Winner of the 2016 Chapter Achievement Award for Membership
In 2014, the Kansas City chapter was on the brink of dissolution, with no activity in over six months and declining membership. The Board members met and resolved to rebuild the chapter into a dynamic organization which would provide value and rewarding opportunities to its members. For 2015-2016, the primary goals for the chapter were to attract new members, reengage current and prior members and provide programs that would attract professionals at all levels in their career.
The first step of action was to build a Board with members that were dedicated to improving the chapter. The nominating committee met to assess who would be a good fit for each position. The committee also placed emphasis on providing new members an opportunity to be involved in a leadership position. The members of the committee contacted the nominees personally to determine their interest and level of devotion prior to presenting the slate to the membership.
The newly elected Board members decided to form committees and sub-committees to help reach the chapter goals. Multiple committees were formed with an emphasis on the membership and program committee since these were most likely to support the primary chapter goals. The membership committee was tasked with the goal of increasing membership. The program committee was formed with the goal of providing valuable, career enhancing meetings with the opportunity to network with other professionals in a like-minded environment.
The results were outstanding. In July of 2015, the chapter’s membership count was at 22 members. As of June 2016, the Kansas City chapter’s membership has increased by 73% to a total of 38 members. The increase in membership was due to re-joining members and new people who had never attended AFWA events before.
Here are a few details on the chapter’s revamped activities:
The membership committee formed a Facebook page and refreshed the chapter website. These two things allowed the chapter to easily promote chapter events to members, prospective members and anyone else interested in the current meeting topic. At each meeting, the chapters utilized the AFWA national marketing materials to promote new memberships. Following the meeting, the membership committee followed up with any new guests to answer questions, provide membership details and provide a personal invite to the next meeting.
The program committee did multiple things to ensure that chapter meetings were as valuable to chapter members as possible. Strict meeting agendas were created to show that each member’s limited time was respected and the meeting would adhere to the allotted meeting time. Meeting attendance was consistently high through the year, with the final meeting attendance of 44 people! Compare these numbers to previous years which averaged around 12-15 people and it is easy to see what a difference the chapter efforts made this year.
One of the chapter’s largest events was focused on accounting issues unique to a sports franchise. The Vice President of Finance from the World Series Champion Kansas City Royals’ spoke at this meeting This speaker appealed to both men and women. The chapter extend the invitation to male colleagues and many were in attendance. This led to the chapter’s first male member.
By selecting speakers who could spark meaningful conversations between members, conversations were allowed to grow not only professionally but personally as well. During each monthly meeting, the chapter held a business card exchange that encouraged members to meet up and get to know each other outside of AFWA. Money was raised for a scholarship fund through contributions to a “brag jar”. When a member contributed to the brag jar, they could tell a brag about themselves. These personal brags not only helped build the member’s confidence, but allowed other members to share in their success and provided the opportunity to get to know each other on a more personal level.
Over the past year, the Kansas City chapter not only met, but exceeded their chapter goals. The chapter has been reenergized and their goals for the upcoming year are even bigger.
And now a few follow up questions with Kansas City Chapter President, Andrea Wilt
- It’s inspiring to hear how your Chapter Members came together and committed to growing the Chapter – when you easily could have gone the other way. What (or who) was the motivator behind this new goal and how did you inspire your membership to get on board?
This is a great question! We are a long-standing chapter—having been organized 50 years ago. So, there was definitely a desire to keep our group going. I also think a lot of credit goes to some key members of our chapter who just decided they weren’t going to let the organization go the way of so many other membership groups. In particular , last year’s president, JeriAnn Farley, had been an AFWA member in several other cities before moving to Kansas City. She suggested we start the “one-on-one” meetings that helped us get to know others outside of meetings and the work environment. Additionally, she was instrumental in getting her employer to support the AFWA organization. This encouraged new associates the opportunity to get involved and helped grow our organization.
- Of all the things your chapter did in the last year, what do you think was most important to growing your Chapter’s membership?
Our chapter meetings make (or break) us. Our emphasis was on good, quality, programming—allowing our members to learn different aspects of accounting and finance while earning continuing education credits. We are lucky to be located in such a vibrant city where we can pull speakers from varying backgrounds. I’m always amazed about the high-caliber speakers willing to share their time with us. It’s quite invigorating to interact with people from all different professions and industries.
- How are you welcoming your newest members, and what are you doing to engage them from the start?
Our new members are encouraged to get involved. We engage newer members by asking them to serve on a committee or get involved in a short-term project. That way they can “stick their toes in the water” without having to jump in all the way. I find that most people will happily take on a specific task when asked. It gives the person a way to contribute without taking on a huge time commitment.
- What would you say to other Chapters who may be having a hard time getting new members and are considering dissolution?
My recommendation is to focus on the benefits the members receive through the AFWA organization. Provide good speakers in locations close to the majority of your members/prospective members. Keep meetings to no more than 90 minutes so they can be held over the lunch hour. Or, consider alternating meeting times between lunch and evening times to accommodate those who may have time constraints. Finally, try co-hosting an event with another professional organization.
- What’s next for the Kansas City Chapter?
The future of the Kansas City Chapter is what we make it! We continue to work on our programming and to raise awareness of AFWA and our members in our community. (One of our past presidents, Jill Hammond, was honored as CFO of the year by the Kansas City Business Journal.) Later this spring we will welcome our national president and, treasurer to Kansas City. They will attend our annual scholarship dinner where our chapter recognizes our new scholarship recipients.