Robert Riggs, CAE, 37, works in Indianapolis as executive vice president of Phi Kappa Theta Fraternity and executive director of Phi Kappa Theta Foundation. As a 2017 40 Under 40 honoree, Riggs discusses his passion for the events industry.
What I do: I lead our professional staff and volunteers to deliver a member experience designed to inspire and create solutions to social issues that resonate with them. The educational programs, conferences and membership experiences curated by the fraternity are designed to increase members’ capacity to deliver sustainable social solutions. I work directly with philanthropists to match their passions and investments with the educational programs curated by the fraternity.
How I got here: I’ve served my entire 15-year career in the association profession. For the first five years, I was promoted to different roles within the fraternity. Ten years ago, I was hired to serve in executive roles for both the fraternity and foundation.
Greatest career accomplishment: I’ve led Phi Kappa Theta Fraternity through its last strategic plan to become an association that focuses on positive social impact. In 2007, our association redefined its mission from a full-page document to a single sentence: Phi Kappa Theta actively develops men to be effective leaders who passionately serve society, fraternity and God. Over the last decade, we have worked to follow the prescribed steps in the association book “Race for Relevance” by Harrison Coerver and Mary Byers, CAE. We’ve restructured our board governance to follow the Policy Governance Model. We’ve invested heavily to improve the professional capacity of the CEO and staff. We’ve narrowed the scope of our educational conferences, services and resources to our members by focusing on their individual and personal development of positively contributing members of society. Lastly, we’ve invested in technology to be able to deliver services in real time and on demand to ensure a better experience for our members.
Impressive stats: Membership has increased 45 percent in the last decade, thanks in part to introducing as many as 10 regional conferences, expanding what was a single national conference. I’ve evolved our conferences from traditional keynotes and facilitator-led workshops to immersion-based, peer-to-peer group challenges resulting in a satisfaction rating of 92 percent of our attendees this past January.
What I’m working on: We’re launching a new immersion-based program known as the Imprint Initiative. It will be a blend of online-based education and live immersive exploration into the participants’ passion, purpose and drive to make a positive social impact.
What I do outside of work: I serve on Indiana Society of Association Executives boards, spend time with my wife and young daughter, and enjoy facilitating strategic plans with other association/nonprofit boards.