About 75 members of the Charlotte Area Society for Human Resource Management (CASHRM) chapter will be attending the SHRM 2012 Annual Conference in Atlanta June 24-27. Many will arrive on two buses the chapter has chartered.
It is the largest U.S. chapter delegation attending the conference, according to SHRM. The second-largest group is made up of 64 people from AutoZone Inc.
Seventy of the members qualified for another “ride” as well—a significant break on their conference registration fee.
Working with SHRM headquarters, the chapter took advantage of corporate group discounts for 50 or more people who met the April 13 early bird registration deadline for a fee of $870 per person. On top of that, CASHRM gave a $500 per person stipend, to be applied to registration, to the first 70 chapter registrants, reducing attendees’ costs to $370 per person.
Those who referred a new member to the chapter received another $50 toward registration from CASHRM, which negotiated a block of discounted rooms at two hotels.
Sending a delegation was the brainchild of chapter president Jeremy Stephenson, an attorney at the McNair Law Firm.
As chapter president, he is required to attend the Annual Conference and his registration is paid from chapter funds. Since 2008, when Charlotte hosted the annual state conference, those funds have been ample. North Carolina chapters take turns hosting the state gathering, and proceeds go to the host chapter.
CASHRM “has been sitting on a significant reserve fund,” which has continued to grow, Stephenson said.
Neither he nor most of the chapter’s board members had ever been to the Annual Conference, and Stephenson reasoned that “if this is true for our board, it’s probably true for our membership as well.”
This year, with the Annual Conference less than a five-hour drive away, Stephenson proposed using some of those funds to send members to the conference.
“A core plank of our [chapter] existence is to tighten our connection with national SHRM,” he told SHRM Conference Daily.
CASHRM’s board unanimously approved the proposal in January 2012 and, with an eye toward its 70th anniversary in 2013, voted to limit the $500 stipend to the first 70 registrants. Others may ride the bus and take advantage of the corporate registration and hotel discounts, but they do not receive the stipend.
The result: The approximately 350-member chapter has seen an estimated 10 percent increase in chapter membership. New members include people from other chapters, such as the one in Raleigh, N.C., which is three hours away from Charlotte.
“It’s the coolest thing. It’s been a real rallying point for our chapter,” Stephenson said. “Most chapters I’ve seen send one or two senior leaders to these types of events, and most of the membership is just not exposed to this whole other world.”
The same idea could be applied to other state SHRM conferences or one of SHRM’s other conferences, he noted.
CASHRM’s actions have inspired the Winston-Salem, N.C., chapter, which is hosting the 2013 state conference, to consider using the proceeds toward attendance at a future Annual Conference, according to Stephenson.
“It’s got kind of a buzz,” acknowledged North Carolina SHRM state director Paula H. Harvey, SPHR, GPHR. “It’s going to be a big party and a lot of fun and a lot of great learning,” she said. This will be her 12th Annual Conference.
Stephenson gave “enormous credit” for making the idea a reality to chapter treasurer Georgia Meyer, SPHR, and Larry Valenti, GPHR, chapter webmaster, past chapter president and past state council member. He also thanked his predecessors among chapter leadership who built the reserve fund that sat untouched for four years.
“Without their stewardship, [the money] wouldn’t be there,” Stephenson said.
His advice to other chapters: “Think big.”
Kathy Gurchiek is associate editor of HR News.