The Military Officers Association of America is proud of its huge network of chapters - all 400 of them, located all over this country. But among these chapters are two without any borders at all - because they exist online.
Virtual chapters offer members new opportunities based on shared interests, beyond geographical limitations.
In 2017, Col. Jeri Graham and Lt. Col. Gollasch, both retired Army nurses, were instrumental in chartering the first virtual chapter, the MOAA Army Nurse Advocates Virtual Chapter (MANAVC).
“The whole concept is that we are looking at how we can get functionally-based MOAA members together to form a different type of chapter that has no geographic boundaries,” Graham said.
This chapter has now transitioned to an all-service chapter, the MOAA Uniformed Services Nurse Advocates Virtual Chapter (MUSNAVC). There are 84 members across 26 states.
Graham explained how the virtual chapter brings their respective nursing careers together-their strengths and interests, their passion for their patients and their families-to then focus on and advocate for healthcare related legislation. The virtual chapter allows its members to “keep up professionally and keep up legislatively,” she said.
Graham admits that kick-starting and running a virtual chapter did require creativity, but that this hard work has led to development of a “toolkit” to help establish new virtual chapters.
With the assistance of MUSNAVC, the newly formed Surviving Spouses Virtual Chapter (SSVC) had their first virtual meeting this June, led by members of MOAA's Surviving Spouses Advisory Council, Gail Joyce and Micki Costello.
The Surviving Spouse Chapter, made of the surviving spouses of uniformed service officers, now has 60 members in 20 states.
Both virtual chapters have utilized the platform FreeConferenceCall.com to teleconference with computer-based screen-sharing capability.
Each chapter schedules monthly or quarterly virtual meetings. The teleconference provides a space to communicate with other members and share information pertinent to the groups. Meetings typically include a presentation and guest speakers. There are also no dues associated with joining a virtual chapter.
To anyone who might be concerned that virtual chapters would come into competition with existing local chapters, Graham reaffirms that the intent is for virtual chapters to supplement joining a local chapter. In fact, some members of MUSNAVC have gone on to join their local chapters. However, virtual chapters do offer a unique opportunity for members who live in remote areas, who are housebound, who have jobs and children, or who might be unable to participate at the chapter level.
Lt Col Scott Wadle, USMC (Ret), Program Director of Council and Chapter Affairs, said that virtual chapters “represent the future of where our chapters can go.”
“Virtual chapters offer a certain amount of flexibility to those who aren't (geographically) close to a traditional chapter or whose schedules don't allow them to participate in traditional chapter activities,” Wadle said.
He also emphasized that, “just like a traditional chapter, the importance of leadership and teamwork cannot be overstated.”
“Having the right tools and providing a clear division of responsibilities are key to the success of any organization, but this has proven especially true in the case of our virtual chapters,” Wadle said. “Since members reside throughout the country, the virtual chapters have embraced technology and implemented tools that support communications in many forms. Dividing responsibilities is vital to getting everything accomplished and keeping everyone informed. Members who contribute to the chapter's efforts are personally invested, and the results speak for themselves. As these chapters continue to grow, the foundations they have created will undoubtedly support their future expansion”
MOAA hopes to continue this work by identifying prospective chapter leaders and providing them with appropriate resources to conceptualize and launch new virtual chapters. If you have an idea for a new virtual chapter, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. For information about membership in the MOAA Uniformed Services Nurse Advocates Virtual Chapter, please visit www.musnavc.org or email email@example.com. For additional information or to join the MOAA Surviving Spouse Virtual Chapter, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.