Since taking over the office of vice president Chapter Services for DAMA International (DAMA-I) last December, I have had the privilege of working with many DAMA chapters around the world. My role is to help organize new chapters and support existing chapters, especially ones that are struggling to stay active. In reflecting on my contacts and the stories I've heard about "chapter life," I've identified a few telltale signs that indicate a chapter is having problems. For example, you know your chapter is in trouble if:

  • You are more familiar with the habits of the dama gazelle (yes, this is a real animal) than you are with the schedule of your DAMA chapter;
  • New Supreme Court Justices are installed more frequently than new chapter officers;
  • Future meetings are so predictable that the announcement includes the phrase, "same DAMA time, same DAMA channel";
  • You are a data professional and your chapter doesn't know about you.

Seriously, we know that there are common problems that affect all chapters from time to time. Keeping a chapter alive and active is a challenging task. Fortunately over the past year, I've also seen numerous ways to help a chapter succeed. Among them are:
Applying one of the central tenets of good data management: reuse. Take a look at what other chapters are doing and find ideas that might work for your chapter. This sharing can be done by browsing other chapters' Web sites, attending President's Council meetings or tracking the new "Chapter Highlights" feature in the DAMA newsletter (

Focusing on the needs of the people attending the chapter meetings. The Chicago chapter is answering their members' desire for certification by hosting several exam sessions for the new Certified Data Management Professional designation.

Recruiting new board and ad hoc committee members to avoid burnout. The Carolina chapter was in a holding pattern after some board members moved on to new jobs; however, after several new contacts were made at the Symposium in Los Angeles and afterwards, the chapter is reforming itself with new energy from a group of new board members.

Just doing something productive. While brash actions pose a danger to chapters, the nastier foe is inaction. The Finland chapter began holding meetings while they were still organizing the chapter, capitalizing on the interest while it was still fresh.

Leaving bread crumbs for the next group. Occasionally, a chapter goes into hibernation or even "dies." Success can still be had by passing the mailing lists, bank account numbers and official documents back to DAMA-I so that later on, another group in that area can pick up these pieces and start over.

Asking for help. Each chapter has a board liaison assigned who can be a source of good ideas and support (see list at And feel free to contact me to see how I can help!

These are just a few examples of the great work by DAMA-I chapters that I have witnessed over the past year. If you've seen other danger signs or success stories, please send them to me at

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