A Call to Help Build Your Chapters

May 2009
By Kent R. Schneider

Our 145 chapters and subchapters are the heart of AFCEA. The chapters are the primary interface with you—our membership—and multiple surveys have told us that member satisfaction correlates most closely with the experience a member has in his or her chapter. The chapter is your primary collaboration and networking group, and it is the closest touchpoint for AFCEA services.

The success of every chapter depends on involvement of its members. So, this clearly must be a two-way street. You rely on your chapter, but the chapter depends on you to contribute to its viability and level of activity. Chapters are run entirely by volunteer leaders in a wide variety of roles. It is important that you become engaged in that leadership.

How can you become involved? An excellent way is to volunteer for one of many chapter committees. Chapters need committees for such vital activities as membership, Young AFCEANs, awards, scholarships, events, small business and other endeavors. The number of committees in a particular chapter depends on the size and composition of the chapter, as well as the level of activity. In addition to the satisfaction that comes from productive volunteer work, committee participation can help you network with both government and industry members and provide a vehicle through which to develop important professional relationships. This is of critical value whether you are in government, industry or academia. Ask your chapter leadership where you can become involved and how you can help.

Or, you can run for election as a chapter officer. Each chapter has a chapter president and a number of vice presidents that are responsible for some aspect of running the chapter. Many vice presidents either chair or coordinate with corresponding committees in their area of responsibility. You do not need to be a longtime chapter member or a chapter elder to serve as a chapter officer. We have had many Young AFCEANs who have served as chapter presidents or vice presidents. You just need the desire to contribute and make the chapter better.

Another means of involvement is to join the chapter’s board of directors. Most large chapters have an elected board of directors who serve as the decision makers for the chapter. They plan and direct chapter programs. Some smaller chapters do not have boards of directors, with those responsibilities falling on the chapter officers. If your chapter has a board of directors and you want to contribute to the governance of the chapter, please find out what the process is for election to the board and run for election.

Most AFCEA chapters are vital and active, but some are not. In some past cases, leaders have relocated away from a chapter or have retired, and their chapter would become less active. It takes both government and industry engagement to make a chapter work. If either element is missing, the chapter will become ineffective. If you find yourself in this situation, you can make a difference. We have seen a number of cases where one or two people have led a turnaround in a chapter. It takes the coordinated effort of a number of people to make a chapter viable, but one or two sparkplugs can pull that group together.

The most recent chapter success story is the Quantico-Potomac Chapter at Quantico Marine Corps Base, Virginia, where a number of key people came together to breathe new life into this chapter. They were led by Maj. Gen. (S) George J. Allen, USMC, director, Command, Control, Communications and Computers (C4)/Chief Information Officer (CIO) of the Marine Corps and his deputy, James P. Craft; along with local government leadership at Quantico; local industry members serving Quantico; the new chapter president, Mike Warlick; two AFCEA regional vice presidents, Steve Kelley of the Virginia region and Sue Hoffman of the National Capital Region; and a group of great Marines, both active and retired, such as Lt. Gen. Robert M. Shea, USMC (Ret.), former C4/CIO of the Marine Corps and former J-6 on the Joint Staff. These people did not just come together. A couple of people started the process and led the effort to achieve critical mass. If you are not satisfied with your chapter, you can make a difference too.

The bottom line is that I want you to look to your local chapter for support and involvement. That is what the chapter is supposed to do. But I also want you to become involved with the chapter to make it better. I am told repeatedly by AFCEA members that they have come to realize that they get from AFCEA what they give. You need to be involved to derive the full benefits of membership. Try becoming involved with your chapter to experience this for yourself. If you feel your chapter is lacking and want to help make it better, then engage with the local leadership or contact me, the AFCEA International headquarters staff or your regional vice president, and let us help you lead the charge in making that change. Thanks for all that you do.