Thursday, November 13, 2014

Guest blogger AMAPCEO Director Theresa Anderson Butcher: Engaging the Membership An Argument for Adequate Resourcing of the Chapter Executives

Part 1 of 2

Thank you James for allowing me space on your blog to talk about an issue of mutual interest.

Like you, I too am looking forward to this year’s Annual Delegates’ Conference more than ever. This is going to be the year of change and the decisions we make this year will determine our future direction.

Those of you who have attended the last five conferences may recall that I am a champion of change in the way AMAPCEO engages our members and our activists. I believe that we need to provide adequate resources to our Chapter Executives so that they can engage our members more meaningfully at the local level. We cannot use a cookie-cutter approach to member engagement as our chapters may have unique needs in how they reach out to their membership. This uniqueness can be in demographic composition, geographic disbursement, number of ministries represented, BPS inclusion and building location and accessibility.  Regardless of the above, the chapter executive should be the team that sets its engagement plan and receives the support of the leadership and staff to execute the plan.

Engaging the Chapter Executive is troublesome given that the AMAPCEO Constitution only allows leave for Chapter Chairs to perform his/her duties. The leave includes on half-day every three weeks, or approximately 17 half days per year.

The duties of a Chapter Chair are two-fold: governance, as a voting member of Provincial Council; and member engagement with responsibilities to ensure that chapter members are informed of both issues of governance and issues around the application of the collective agreements that pertain to his/her members.

There are six regular Provincial Council meetings per year therefore; the governance responsibilities I would suggest occupy, at a minimum, six of the half-day leaves. Depending on the demands of the work schedule, many Chapter Chairs cannot download/print the materials until the weekend. If they plan to meet with their Executive, it would have to be in the day or two prior to the Council meeting.

Chapter Executive meetings are often held over lunch hour.  In regional chapters or chapters with disbursed Executive membership, the meeting is often by teleconference call. AMAPCEO does not have a dedicated teleconference line for Chapters to use to perform this duty.

So you can see, without even going into the member engagement responsibilities, much of the leave and a significant amount of personal time could be occupied in the governance responsibilities.

Member engagement can mean different things to different people. For some members, a simple informative or welcoming email is sufficient engagement; for others, an opportunity for an in-person discussion is more fruitful.  Both approaches present challenges for Chapter Chairs, as they do not always have access to their member’s home contact data for correspondence or outreach, or are not physically located in the same building, or the same town for that matter.  How then do Chapter Chairs fulfill their obligations for member engagement and education?

The Constitution only allows for the Chapter Chair to have leave for chapter business. In order to ensure broader engagement, we need to make that leave accessible to other Chapter Executives. It takes more than one person to build a community and volunteers need to be given time to fulfill the expectations of their volunteer roles.  Outreach and engagement must be planned and properly executed. It is not an organic process; particularly in this day and age of teleworking and alternate work arrangements where people work varying hours and a lunch hour is no longer an hour in many circumstances.

In the 2015 budget, you will read on lines 29 and 30 that we have allocated $30,000 (0.33%) of our total expenses to cover the costs of all Chapter activities and the expenses for Board members to attend a chapter meeting for twenty-three chapters.

These are all the monies allocated for chapters to get together and build their community. I know that for many years, chapters have not had the time or capacity to get together because there isn’t sufficient leave time for activists to organize the events or meet with members during the day. We cannot expect huge engagement at the local level when we do not expend sufficient resources to allow for such engagement.  

Read the next instalment .....part 2 of 2


  1. This, in my view, is one of the primary issue for our organization moving forward. We need to invest more in local leadership.

    1. Agreed, and also in how we recruit and retain our volunteer activists. This will be be subject of my next blog -- with Jim's support.

  2. We need to re-elect both James and Theresa as directors, so that we can continue to build for the future by developing and retaining leaders today. We must ensure that our members have the opportunity to develop and participate in our union, otherwise we will lose control over the Association.

    1. Agreed Margaret. It can't just be the informal sharing of information like what you and I do with respect to developing and sharing our own personal record archives. We need to ensure that our future leaders are armed with the records and information they need so that they can move the organization forward and not repeat mistakes of the past. Recruiting and developing activists is the subject of my next blog. James and I have had long discussions on that subject and agree that we need to put more effort into educating and supporting our activists in order to ensure they stay and compete for progressively responsible roles.