A Community Affair: Roadmap for Achievement

This blog post is the first in new series for STC’s Notebook, A Community Affair, by the Community Affairs Committee. It discusses how your community can use the Community Achievement Award application as a planning tool. The Community Achievement Award recognizes a SIG, professional chapter, or student chapter’s outstanding accomplishments. The guidelines, applications, and samples can be found on the STC website. In addition, a recorded webinar that covers how to fill out the application is posted online. If you have any questions about the award, please contact Tom Barnett, CAA Chair, or Lloyd Tucker, STC Deputy Executive Director.

The CAA applications for 2011 are due 23 January, but the information posted on the CAA webpage can be used to plan out your Community’s 2012 activities, as discussed below.

Guest Post by Ray Gallon, CAC communications lead

The deadlines for the Community Achievement Awards (CAAs) are almost upon us, and I hope many of you who are community leaders are busy filling out the forms showing how you have achieved Merit, Excellence and Distinction during the past year.

What may not be so obvious, however, is how those of us who are not filling out such a form at this time for 2011 can use the guidelines to help us run, and improve, our chapters. I’m a chapter president, myself, and my own chapter, the France chapter, won a Community of Excellence award in 2008. If I go to the new CAA Guidelines page, and open the geographical community checklist, I can still find pointers that will help me improve the way my chapter runs.

Let’s take a basic CAA criterion, point F6: “Develop a plan for the year and monitor your community’s progress throughout the year, and make adjustments if necessary.” Now, I’d bet all of us make yearly plans. But do we always monitor progress against the plan? Or do we just improvise, because time is pressing, and after all, we do have jobs, lives to lead and so little time.

Now let’s look at an advanced criterion, one that counts for a Community of Distinction, point D2: “Publish a directory that advertises members’ technical communication services available in your area.” Now, this is something that is not difficult to do, and is a way of making a chapter proactive in helping members find work in this time of economic crisis!  You see, we can do something, and it doesn’t have to be costly— just post the directory on your web site.

All of which is to say, if you’re one of the people who hasn’t bothered to open the guidelines, thinking they were “too complicated,” think again. Take a look at the checklists. You might find that you’re already doing most of what’s on them, and you will probably find a few good ideas to guide you in running a better chapter. Come next year, you might even find yourself filling out one of these CAA applications and receiving an award for your community!  Just to make life easy, there are three checklists, for three different types of communities—click the link at the bottom of this post there are direct links to them, so you don’t even have to go looking!

If you want to succeed at a CAA application, here’s a word of advice: the best way to approach it is to use the criteria for the award level you are pursuing to help set your “agenda” for the year, and as you complete the activities that satisfy the criteria, record the data at that time. In essence, make the completion of the form a continuous process that is spread over the entire year. That has two major advantages: (1) it lets you use the CAA process for its intended purpose—to guide you in planning and implementing activities that will strengthen your community; and (2) it avoids what can become a formidable administrative task if you attempt to pull together the support documentation at the last minute as the CAA deadline approaches.

Orlando chapter president Karen Lane has a couple of additional suggestions, based on her chapter’s experience winning several of these awards. First, remember that support documentation is not optional: don’t just collect data; also collect e-mail messages, photos, newsletter articles, etc., that can be .pdf’d and provided as “exhibits” in support of certain criteria.  Second, make sure someone owns the process: appoint someone in the chapter who will be in charge of shepherding the chapter’s initiatives and CAA application, beginning in January and ending in December.

See the Community Achievement Award webpage to get started or go directly to one of these checklists:

Geographic Community
Student Community
Virtual Community


A free CAC webinar about Community Planning with the CAA is planned shortly. More information will be available soon.