Little did we know back in October how much our world would change. At the Association Component Exchange (CEX), the one-day conference for component relations professionals (CRPs) that we co-host with Peggy Hoffman and Peter Houstle of Mariner Management, we asked several CRPs to discuss some big-picture topics, including the future role of the CRP.
More accurately, we asked our resident association chatter KiKi L’Italien to discuss these topics with a selection of CRPs in attendance. You might know KiKi from her role as host of Association Chat or consultant at Tecker International. But did you know she was once a CRP at the Optical Society of America and the Parenteral Drug Association?
We recorded KiKi’s conversations 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
Advice for future CRPs
There’s no better job for understanding all aspects of an association’s work than being a CRP. KiKi asked CRPs at CEX what advice they would give someone who’s considering that role.
That advice is in line with what Patrick Algyer, former CRP and now Executive Director of the Northern Virginia Apartment Association (NVAA), said: “You must always be willing and ready to accept criticism from any point-of-view and take it with a grain of salt.”
“But if you like something different every day and you like being a jack-of-all-trades, then I think a CRP would be a perfect position for you.”
“It’s a place for people to not only learn about their career and profession, but also a place for them to build other skills—leadership, planning, strategic planning, event planning,” said Scott Wilson, CAE, former CRP and now Director of Strategic Initiatives at the American Payroll Association (APA).
“You might not be able to do these things every day, you might not even know you had the capacity or capabilities to do them. But you put yourself out there and it benefits your organization and industry. It really is a personal give-back to yourself that you don’t normally get in other places in your life.”
What’s in the future for component relations?
Last year at CEX, none of us could have predicted the pandemic and its impact on the CRP’s role. But David Bond, Associate Executive Director at the Missouri State Teachers Association (MSTA), was already wrestling with the question of in-person vs. virtual relationships with their chapters and members.
David said, “A big part of our job is to be out in front of our members… We put so much emphasis on relationships, but there’s such a strong movement in social media that no one can deny. What we’re doing works for us right now, but I’ve wondered about that. As people retire and leave our employment and we hire other generations that are more drawn to social media and less face-to-face contact, maybe that creates an opportunity.”
“We always have to evolve and change, and technology is a huge piece of that,” said Emily. “Instead of doing the things that I do now, creating things, a lot of it’s already out there… I’ll find and present the tools to them rather than having to create the tools.” Many associations do that now by providing technology that makes it easier for chapters to share data and dues with National, submit reports, and handle financial reconciliation.
“We’re seeing more and more titles popping up around ‘engagement’ or ‘stakeholder engagement,’…which I think is pretty exciting,” said Peggy. “If we’re smart, the CRPs, that’s the role we’re going to own, because we’re going to own the fact that people want to get together in smaller communities, smaller peer-to-peers. How do we facilitate that and enable the organization that facilitates that?”
Peggy was also pretty prescient since “small” seems to be the only way for people to get together in the near future—and that’s the chapter advantage.
What does your future hold?
The CRP profession is evolving in interesting yet exciting ways. While new challenges continue to arise (now that’s an understatement!), new opportunities to improve your relationship with chapters emerge as well.
- Will you continue to find purpose in your CRP career or head instead to the C-suite?
- Is there a better way to train your chapter volunteers and leaders?
- Can you improve how you collect and use chapter data?
- Are virtual chapters in your association’s future?
Virtual or in-person, nothing beats meeting your peers. Tanya said, “Until CEX, component folks have never really had a place to be. We’ve been lucky to have slices and slivers here and there at other association events, but we’ve never had a home. There’s never been a room filled with people with ‘chapter’ or ‘component’ in their title. CEX gives us all confidence when we go back to work. It gives us strength and it gives us a community.”