Big chapter ideas from SPJ's Ted Scripps Leadership Institute

The Society of Professional Journalists held its 11th Ted Scripps Leadership Institute on Feb. 27-March 1 in Atlanta. Breakout sessions dealt with these topics: fund-raising, programming and the leadership funnel.

Key takeaway: Chapter must have a good board structure before anything else.

Leading into those breakouts, the group learned some great best practices about events from SPJ Florida to drive membership, sponsorship and more.

Here are some examples:

  • Zine making project
  • Sunshine State Awards
  • Green Eyeshade Awards
  • Obituary writing workshop
  • Job fairs

SPJ Florida's Michelle Boyet discussed some strategies to successfully launch events:

  • Decide the goal of event.
  • Figure you who your audience is and what they need.
  • Figure out incentives to get attendees and experts to attend.
    •     Ex. The chapter held a mentor event with seasoned journalists during a happy hour.
  • Start with simple event. A simple meet-and-greet with food can go a long way.
    •     Ex. Speaker and Q&A is simple.
    •     Ex. Hold a coming out board - Meet our new board. Invite local organizations.
  • Mobile events - to reach out to other members around the state.
  • Get space and food donated.
    •     Ex. Put the business's logo on the chapter website and/event banner.
  • Tap into business expertise.
    •     Ex: Freelance event with H&R Block tax experts.
  • Build partnerships with colleges, journalism organizations, community organizations.
  • They can help you promote events. They tell others about your organization.
    • Invite another chapter to participate.
    • Laid-off journalists -- Great group to reach out to. Hold skills training.
    • Tap into student expertise.
      •  Ex: College students who major in multimedia might want to shoot video of your event. SPJ Florida and FAU teamed up.
  • Plan a series of 3-4 big events. It's easier to secure sponsorship, venue and line up speakers, etc.
  • Try to have an event each month -- This will attract new members, bring in existing members.

Board development & leadership funnel

SPJ's Chapter Coordinator Tara Puckey led this session. Her recommendations:

  • Make sure all SPJ chapter members have the elevator pitch. Have a short explainer of what SPJ to sell it as you meet people.
  • Have students sit your pro chapter board. Find students from each year to champion the group at each grade level.
  • Committee structure -- Have a regional committee such as one for Savannah. Host events such as day trips to newsrooms. Show an SPJ webinar/Powerpoint to explain the organization. Explain that we're looking for people in this area. SPJ.org webinars are a members only tool, but content in there can be used to recruit other members.
  • Attract students -- Professors give extra credit for attending SPJ meetings.
  • Board retreats -- Plan to meet at a venue that's note your regular meeting place. Meet for several hours. Spend first hour not talking about SPJ. Retreats are a way for everyone to connect without cliques.
  • Tie it back to programming -- Develop an event for a group from which you're specifically trying to get buy-in.
  • Local diversity panels -- Good way to attract groups. Make a list of diversity initiatives. National SPJ can help get you speakers who can be Skyped in to speak at the event.
  • Mixers -- Invite other groups. Then start building relationships. Get to know people and their skills. Give them a specific task.

More awareness/growth ideas:
Explainer video -- Minnesota pro chapter created a "did you know" video about SPJ with local anchor/reporter.
Freelance event -- Speed dating-style event for freelancers. Outlets for journalists to learn. What's new in their profession, for example.  

Fund-raiser ideas:

Sponsorship approach:
Common question: What do you offer with your sponsorship?
Suggested answer: What would you like for your sponsorship?
What do you hope to get out of your sponsorship?
What are your goals with the sponsorship? Next steps: Put a package together and run it by the board.

Friends of SPJ concept:

  • Define what it means. Non-members or businesses that support your mission.
  • First Amendment attorneys, for example.
  • Decide the major benefit of joining this program.
  • Have a sticker or designated logo for this program.
  • Create elevator pitch for program.
  • Reach out to businesses, professors, newsrooms, parents, alumni of student chapter.