Component relations professionals (CRPs) have a challenging job, for sure, but we can tell by the way your face lights up when you talk about your work that it’s also a job that brings you joy. At the Association Component Exchange (CEX), the one-day conference for CRPs we co-host with Peggy Hoffman and Peter Houstle of Mariner Management, our resident association chatter, KiKi L’Italien, talked with several CRPs about their work.
KiKi was once a CRP herself, but you might know her as the host of Association Chat or consultant at Tecker International. We recorded her conversations with CRPs and captured the highlights in this five-part series of posts.
- What people think CRPs do and what CRPs really do
- What CRPs love about their work
- Challenges faced and impact made by CRPs
- The CRP secret sauce: necessary skills and traits
- Advice for future CRPs and the future CRP role
What component relations professionals love about their work
What is it about being a CRP that makes them gush so much?
Witnessing inspirational volunteer leadership
Tanya McAdory-Coogan, former CRP and now Vice President of Programs & Engagement at the U.S. Navy Memorial, told a story that illustrates why she loves being a CRP. She was sitting on a plane “sharing pleasantries” with the man next to her.
“I asked him, ‘What do you do?’ He introduced himself as a board member for a local ALS chapter. That was amazing to me because… I’ve never had someone lead with their volunteer role.”
This trip was around the time of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, so his answer sparked a conversation about board leadership. “Come to find out, this guy was a pretty high-level executive at Northrop Grumman. To be so inspired by your volunteer leadership and believe in an organization’s mission and vision that you introduce yourself with your volunteer leader role—that has influenced the way I’ve engaged with volunteer leaders ever since.”
Making a difference
“What I love about being a CRP is serving others,” said Patrick Algyer, former CRP and now Executive Director of the Northern Virginia Apartment Association (NVAA). “I love getting the email or call… ‘Oh my gosh, I get it now.’ Hearing that from a volunteer is as important to me as my paycheck. That’s what keeps me going, keeps me motivated.”
Ann Dorough, CAE, Director of Component Development at The American Institute of Architects (AIA), agreed. “I really love it when a struggling chapter takes advantage of our resources and guidance and then says, ‘Oh, wow, we’re actually a good little chapter.’ That’s the most rewarding.”
Scott Wilson, CAE, former CRP and now Director of Strategic Initiatives at the American Payroll Association (APA), said he loves “seeing how [chapter leaders] light up when they talk about their careers and what they’re doing at a chapter level.”
He gave an example: “They’re not the head of their department or running a team, but they’re the president of the [chapter] board. They’re getting a leadership experience that will propel their careers. When they say they got a promotion or did something at their job because of what they learned at their chapter, I know I had a part in some sort of little way. That’s exciting. It’s a way you can give back to people without being in their day-to-day lives. It’s satisfying and inspirational for me.”
KiKi understood what Scott meant: “You’re watching and actively helping people grow in their careers and live better lives.”
Solving problems and learning something new every day
“You’re dealing with a lot of the same issues, but because of the human aspect, it’s really never the same day twice,” said Scott.
“I think being a CRP, you have to be a risk taker. You can’t do the same thing every day, at every conference or on every webinar because people won’t remain engaged—and engagement is what it’s all about,” said Patrick. He said patience is a necessary trait for CRPs since their job involves “managing different personalities and being pulled in multiple directions.”
A chapter leader might call looking for help with a report or they might just want to vent. “You have to be ready and prepared for whatever happens on the other end of the phone. You don’t know what their need is going to be,” he said, which is why he believes CRPs must be “nimble and agile on a day-to-day basis.”
KiKi agreed, “You’re asked to be a creative problem solver all the time in many different ways.”
What kind of dragons are you taming?
To close this post on the joys , we have another story from Tanya. “When map makers didn’t know what was beyond an island, they’d say, ‘Dragons live here’ because they really were clueless and didn’t know.”
“I feel like affiliates, chapters, and components are dragons. Nobody really knows what to do with them. They’re pesky. They’re hard to communicate with. It’s hard to collect dues. There are all these misconceptions about chapters. But I so love being where dragons live.”
“I love being that conduit between the national office and folks in the field and making sure the national office is getting the message about what’s happening in the field, that we’re leveraging our chapters in the correct way. I joke about the dragons living here, but it’s because a lot of people don’t understand component relations at all. I love it because it is uncharted to some extent.”
An “uncharted” area of expertise is exciting—so much to learn! It’s even better to discover new ideas and tactics alongside your fellow CRPs. Save the date for CEX 2020 on Monday, October 26, 2020. Until then, check out our event page for upcoming webinars and other CRP meetups.
In our next post, CRPs describe the challenges they face on the job and why their work matters.