A Do-It-Yourself Approach to Meetings

The Society for Personality and Social Psychology offers grants that fund members’ big ideas for small meetings. Members get to see their programs come to life, and SPSP has a new way to engage members.

Would you like to add energy and enthusiasm to your meeting roster without too much staff or resource involvement? Giving your members a role in developing new small-scale meetings could be one way to go about it.

That approach seems to be working for the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, which in 2016 launched a small conference grant program that awards up to $10,000 to members who propose and plan small meetings. The meetings provide additional professional learning in the community and supplement what SPSP offers.

So far, almost a dozen events, including small conferences and workshops, have been held, including the program’s first international meeting, which took place in Waterloo, Canada, last month.

“These are local events—about 50 to 200 individuals attend,” says Brannan Meyers, SPSP’s membership and community manager. “Even though it’s not a huge amount of money, it means a lot to our members and helps them get their ideas off the ground.”

Execution is pretty simple. The SPSP executive board allocates about $20,000 per year to fund meetings held twice a year, in the fall and spring. To receive funding, a professional member must apply online with a meeting topic and proposal, and then a volunteer committee reviews applications and selects grantees.

“We’ve been getting more and more proposals,” Meyers says. “The ultimate goal is to advance our mission and support smaller conferences, which also helps us fill some of our own gaps.”

D&I Focus

A common theme for member-designed meetings, so far, has been diversity and inclusion—in both subject matter and speaker selection.

“It’s strongly recommended [that members] include [D&I] as part of the proposal,” Meyers says. “Diversity for us includes gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity and race, disability, career level, and other underrepresented statuses.”

Last year’s fall meeting focused on New York’s social science and academic job market, serving as a workshop for underrepresented candidates. And the Canada conference examined gender equity in science and technology.

In many cases, the SPSP grant does not cover the entire cost of producing the meeting, but Meyers says it can serve as a catalyst to bring other partners on board, including local universities and nonprofits.

“A lot of these meetings are local, a lot of these are focused on community, and a lot of these consider diversity and other issues pertinent to members,” Meyers says. “I think it’s a member benefit, and a lot of the people who have won the grant continue to be engaged and focused on advancing our mission.”

Have you tried offering small-scale meetings? Did members play a significant role in planning and facilitating them? Share your experiences in the comments below.

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Tim Ebner

By Tim Ebner

Tim Ebner is a senior editor for Associations Now. He covers membership, leadership, and governance issues. Email him with story ideas or news tips. MORE

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