Chapters Vision for 2010

It is March already, and I have been spending all my PASS time in 2010 talking to Chapter Leaders and Regional Mentors about what we are doing in the Chapters portfolio in 2010. Now I’d like to get a broader update out to the community about what we are doing and the exciting things we have planned.

Chapters Vision for 2010: 3 Key Goals
Since my time as a leader of Atlanta.mdf (Atlanta, Georgia’s PASS Chapter) and as one of the first PASS Regional Mentors, I’ve had a passion for working with local chapters. So serving as the director of Chapters (virtual and physical) for PASS is an honor and a real treat for me.

Under the leadership of Greg Low, Blythe Morrow, and the Chapters Committee over the past 2 years, we’ve experienced phenomenal growth in the number of PASS Chapters around the world. We had 205 Chapters in 50+ countries as of January 2010, which is a 57% growth compared to the same time last year. And thanks to Thomas LaRock’s work in helping transition our Special Interest Groups (SIGs) to Virtual Chapters last summer, we currently have seven Virtual Chapters and have witnessed a huge ramp-up in free virtual training from many of those groups.

While continuing to build on that momentum and growth in numbers for 2010, we also want to make sure that all our Chapters are healthy, active, and growing in value to meet the needs of their members. In that spirit, we have three over-arching goals this year: Sustainability, Infrastructure, and Increased Value Proposition.

Sustainability
Launching a Chapter and keeping it going—and going strong—is hard work. For new Chapters, we need to assure that they are set up properly and that they have the support and information they need to start off on the right foot and survive those crucial early months. Existing Chapters go through rough times, too—experiencing peaks and valleys. So we need to be there for them as well, whether they need resources to help grow programs even more or push past a membership plateau or whether they are facing serious problems.

Our sustainability strategy includes providing a rich set of resources, leveraging the wisdom of our experienced Chapter Leaders, Regional Mentors, other volunteers, and PASS headquarters (HQ) resources. How to successfully set up a Chapter, best practices for running and  growing a Chapter, resources for finding speakers and sponsors, and other intellectual property will be readily available online. Plus, we are strengthening our Regional Mentors Program even more, working through those key PASS ambassadors to provide key communications and support to chapters in their area and feed the needs and ideas of their Chapters back to PASS.

Infrastructure
A strong, effective infrastructure is essential for sustainability at the Chapter level. Both our people and our technology assets are critical infrastructure focus areas.  We are evaluating how to support and align our Regional Mentors to provide a more robust and scalable program that meets Chapter Leader and membership needs.

PASS HQ is expanding the team responsible for community-related support, so Blythe will not be constantly treading water trying to stay on top of it all by herself. In the area of technology, we have a few projects in the queue: We are on the verge of rolling out a sub-site on sqlpass.org that will be dedicated to Chapter Leaders, housing announcements, content/IP, and other resources all in one place. In late 2010 or 2011, we want to make Chapter webhosting more robust with added event management and membership email capabilities (announcements/newsletters). Internally, we will add infrastructure to transition to a Chapter management database (so we can get away from current tools like Google Docs).

Increased Value Proposition
Communicating and expanding the value that PASS brings to Chapters is critical for attracting new Chapters and for improving the quality and strength of all Chapters. The first step here is creating a comprehensive inventory of all the benefits we provide Chapters. That list currently includes the free webhosting I mentioned earlier, a Live Meeting and TechNet subscription from Microsoft UGSS, event sponsorship and program support, a free Chapter Leader registration to one PASS conference per year, access to the Chapter Leader Listserver, PASS Regional Mentor support, and more.

Through the Regional Mentors and a full set of helpful Chapter Welcome Kits and Resource Kits, we’ll communicate everything that’s available to our Chapters and how they can access those benefits. Then we’ll loop back with Chapters around the world to explore how PASS can continue to expand its value proposition.

Thanks for what's ahead...
It’s going to be an exciting year. We are trying to move a lot forward at once, and we are starting to gain momentum. I look forward to working side-by-side with our dedicated volunteers and PASS staff to support our Chapters as they serve the SQL Server technical community. Thanks to each of you for your work!