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Question-and-Answer Session With the New Executive Director of SPJ, SDX Foundation

From the April Issue of SPJ Report

SPJ Report: What compelled you to apply for the Executive Director position with SPJ and the SDX Foundation?

Terry Harper: It seemed to fit quite well with my previous experience at Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity; the size and scope of the organizations is similar. I thought the fit between my skills and SPJ’s needs would be a good one.

SPJ Report: What experience or expertise do you bring to the job?

TH: I have more than 13 years of association management and development experience that should serve SPJ and the Foundation well. I helped to execute a turnaround at the Fraternity that brought financial stability to the organization, as well as put its Foundation on the path to growing its endowment significantly during my tenure.

But just as important as the operations side of things, I understand that in order for the organization to prosper, you have to provide value to the membership. I hope that I will be able to bring some new ideas to the table in that respect that will not only keep the members we already have but help us grow in the coming years.

SPJ Report: What will be your priority as Executive Director?

TH: The Board has outlined a number of areas where they would like to see me concentrate my efforts. The two main areas of focus are membership and the financial strength of the Society. In addition to attracting new members to SPJ, we need to focus on retaining the ones we already have. At the same time, we need to closely examine the way we conduct business to ensure we are giving the organization the biggest bang for the buck.

SPJ Report: How do you view the role of Executive Director?

TH: Where the Board is concerned, the role of the Executive Director is largely one of being a stagehand. The Board sets policy, and the professional staff executes. We need to provide the board with accurate and timely information that will enable it to focus on the big picture.

Where the professional staff is concerned, the Executive Director needs to wear many hats: leader, motivator, mentor, and coach, to name a few. We can’t be so much concerned with titles and hierarchy as we are with getting the job done.

Our mission is to serve the membership of SPJ to realize the goals and objectives as established by the leadership. We need to ensure that everything we do is in keeping with that mission.

SPJ Report: What are your goals for SPJ and the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation?

TH: My immediate goals for SPJ are to improve operations and examine the membership trends so we can implement the best plan of attack to spur growth and retention.
As far as the Foundation is concerned, we need to hire a Director of Development and get rolling on putting together a plan of action for future fund-raising efforts. With roughly $10 million in its coffers, the Foundation is already able to support a wide variety of programs, but we want to be doing more. The only way to accomplish more is to increase the endowment through a carefully planned and executed development program.

SPJ Report: Why did you want to work for SPJ if you have no experience in the journalism field? How will that affect your role as Executive Director?

TH: My journalism experience is limited to my college days when I worked in the office of sports information at Oklahoma State. There, I interacted with journalists on a regular basis and worked occasionally as a stringer. I also wrote periodically for the Daily O’Collegian. And I guess I really don’t consider the 10 years I spent writing and producing Phi Kappa Psi’s magazine hard-hitting journalism either.

But the search committee was not looking for a journalist who would learn association management. They were looking for a seasoned nonprofit executive who could motivate and lead the staff and assist the Board in advancing the mission of the organization.

I believe in the principles upon which SPJ was founded and look forward to being a vocal advocate for improving and protecting journalism.

SPJ Report: Is it OK for members to contact you with their concerns or comments?

TH: The only way we can improve our service to the members is through their feedback. Member participation in the life of SPJ is crucial to its success as the leading journalism organization in the country.

New SPJ/SDX Foundation Executive Director Terrence G. Harper may be contacted at:
Phone: 317/927-8000 ext. 220
E-mail: tharper@spj.org


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