ideas on marketing, membership, professional development, trade shows, volunteers and other topics.
Like all great accomplishments, someone has to first believe in it. This year, for the regional associations, that person has been RAC President Roger Burnett, CAS, vice president of supplier iClick. For the first time in RAC’s history, Roger conducted a district meeting with each of the five RAC districts. Starting in February and finishing in August, he traveled to each district to meet with district representatives and gather information that will help RAC create its 2014 Strategic Plan. I applaud Roger for this dedication as his work will help carry forward the mission of RAC and the regional team through 2016.