NIGP’s New, Holistic Approach to Leadership Development

At the Association Component Exchange last year, Rick Grimm, Chief Executive Officer of NIGP: The Institute for Public Procurement, introduced us to a success story in progress. NIGP has taken a new, holistic approach to leadership development and launched a few different leadership training programs.



Rick encouraged CEX attendees to think holistically because the work you do as CRPs impacts your members’ industry. Association and chapter programs affect workforce development, workforce retention, and leadership succession planning in companies and in your association and chapters too.

The impetus for NIGP’s new leadership training programs came out of discussions about challenges their members’ profession—public sector procurement—is facing:

  • An undefined career path—like the association management profession, people tend to fall into government procurement jobs. Is it the same for your association? Or, do higher ed institutions prepare professionals in your industry?
  • Retirement exodus and leadership continuity—a challenge not unique to NIGP—creating a need for employers to find and train replacements.


How does your association address these issues? Is there a role for chapters?

Rick said leadership training can’t be developed in silos. The component relations team shouldn’t develop training only for chapter leaders while other departments develop training for other leaders. Leadership training is a chapter, association, and industry need that warrants a holistic approach.

Integrate chapter and association leadership development with industry needs by treating leadership as a competency—a competency that becomes a required component in digital badge, certificate, and certification programs.



Rick introduced us to NIGP’s three leadership development programs.

Leadership Essentials is a group of 24 online, on-demand leadership courses that can be purchased a la carte or by subscription with a Leadership All Access Pass. Courses cover topics such as motivating and coaching employees, optimizing resources, adapting to change, developing strategies, building resources, and grooming your workforce for excellence. New modules are added quarterly.

Leaders Edge is a yearlong leadership development program “created to find and nurture rising stars in public procurement who aspire to become the next generation of executive leaders.” The goal is to develop both public agency and chapter leaders with a mix of in-person and online learning sessions on topics such as communication, leading change, influence and persuasion, coaching and mentoring, leading teams, conflict management, and strategic thinking.

Participants must apply for acceptance into the Leaders Edge program, much like the participants in ASAE’s Diversity Executive Leadership Program (DELP) do.

The Chapter Academy provides training for the incoming presidents of NIGP’s 72 independent chapter affiliates. Like many associations, NIGP used to have a one-day chapter leadership symposium. But they wanted to redesign the program so it would better address chapter challenges—volunteer recruitment, leadership commitment, and succession planning—and sustain networking beyond the event.

The new three-day conference focuses on chapter leader engagement, program planning and development, and volunteerism. The program provides the skills needed by chapter leaders to stimulate new thinking, inspire action, and execute their chapter’s mission.

Some of the highlights include an Ignite session where leaders share chapter success stories, a community service project, and opportunities for networking and sharing learning. After the event, NIGP continues their engagement of chapter leaders with virtual sessions, online community discussions, and additions to their chapter resource library on the NIGP website, like a marketing toolkit.



NIGP’s chapter ambassadors have a key role in chapter leader engagement. These “evangelical volunteers” hold a coveted role in the NIGP community as member liaisons to chapters. NIGP pays for their travel to chapters in their region, but the chapter ambassadors do this work on their own time. NIGP designs the presentations for their visits so ambassadors relay a consistent message to each chapter.

Another essential group in NIGP’s volunteering program is the Talent Council, which ensures that the volunteer and leader selection process is separated from political influence.

The council’s Pipeline & Placement committee talks to members interested in volunteering about their passions, skills, interests, and availability. They also assess each volunteer’s experience to determine their level of engagement and satisfaction. Rick said that many of their chapters are now replicating the Talent Council model.

Rick reiterated the most important message of the day: get leadership out of silos. He suggested that you ask your CEO: What do you need to hear from me to elevate this conversation? How can we create sustainable leadership development for our chapters, association, and industry?

In our next post, we’ll share four success stories we heard at CEX about chapter leadership training.

About the author

Sarah has a soft-spot for component relations professionals (CRPs), creating amazing experiences, and having a good laugh. She focuses her time at Billhighway on building and delivering chapter-focused resources, creating unique experiences for CRPs through webinars, events and the one-of-a-kind Component Exchange (CEX). Sarah is passionate about exploring new ideas and trying new things. What we really want to say is Sarah is a component bad@$$ who is sure to put a smile on your face.