At Tri-State ASHI, we’ve always known that education is the key to success. When I first started in the home inspection business, my first outreach was to Tri-State ASHI. I still remember the excitement of attending a seminar of entrepreneurs who were practicing or learning the home inspection profession. That was 1986 — it seems like just yesterday and forever ago at the same time. At that time, Tri-State ASHI could attract hundreds of people who were eager for every morsel of education available.
I’ve been fortunate to maintain an ongoing relationship with Tri-State ASHI, which I consider to be one of the most knowledgeable groups of professionals I have encountered. At any given meeting, I can see people, including several ASHI Past-Presidents and charter members, who collectively represent hundreds of years of experience.
Tri-State ASHI has splintered into multiple groups over the years. Many home inspection organizations throughout Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey can trace their roots to Tri-State ASHI.
Although the organization once had membership rates exceeding 100, our membership gradually sank to as low as 30 members. Now, the trend has reversed and we are happy to report steady membership growth. Our plan has been simple. Stick to offering meetings that feature a tried and true combination: excellent education and camaraderie, coupled with a good meal.
Currently, I’m the chair of the Education Committee and I find it is a rewarding challenge. I’d like to share with you some of our strategies for planning education and increasing our membership.
Offer Educational Opportunities
Tri-State ASHI offers two educational sessions at each meeting and we hold nine meetings each year. This schedule allows us to offer our members 18 continuing education credit hours per year. We also hold an annual seminar, at which we typically offer sessions that can earn members an additional eight continuing education credit hours. Keeping the educational sessions diverse, interesting and current while meeting our ASHI continuing education criteria is Objective Number 1.
Select Relevant Topics
With so many topics from which to choose, finding the right topic and choosing the right speaker is tricky. Making a list of topics that will interest your group and that haven’t been covered or overcovered is essential. We distribute questionnaires at meetings to get our members involved in the selection.
Here's a typical list of topics:
- Emergency generators
- Zone damper control for HVAC systems
- On-demand water heaters
- Electrical changes
- Radiant heat
- Indoor air quality
- Mini split heat pumps
- New foundation repair techniques
Build a Pool of Speakers
We like to start our speaker search early so we can give presenters time to prepare and choose dates that work best for them and that fit our schedule. We’ve found that there are many product representatives who are eager to speak to our group. We let it be known that, although our members do not make sales, we are in contact with the end users of their products. Speakers can benefit by explaining their systems to us, and we benefit by having the ability to recognize a new product or system and actually know how it works. We prepare our speakers to expect a well-educated group that will test them with great questions. Also, we remind our speakers that they must keep their “sales hype” to a minimum. Most reps have had years of practical experience in their fields, are well-spoken presenters and welcome the challenge to present their product to a professional audience that appreciates the information.
Engage Affiliate Members
Tri-State ASHI has formed a dependable and knowledgeable group of affiliate members who work in multiple trades. By tapping into their resources, we’ve offered enlightening sessions on swimming pools, HVAC, termites and mold, for example. Affiliate members are part of our association, attend our meetings and often enjoy the other speakers’ presentations. Having these affiliate members definitely makes us a stronger organization.
Get the Word Out
Having speakers planned in advance lets our membership and guests plan as well. This also shows the level at which we value education in our group. We broadcast our schedule for monthly meetings and list the next three months’ topics on the notice.
Invite Members, Then Invite Them Again
Once a topic is targeted, we send out a letter with the date, time, location and what’s expected for the presentation. I’ve had excellent results in boosting our numbers of attendees at meetings by making follow-up phone calls and sending e-mails.
Provide a Good Showtime Location
We meet at a local Dave & Buster’s. It’s been a good choice because it is reasonably accessible and appealing to the majority of our membership. The meeting rooms are well-equipped with all of the WiFI video screens and audio equipment needed, which is a big plus. We schedule the first education session to start at 6 pm, have time for dinner from 7-8 pm, and begin the second education session at 8 pm.
Offer the "Wow" Factor
Our board decided to go all out for the Tri-State ASHI annual seminar this year. Joe Lstiburek, a leader in and creator of the field of building science, will present a “Day with the Expert” October 9, 2015. We’ve engaged Joe to set up a program tailored strictly for home inspectors. Because a building scientist looks at the home from the top down, Joe’s presentation will cover some of the following topics:
- High R-value roofs
- High R-value wall assemblies
- Top 10 blunders that rot your house
- Mold explosion — why now?
- Difference between air sealing and ventilation
- Air sealing and ventilation in retrofits
- Vapor barriers
- The perfect storm — why systems fail
- Masonry retrofit project
- Energy-effecient retrofits
- Hybrid foundation and insulation retrofits
- New light in crawl spaces
- Conditioned crawl spaces
- Q&A session
Be Persistent and Patient to get Steady Member Growth
We have found that, through our emphasis on education, including monthly meetings, biannual peer reviews and yearly seminars, our membership is growing. It will take time to meet previous highs, but we are inching along.
Our efforts are taking our chapter to the next level. We hope that by sharing our secrets about growing our membership, we’ve given you ideas that can help your chapter increase its membership, too.