Are you thinking of starting a new SWEP regional chapter? Those of us who started the Philadelphia Chapter of SWEP in 1995 have found the experience extremely rewarding. Through SWEP, we have made many good friends, and we believe that SWEP has been instrumental in our professional development. Based upon our experiences, and the experiences of National SWEP and other active regional chapters, we suggest that potential regional chapter founders undertake the following steps:
- Host an organizational meeting at your offices: We suggest holding a brown bag luncheon meeting and inviting 15 to 30 friends, colleagues and business associates who you think may be interested in joining SWEP. You should prepare an agenda for the meeting. Agenda items might include an introduction to SWEP, the SWEP mission statement, and a discussion of the goals of your regional chapter. At the close of the discussion, you should seek volunteers who are interested in forming an interim Steering Committee to organize the chapter;
- Convene a meeting of the interim Steering Committee: We suggest that you meet with the core group of volunteers to make some initial organizational decisions, such as what types of programs or events you wish to sponsor, what other committees you should form (for example, in Philadelphia, we have a programs committee, a public relations and newsletter committee, a membership committee, a special events committee and a mentoring/public service committee) and what sort of organizational structure your chapter should have;
- Compile a mailing list: Begin to compile a mailing list of people who you think may be interested in coming to your programs and events. Everyone on the Steering Committee should consult their rolodexes for names. Additionally, you can gather names from the local Legal Directory and other professional directories for your area. The mailing list is crucial to your chapter and should be maintained in a form which is easy to use and update; and
- Plan your first event: Make a splash with your first public event. In Philadelphia, we chose a timely, substantive topic and invited two well-known women to speak about it at a brown bag luncheon. A breakfast meeting or evening activity may work better in your area. In any event, publicize the event by issuing a press release, getting local professional publications to announce the event, sending out flyers to your mailing list and calling people who may be interested. If the event is successful, then you will be well on your way to establishing your new regional chapter.
The members of SWEP of Greater Philadelphia encourage you to start a new chapter in your area. If you would like more information, please feel free to e-mail Sonya Ward, National Society of Women Environmental Professionals Chairperson (firstname.lastname@example.org) or call 267-852-0277. We hope to welcome you to the growing ranks of SWEP soon!