Enriching the Member Experience Through Community and Inclusion

APMP Launches Affinity Network Program as Part of Diversity and Inclusion Program

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People join associations because they know the power of community. There is value in connecting with others who have shared experiences, and there is opportunity for growth when engaging with those whose background is different from your own. Organizations that create an environment where people can participate in community and feel included and like they belong allow for members to expand — personally and professionally — and thrive in all aspects of their lives.

APMP is committed to developing and supporting a diverse, equitable and inclusive organization. To help cultivate and maintain a sense of belonging and facilitate deeper connections throughout the membership, APMP recently launched its Affinity Network Program. The program is comprised of four member-resource groups that create space for members to share, broaden views on diversity and inclusion, and tap into a network of colleagues with whom you may not usually connect.

“Affinity programs are member-driven, and they hold space for people with shared experiences and interests,” says APMP Affinity Program Leader Kedren Dillard, senior vice president of client success at Shipley Associates. “They allow room for members to talk about their professional and personal lives, and listen, learn and educate on lifestyles and backgrounds that are different from their own.”

Dillard, who has participated in and led various affinity group initiatives throughout her career, says that the long-term vision of the program is to cultivate and maintain a culture within APMP that celebrates and promotes diversity, equity and inclusion, and incorporates policies and practices tied to these principles. The program is initially comprised of four affinity groups:

  • LGBTQ+
  • Military and Veterans
  • Professionals of Color
  • Young Professionals

For APMP members, Dillard highlights three main benefits of participating in an affinity group:

  1. They provide an outlet for networking. “You are working alongside people [within the groups] that you normally would not cross paths with,” she says.
  2. Participation fosters a more fulfilled APMP member experience. “In addition to personally and professionally connecting with other members, you will get to join in, or even lead, events and social gatherings, virtually or (safely) in-person, as those opportunities arise.”
  3. Involvement is an opportunity for personal growth and professional development. “You can learn about different cultures, lifestyles and backgrounds,” Dillard says. “Additionally, what you do within the affinity group, you can take back to your organization as an example of learning and development.”

As the affinity groups roll out as part of the program, Dillard says the initiative will remain “nimble and dynamic.” She explains, “What that means is we are going to encourage involvement, establish short-term goals and objectives, work in collaboration with other affinity groups and have fun in the process. We will mold and shape this program along the way.”

Helping mold the programs are the groups’ co-chairs, APMP members who have volunteered to share their expertise and lived experiences to expand the sense of community and belonging within APMP.

LGBTQ+ Affinity Group

Kathryn Bennett and Rachel Bracken, CP APMP, serve as co-chairs for the LGBTQ+ Affinity Group.

WinningTheBusiness.com: Why were you interested in working with the APMP LGBTQ+ Affinity Group?

Kathryn Bennett: I’m one of the only openly queer women in leadership that I know at work. I’ve benefited from hearing the stories and experiences of other queer women in the tech space. There was one woman at my last company who really showed up for the LGBTQ+ community, and I was inspired by her to take a leadership role. With so few of us represented, visibility is key.

Rachel Bracken: I have always been an activist, and I come from a long line of equal rights activists, but I learned to hide myself and my activism from leaders and teammates at work who might punish me for being who I am or even for standing up for the rights of others. Last summer, I worked with a group of Black and Brown educators who were putting together anti-racist resources for other educators at a national level, and I created a presentation based on their work (and with their permission) for my work colleagues. This inspired me to do more, and I’m excited about … having conversations about how we can use the words we write and speak to make our industry a more inclusive space for LGBTQ+ people, specifically, but really for all people.

What are you looking forward to most about leading this group? What do you hope to achieve?

KB: I’m most excited about raising the visibility of queer people in the proposal space. Many of us are afraid to be out at work because we propose into or work for conservative entities, including government, law and construction. I’m tired of being told to change, instead of the institutions I work for taking the initiative to make their environments more welcoming, both as a woman and as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. All people deserve to bring their spouses/partners to work functions and talk about their families without judgment. Ultimately, I’d like to contribute to the shifting workplace norms that have made it safer for me to be a queer woman who is out and proud on the job.

RB: I have always been aware of implicit biases in business processes and business language that seem to fly under the radar for most people because they’ve been integrated into our culture for so long. I’m looking forward to showing how inclusion can improve businesses and to working with individual proposal professionals to show them how to lead by using language that’s more inclusive to help further shape our cultures into a more inclusive world.

Military and Veterans Affinity Group

Jason Decker currently serves as chair of the Military and Veterans Affinity Group.

Why were you interested in working with the APMP Military and Veterans Affinity Group?

Jason Decker: I’ve always been around and sensitive to military and veterans issues. As a son of a vet, nephew of service members across the branches and a veteran myself, I have experienced a close-up view of the service and sacrifices made by our military members and families. With fewer and fewer people having contact with vets, I want to step in to help bridge that gap and serve where I can, to listen to and help share the perspective, needs, and value of military members and their families.

What are you looking forward to most about leading this group? What do you hope to achieve?

JD: Every company I have worked for has strongly supported military and veteran employees. When we take the time to recognize the unique contributions and challenges of everyone’s unique background and experience, we are all better for it. The support and encouragement I received made a difference in my life. I see the APMP Affinity Network Program as a small way to pay that back and pay it forward.

Professionals of Color Affinity Group

Hy Alvaran, CF APMP, and Roshinee Naidoo, CPP APMP, serve as co-chairs for the Professionals of Color Affinity Group.

Why were you interested in working with the APMP Professionals of Color Affinity Group?

Hy Alvaran: I love being a proposal professional, and I owe my start in this career to APMP. My hope is that the opportunities that have been afforded to me by this organization are accessible to all people. As an LGBTQ+ immigrant from the Philippines in the United States, my hope is that my lived experiences allow me to be an empathetic listener and facilitator to lower barriers experienced by people of color in our profession and organization.

Roshinee Naidoo: Being an Indian woman, I was instantly drawn to this group. Based on my personal experiences, I see it is hard for people of color to be recognized and given equal opportunities. It is often that you never quite fit in, and I never really had that sense of belonging, which was a struggle for me. There is still a racial stigma around ethnicity and culture that divides us. I believe that sharing my experiences and viewpoints will help make a sustainable change. Being authentic, [relatable and offering] support to others is vital to maintaining good mental health and well-being for all, and I look forward to interacting with people from different backgrounds and listening to their journeys.

What are you looking forward to most about leading this group? What do you hope to achieve?

HA: Prior to proposal development, I built greater community support for issues important to LGBTQ+ people of color. I was a community organizer for 10 years, and I worked with coalitions to elevate priorities such as protecting LGBTQ+ youth, defending immigrants’ rights, raising public awareness about the needs of transgender people and advancing marriage equality. I look forward to [bringing that experience into this group] and working with my co-chair to build a pipeline of leadership of professionals of color into APMP.

RN: I believe we can make a huge impact on creating awareness of the important issues everyone is facing. I am grateful that APMP is providing this platform where there is a [discussion] on racial disparities. The objective of the group is to acknowledge and help individuals who are having challenges. We want [APMP members to know] that we want to hear your stories and we want to support you. We are here to embrace who you are and respect you for your uniqueness, as we value equality.

Young Professionals Affinity Group

Ashley Kayes, CP APMP, and Rixio Mendez serve as co-chairs for the Young Professionals Affinity Group.

Why were you interested in working with the APMP Young Professionals Affinity Group?

Ashley Kayes: I am passionate about providing resources and support to young professionals in the business development, capture and proposal fields, and I was thrilled about the opportunity to expand my potential reach and impact through this amazing program. This group is a unique subset of the Affinity Network Program because there are several existing resources and groups that young professionals can access, including those provided by the Intentional Career Path Committee and the various professional development groups within the chapters. We have an opportunity to positively impact the future leaders of our professional organization.

Rixio Mendez: In Latin America (Spanish-speaking countries), APMP as an organization is not well-known and neither are bid management best practices. Because of this, I believe that important work should be done with the new generation of professionals, with the main purpose being breaking paradigms and updating outdated practices.

What are you looking forward to most about leading this group? What do you hope to achieve?

AK: I’m thrilled to be able to offer support to those who may not have it in their individual organizations or existing networks. I was lucky to find those resources and mentors early on in my career, but I know that not all young professionals are that fortunate. If we can make that difference for some young professionals in our industry, then we will have achieved our primary goal.

RM: I look forward to making relevant contributions to this fantastic initiative, and I hope to introduce APMP to young Spanish-speaking professionals in South America, mainly in Chile, and motivating them to start as members of the organization.

Looking Forward

The primary aim of the APMP Affinity Network Program is to create a safe space for members who want to support or who identify with one or more member-resource groups. As the program continues to be refined, more affinity areas will be identified, and groups to support them will be launched in the future, providing more opportunities for honest conversations to take place and resources and ideas to be shared.

“Each member will bring authenticity to every affinity group,” Dillard says, “along with the desire to learn from your colleagues and the understanding that it is a safe place to ask questions and share experiences. Through these affinity groups, we can enhance APMP from every member’s perspective — and that is the magic.”

To join an affinity group, contact the co-chair(s) for the group you’re interested in. Visit APMP.org to express interest in participating.


Frances Moffett is the managing editor at APMP.

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