Words of Wisdom

From the minds and hearts of CRPs comes wisdom on being a superstar component professional. We asked association execs via LinkedIn, email and conversations for their advice, and here’s a sampling of what we heard. I’ll start though with an observation from Carey Goryl, CEO of Association for Advancing Physician and Provider Recruitment, which underscores the importance of your role as a CRP: “Component Relation professionals are often a direct line between organizational strategy and execution.”

And this poignant note from KiKi L’Italien, host of #Assnchat and former CRP: “Things that make a CRP successful—being inclusive by bringing people together—probably prevent them from thinking in their own self-interest about how to raise themselves up. They’re so focused on bringing others in, not about elevating themselves up. CRPs must understand internal politics, external politics, communication, how to interact with different people, power dynamics and hierarchies—that’s a lot for someone to understand and apply.”

On supporting your volunteers & leaders:

“Remember, for the people leading a chapter or SIG, it’s likely not their day job. You may have to work at a slower pace, especially if change is involved. Work to become a trusted ally and then you can better influence change.” Lowell

“The trust of leadership is incredibly important, and their involvement gives more authority to component-relations decisions.” Dresden talking about the importance of having the C-Suite or the Board engaged in communicating with components. She added this important tip: “Having components is like being able to do a quick environmental scan at the drop of a hat. You can call 10 of your chapter leaders and say ‘What are the current trends in the last six months? What do you see as a major environmental shift? How does this compare to the historical information that we have?”

“Don’t give up. Break up tasks into small steps for leaders. They too are doing more with less.” JoAnna

“Start by solving real problems for your chapter leaders. If you want to get adoption, you’ve got to start by solving problems for them, not you. A give-first mentality is super important.” Chip

“Be responsive! Volunteers don’t have much time in their week to reach out, and I’ve learned that prioritizing their questions really builds trust in the relationship with national.” Linda

“Folks who have raised their hands and said, this mission, this vision of the organization is so important to me that I’m going to give up some of my precious free time to devote it to you. As a CRP, it’s upon me to make good use of their time, to feed them in a meaningful way, and give them the tools and resources they need to move the mission of the organization forward. 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.” Tanya

On building relationships:

Simple advice echoed by many: “It’s all about the relationships!” Martha “Relationship building is key!” Kelly

“You don’t want to just come in and say, ‘Oh, you need to do this, this, and this.’ It’s really about creating a partnership between us and them, and helping them build skills. Chapter leaders don’t have time to find resources and innovate. They’re so inundated with the day-to-day of what’s going on in their chapter that we have to be the visionaries. CRPs help chapters understand the big picture and what’s going on in the association, industry, and beyond.” Emily

“They [chapters] don’t trust their parent organization and they don’t trust that they’re getting their best intentions [sic]. So, it goes back to good old-fashion communications, i.e., face-to-face communications. engaging with your leaders, engaging with the board, engaging with your members.” Adam talking about how we need to move from focusing only on solving technical problems, increasing member engagement, boosting event registrations at the chapter level, to amping up our communications. (Read more on communications that matter.)

“Make time to get to know your components individually so you can provide the resources each one most needs so they can thrive.” Ann

“Take the time to listen… We don’t want to rush conversations, but we have to get around to everybody who has needs, issues, questions, or problems and provide services to them.” David talking about living with the biggest challenge: the time it takes to travel, connect with members in the field.

“We have large and small chapters. Trying to do a one-size-fits-all does not work for us. So, I’m trying to figure out what the needs are for their different sizes and how we can assist.” Amanda

From the perspective of the CEO:

“You never go wrong by cultivating the capacity of your local leaders… listen to them and empower them.” Linn

“Get [your association’s] leadership out of silos. 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?” Rick

“CRPs work with chapters, but for National. Finding the balance is challenging. You can’t be perceived as solely aligned with the chapter point of view. You’re responsible for bringing the chapter perspective to National but must also drive National’s strategic vision at the chapter level. It is important to learn how to speak the C-suite’s language.” Sharon (Read the blog post recapping 5 skills you need to go from CRP to CEO.)

“Be sure you are using the language of your community and your volunteers and that you have a validation step that you are walking away with a shared understanding.” Lindsay

And just for you … the CRP:

“You are not alone, reach out to your fellow CRPs for advice and brainstorming support!” Shelley. Allison agrees: “Build relationships in your CRP community. There is significant change happening in this area of association management and having a community of people who understand this niche world can be invaluable.

“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. And patience is a necessary trait for CRPs since our job involves managing different personalities and being pulled in multiple directions.” Patrick

“CRPs are the true Renaissance men and women of the association world. The portfolio of skills they need to succeed is astounding. No wonder so many CRPs end up in the C-suite. Although, given how much they love their work, it’s not surprising that many of them are CRPs for life.” Sarah

Here are two more from Mariner since we’re CRPs and worked with CRPs and components for 20 years:

“At the end of the day, chapters succeed or don’t on the quality of their volunteer leadership. If you can only help chapters in one way, make it a gift that keeps on giving – help your chapters rock at succession planning.” Peggy  (Check out this post written for CRPs, this post written for chapter leaders, and this post for ideas.)

“CEOs, CRPs, and chapter leaders spend far too much of their collective time in the tactical weeds. We must step back and view our chapters as one part of a vibrant ecosystem working collaboratively to serve the member and move the mission. We allow ourselves to be hamstrung by territorial squabbles that reinforce an “us vs. them” culture. Let’s throw off our HQ or chapter shoes and put on our member shoes so we can focus on why we’re here in the first place. Peter (Check out the 2022 Association Chapter Benchmarking report for action tips to get beyond the strategic and data deserts we’re in vis-à-vis chapters.)

Looking to read more, check out these:


*p.s. This is the last of our Top 20 Lists in celebration of our 20th anniversary where we shared tips, info and fun facts for you and your volunteer leaders. It’s been fun and we hope you’ve gained something along the way. Missed any? Here’s the list:


Photo by Alex Shute on Unsplash