Letter from Linda
A Guide to Chapter Achievement
by Linda Oestreich, Region 5 Director-Sponsor
I hope all chapter leaders keep an eye on the "STC 2003 at a Glance: Timetable for Chapter Leaders" piece that appeared in the January 2003 Tieline. This handy timetable gives you due dates and hints that you should know about for all kinds of activities, competitions, and reports. One of the items for March reads, "Submit chapter achievement award report to director-sponsor."
The underlying goal of the chapter achievement award (CAA) program is to encourage chapters to pursue activities that create a healthy chapter. Chapters are healthy when they conduct activities that, among other things, expand community, enrich membership services, provide recognition and leadership opportunities, communicate with members and the community, and relate to Society programs.
These ultimate goals are supported by a sample of activities that appears in the guidelines for the CAA (www.stc.org/PDF_Files/Ad-29-02.pdf). Each year, chapters can tally their activities by checking off items that they complete that appear in the guidelines. That checklist, along with supporting material, can be submitted to your director-sponsor to qualify for achievement awards. The first level of achievement is a Chapter of Merit; the second level is a Chapter of Excellence, and those chapters who complete most of the requirements in the full list qualify for the third level of achievementthe Chapter of Distinction. Often, two or more chapters meet the requirements, yet the guidelines state that the Board of Directors can choose only one in each size category.
As a result of this process, the award has come to be thought of as a competition among chapters. Chapter presidents often feel their year of leadership is unsuccessful if they do not bring home this award. Chapters that do receive it can become somewhat big-headed, and rather than hold events that will enhance a particular chapter's immediate needs, some chapters' ultimate goal becomes one of checking off as many activities as possiblesometimes without concern for the quality of those activities.
Not every chapter chooses to join this race. Some chapters, perhaps put off by this frenzy of competition, consider the whole thing too daunting to undertake and ignore the CAA guidelines completely. Other chapters won't even consider submitting their forms for Merit or Excellence levels, because they believe that if they can't compete at the Distinction level, that they shouldn't bother at all.
So, why do you look to the CAA guidelines if it's not to try to win? Because the activities it suggests offer you a roadmap to success. It gives you ideas of things you can aspire to and it awakens thoughts for projects for your chapter that aren't even on the list! The guidelines say that you can substitute other activities for those that are listed. STC made that provision because your ideas and activities can reach so much farther than any list could ever match. When you do something not specifically listed, look to the supporting activity and see if what you are substituting still accomplishes the same overall goal. If it does, you can be sure your director-sponsor will approve the substitution!
The CAA guidelines can help your chapter increase teamwork, cohesiveness, and accomplishment. They can provide targets for those of you who need to be challenged and reinforcement of jobs well done for those of you who can only afford, whether through budget or people-power, to do a select group of activities. In the long run, it is the activities you do well that help you achieve distinction. Give yourself credit where it's due. Gain from knowing what the activities on the guidelines are and reach for them...but do it with grace and professionalism and tailor the guidelines to your chapter's needs. Just checking off an item that may have been done hurriedly or poorly won't help the overall goal of the program: to create healthy chapters.
If, as you plan your chapter activities, you choose not to use the guidelines because you do not care for awards or do not believe your chapter could win, look at them again. Don't compete. Use the guidelines as a map to the growth, success, and health of your chapter, not as a means to win an award. And, if you qualify for a Chapter of Merit award, or Excellence, or even Distinction along the way, consider it a bonus. You will have deserved it.
May each of your chapters be healthy!
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Society for Technical Communication
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