HOW NIGP’S CHAPTER AMBASSADORS PROGRAM GOT STARTED
In 2013, the NIGP board of directors reviewed its governance structure. In the articles of incorporation, bylaws and board policies, they found 67 unique roles defined for the board. “The board decided to delegate 42 of these roles to three newly-formed councils that make up the governance structure, so they could focus more on strategy,” said Rick.
At that point, the NIGP directors were elected from 13 geographic areas in the United States and Canada. Directors were expected to visit chapters in their area every four years. “If you think about it, that’s a significant gap in time,” said Rick. “Also, we didn’t provide directors with a methodology for approaching the chapter, just go out and have a conversation, maybe do a presentation.”
The directors had different communication styles and delivered different messages. Some were good strategists, but not good public speakers. “We needed people who love public speaking, who like to go out, shake hands and do presentations,” said Rick. “Why don’t we take the visitation requirements out of the board’s responsibilities and create a chapter ambassadors program as part of this new governance structure?”
NIGP launched their chapter ambassador program in 2016. They identified two to three chapter ambassadors for each geographic area.
EXPECTATIONS FOR CHAPTER AMBASSADORS
NIGP provides training for chapter ambassadors primarily so they understand and achieve the program’s objective: demonstrating the value of NIGP membership. Ambassadors visit each chapter every two years to educate their leaders and members about NIGP services. They now have a consistent approach and message thanks to a standard presentation provided by NIGP that can be adapted to the culture of the chapter they’re visiting.
Chapter ambassadors spend a day and a half to two days at the chapter. “They’re either taking vacation time to make the visits, or their agency says, ‘This is really important, go and do the visit,’ and gives them time off,” said Rick.
NIGP covers the travel and training expenses for chapter ambassadors. Each visit is budgeted at about $750 to $1000 a person. For 36 visits, that’s about $27,000 to $36,000 a year, “a great investment for the relationship building and feedback you get,” said Rick.
Chapter ambassadors meet with chapter officers and, when possible, the board. “It’s a liaison relationship,” said Rick. “They ask: ‘What’s working well? What’s not working well that we can help fix for you?’ Chapter leaders tell the ambassadors about the struggles they’re having. Ambassadors are familiar with our resource library so they can suggest resources that can help leaders address those issues.”
The chapter ambassadors gather information and report back to Jennifer Steffan, NIGP’s chapter relations manager, with a detailed assessment of their visit. These reports help NIGP know where to take action, for example, by developing new resources or strengthening specific areas of communication.
TALENT COUNCIL FOR CHAPTER AMBASSADOR AND VOLUNTEER RECRUITMENT
Another result of NIGP’s governance restructure was a new Talent Council. This group acts as NIGP’s “HR arm for volunteers.” The philosophy driving the Talent Council is to lead with the volunteer, not the vacancy. Rick explained: “One of the mistakes associations make is saying, ‘Hey, we’ve got a vacancy on the finance council. Is anyone interested?’ People volunteer without really knowing what they’re getting into.”
When people indicate they’re interested in volunteering for NIGP, someone on the Talent Council schedules a conversation with them to find out about their passions, interests and preferences for how they want to serve. “Members want to serve in different capacities,” said Rick. “Some like a long-term commitment, say, for three years because they have the time, some people want to serve on a short-term task force, get it done and then back away, and some of them want to do something episodic.”
Then the assessment process begins to identify the best volunteering fit for the member. “Members don’t know about all the volunteering opportunities available,” said Rick. “So when we find someone who loves public speaking, who loves to go out and meet people, who loves to travel, we think, ‘Wait a minute, this is a chapter ambassador candidate.’”