By Sara Sanders 2015-06-09 10:16:59
TAKE A LOOK back at the recent slate of SNA presidents: Sandra Ford (2012-13), Leah Schmidt (2013-14), Julia Bauscher (2014-15) and Jean Ronnei (2015-16), who will be installed as SNA president at July’s Annual National Conference. They share a common thread in their professional biographies: All have served as president of their respective state associations prior to stepping up to the national stage. The future of your national Association comes from the state level. It’s where veteran operators spot promise in fl edging employees, managers and directors, urging them to take the next step to fulfilling their leadership potential—even when that person never expected to take that path. Year after year, profile articles of top SNA leaders published in the pages of School Nutrition reveal that many of these individuals never entertained leadership aspirations when they first stepped foot into a state or local SNA chapter meeting. As the national organization is dependent on the strength of its state affiliates, many state associations are equally reliant on the muscle of local chapters. These smaller groups, sometimes comprised only of a particular school district’s engaged employees, provide the first introduction not just to SNA, but to the school nutrition community. Until that first meeting, someone new to the department might be completely unaware that they are now a part of a large and growing profession that enjoys shared passions, values, trials and triumphs. Are you trying to reenergize your local chapter or state association? Do you want to be able to cheer on a future SNA president, taking deserved pride that her or his journey started with your organization? The first steps to identifying those future leaders—you might not even know their names yet!—is for the current (and “current again”) leaders to create welcoming and informative local chapters, marked by regularly scheduled activities that are engaging and resonant. This will set you on the right road for a fiscally strong group that is supported by dedicated members. MAKING MEETINGS MEANINGFUL It’s not uncommon for untested but eager new leaders to feel a bit lost when it comes to planning chapter meetings that actually lure members to attend. In fact, even veteran leaders can find it challenging to keep such meetings fresh and inviting in the face of busy schedules. Sometimes, the first step to reinvigorating your chapter meetings means going back to the people for whom you’re hosting the gatherings: the members themselves. Rather than guessing what your chapter members want from a meeting, go ahead and ask them! Set up a survey—you can make it anonymous so respondents feel comfortable being honest about the pros and cons of current meetings— through a free online software service such as www.surveymonkey.com or www.surveygizmo.com. After you have that feedback, consider these five key tenets of making a chapter meeting meaningful: 1. The meeting should have a valuable, easy-to-understand purpose. 2. The purpose of the meeting should connect to the needs and desires of your members. 3. The meeting should provide an educational opportunity. 4. The meeting should have some fun elements to promote camaraderie among the members. 5. The meeting should end on a high note that celebrates and thanks your members. Then, it’s time to brainstorm, with the help of the rest of the chapter leadership team, the specific activities and schedules that make the most sense for your gatherings. A FEW FRESH IDEAS SNA gathered best practice strategies from many state and local chapters, and compiled an extensive list of effective and successful chapter meeting suggestions. Just a handful of these are highlighted here. (To review additional chapter meeting ideas, reference the Chapter Leader’s Handbook, available online at www.schoolnutrition.org/chapters101.) Webinar Viewing. SNA frequently hosts webinars that provide members with professional development opportunities— without having to travel! These webinars offer members a wealth of knowledge and, in some cases, can be worth Continuing Education Credits (CEUs). All webinars are recorded and made available to SNA members by visiting www.schoolnutrition.org/webinars, so there’s no need to stress about scheduling a chapter meeting while the webinar is live. When you’re ready to host the meeting, can you arrange for some A/V assistance? If yours is a small group, it can be as simple as asking individuals to gather around a computer monitor. For larger groups, you may want to arrange for multiple computers or a projector. Bring snacks to share and, when the webinar is over, lead a discussion about what everyone has learned and how you’ll apply your newly gained knowledge on the job. Magazine Club. As you have probably realized, this very magazine offers a bounty of information about the profession, and SNA members receive their very own copies of School Nutrition as a membership benefit. Use your chapter meetings as a “book club” to discuss selected articles in the magazine. Let members know in advance which articles to focus on, select someone to act as the discussion facilitator—and, again, bring healthy snacks to nibble on. In every issue of School Nutrition, the “To Your Credit” professional development article (PDA) test can be used informally as an inhouse training tool to ensure reader comprehension, or you can arrange for chapter members to submit completed tests to SNA to earn one CEU; this could be a worthwhile incentive! Culinary Workshops. Host a “how-to” workshop to teach new baking and cooking techniques or try out new recipes. Create a theme for the workshop, such as “Baking Essentials,” “Mexican Fiesta” or “Super Sandwiches,” and plan to focus on one or two recipe or menu options that can be easily applied in a school setting. Recipes might come from School Nutrition, USDA or advocacy groups that have developed dishes specifically to be compliant with school nutrition regulations. Perhaps they are recipes submitted by your own members, such as Manager’s Choice signature dishes at different school sites! Local Tours. Take a field trip. Arrange for a tour of a different large-quantity foodservice operation, such as one in a local hospital, sports stadium, casino or corporate headquarters. You might be able to glean a few tips that could work in your school. Celebrations. Of course, you want to take some time to come together and celebrate! Schedule a just-for-fun meeting to regroup, enjoy each other’s company and highlight upcoming opportunities for professional development. You might schedule this meeting around the holidays or at the end of the year for a special party. AVOID COMMON PITFALLS A local SNA chapter meeting or event can be incredibly meaningful and educational, but none of that matters if there are administrative or logistical constraints that cause members to skip the gathering. Take a look at some common problems—and simple solutions! Problem: The meeting schedule and/ or travel requirement deters participation. Solution: Are meetings held at a central location that requires everyone to travel roughly the same distance? Perhaps you can rotate meeting locations to alternate the travel burden? Are meetings scheduled at a generally convenient time for most participants? Or do you run into conflicts with members having to manage family commitments or even another job schedule? Ask your attendees about preferences to determine the best time for the most people. Occasionally, consider holding a virtual meeting in the form of a webinar or a conference call to involve those who struggle to attend with any regularity. Problem: The meetings are too long. Solution: Take a look at your agenda; do you succumb to the temptation of over packing the schedule because you want to make the most of this time together? Certainly, you want meetings to be worth the travel time (if this is an issue), but not so long that they interfere with personal time on a routine basis. Consider alternating longer and shorter meetings, depending on the activities that are planned. When possible, link the meetings to an educational opportunity to earn CEUs, so members feel they are getting the most out of their time. Problem: Generational issues pose conflicts in identifying topics that are interesting and attractive to all. Solution: Survey members to determine the hot topics or education opportunities that appeal to them. Customizing your chapter activities to the needs of your members can help focus your efforts and ensure members feel positively compelled to participate. Problem: Childcare issues deter participation. Solution: Ask a trusted student, friend or the teenage child of a member to act as a babysitter for the duration of the event and pay them for their time. Invest in craft projects for the kids or supply books for story time. Childcare can become a bona fide incentive for attendance! POSITIVE PROGNOSIS To review, the first step to giving new pep to your SNA local chapter is to survey existing and prospective members for feedback about the types of activities and events that would motivate their participation. Be sure to identify obstacles to participation and be prepared to address these. Don’t “wing” it from meeting to meeting. Sit down with others on the chapter leadership team to plan a full calendar for the year ahead—and then stick to it. The Sample Annual Chapter Calendar on page 57 will give you ideas of how you might mix things up to appeal to the broadest spectrum, using the feedback from your survey. The Sample Chapter Event Planning Tool (page 58) is another helpful resource you can apply to ensure you give your activities added value. Remember, the future success of your chapter—and its role in helping your state and national associations—depends on how it looks forward. Activities should be planned in such a way that the recruitment of new members and the development of future leaders are always priorities. In addition, you want to seize opportunities to create community partners that can help sustain your group in many ways. You don’t need to blaze new trails. Heed the advice and suggestions of those who’ve already blazed the trail in their communities. Make time to visit www.schoolnutrition.org/chapters101 not only to download the Chapter Leader’s Handbook, but to check out the many other helpful tools you will find online. Revitalizing or resurrecting a sluggish SNA local chapter isn’t a task for the faint of heart, but it’s a challenge with many rewards. After all, you just may be the one to nurture the leadership potential of a future president of the national Association! State and local chapters keep the blood pumping throughout SNA, cultivating the potential of future leaders. But does it feel like your group needs an energy reboot? FUNDRAISING FOR SUSTAINABILITY Your chapter can’t focus only on providing a mixture of fun and educational offerings. Staying fiscally healthy must be a top priority. After all, you can’t cultivate future leaders in a chapter that simply can’t stay in the black. Local, state and national SNA leaders and staff have shared numerous ideas about activities that will help your chapter raise needed funds. Some of these sound like so much fun that it will hardly feel like work! Provide a service to the community, with all proceeds going to your SNA chapter. Offer to work concessions at sporting events, host a car wash, bag groceries at a participating store in exchange for a percentage of sales or a donation or wait tables at a restaurant that sponsors fundraisers. Host an event to raise money for the chapter. Options include a ticketed breakfast, a chili cook-off, a walkathon and a wine-and-cheese tasting. Other possibilities might be a yard sale, a fundraiser at a minor league sports game or a golf or bowling tournament. Add a fundraiser to an already-scheduled chapter meeting or event. You could raffle off prizes, such as an iPad or a themed gift basket. These items can be purchased from the chapter’s budget and then reimbursed when the ticket money is collected. You could also host a 50-50 raffle, in which 50% of the money goes to the winner and 50% goes to the chapter. Sell items for a profit. Best-selling items include a cookbook of favorite recipes from school staff members, quality sheet pans, baking items and baked goods. In all cases, the prices of items are marked up somewhat, to ensure that a profit for the chapter’s treasury . CHAPTERS = EDUCATION USDA’s Professional Standards Final Rule means that school nutrition departments will need to seek a wide variety of ways to provide staff with ongoing training and professional development opportunities throughout the year. Consider ways to incorporate education for credit into your annual chapter meeting plan. Take advantage of such SNA offerings as free webinar archives and the monthly “To Your Credit” test found in each School Nutrition magazine. Sara Sanders is SNA’s state affiliate relations manager. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions about managing local chapters and state associations. Illustrations by jiunlimited.com.
Published by School Nutrition Association. View All Articles.
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