Women in Self-Storage: Ginny Stengel, SSA Education & Events

Posted by Erica Shatzer on Apr 29, 2024 8:19:10 PM

Formed in 1975, the Self Storage Association (SSA), a not-for-profit tax-exempt organization, has been helping storage owners and operators improve their businesses for nearly five decades. And Ginny Stengel, senior vice president of education and events, has been contributing to its success for the past 25 years.

Stengel, who has spent her entire career in the non-profit association profession, which she says is a good vocational path in Washington, D.C., “fell into” the membership marketing role at the SSA in 1998. The association had recently relocated its headquarters from Cincinnati, Ohio, to Alexandria, Va., and she was working for the Federal Credit Union Association when one of her colleagues showed her a job ad for an opening at the SSA.


Michael Kidd, former executive director of the SSA, hired her to fill the membership marketing position and assist with office management. For approximately 14 years, Stengel was responsible for the development and implementation of advertising and promotional campaigns designed to generate membership sales. Direct mail, fax campaigns, and telemarketing were the favorite strategies of the day, and SSA’s membership grew year after year.


Then, following the Great Recession, which was a difficult time for many SSA members, Stengel felt she was ready for a change of pace. In 2012, she joined the American Society of Clinical and Pharmacological Therapeutics (ASCPT), whose members were helping find the cure for cancer and other diseases. The association was comprised of individual members who were esteemed medical professionals. Although Stengel “loved the mission,” she quickly realized the position wasn’t for her.

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To honor the commitment she made when she accepted the job at ASCPT, she stayed for 1.5 years. But after that, the job search began. Upon calling Mike Scanlon, who was president and CEO of the SSA at the time, for a reference that would assist with her job search, Stengel was invited to return to the Self Storage Association in a different department and role.


“He offered me a job and welcomed me back,” she says. “He was very gracious, and I was relieved. I thought I needed a change, and it turns out I did … starting back at the SSA in a different capacity was just what I needed.”


Grateful for the warm reception and second chance, Stengel was eager to take on the education-focused position of director of education in 2014. The learning curve was challenging, but knowing the industry was a huge help. “I’ve been really lucky to work with two amazing CEOs [Scanlon and current CEO Tim Dietz] at the SSA. Their leadership and vision have led the association to a successful, effective, and productive place in our industry.” Now senior vice president of education and events, Stengel oversees the national meetings team and continues to program the majority of education for SSA and state events.

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Growth Within The Association

Since she joined the SSA, Stengel has had a hand in helping the association extend its reach and services. For instance, before switching positions, she was involved with initiating its state third-party association management services department in 2011, which was developed to support state self-storage associations and enable them to operate more efficiently and professionally. “The states needed help,” says Stengel. “It’s a lot of work on a volunteer basis. They wanted to pay the SSA to handle their affairs.”


According to the SSA’s website, basic operational services include accounting, bookkeeping, auditing, periodic financial reports to the state association’s board; maintenance of membership list, annual membership recruiting campaign, list maintenance, membership relations; dues billing; annual meeting preparation and on-site registration, marketing; educational seminars and other special meeting preparation and on-site registration, marketing, content suggestions, speaker contacts; board meeting agendas and speaker invitations; and routine monitoring of state legislative activity.


The SSA currently manages 23 state self-storage associations, with Michigan being the latest to come on board. “We’ve also chartered some,” says Stengel. “When we see a need in a state without its own association, we’re able to organize and create our own organization to help when legislative issues pop up.”


Both endeavors have allowed the SSA “to reach smaller operators, she adds. “Plus, they get a lot of SSA member benefits, so it’s a win-win.”


The ability to join the association’s specialized councils is one of the member benefits Stengel mentions. There are four councils available to its members: the Diversity and Inclusion Council, the Women’s Council, the Young Leaders Group (YLG), and the Large Operators Council (LOC).


The SSA’s Diversity and Inclusion Council is a group that facilitates the success of underrepresented professionals in the self-storage industry by providing them with the opportunity to connect directly with industry veterans. “The intended outcome is that participants establish relationships and friendships that lead to future opportunities and create a more inclusive self-storage industry,” says the SSA website.


“I’m so glad to see it and fortunate to see it as the staff liaison,” says Stengel, who modestly states that she simply ensures that they have everything they need for their meetings to be successful. “It’s very volunteer driven. They drive the ideas and that’s how it should be.”


She’s also enthusiastic about the Women’s Council, which she calls “energetic and exciting,” because “so many women are breaking boundaries within the self-storage industry.” For example, the current chair (Alyssa Quill of Storage Asset Management) and immediate past chair (Tamara Fischer of NSA) are women.


The SSA’s Women’s Council aims to “develop and nurture a community that contributes to successful living, work, leadership, and service. With the mission of promoting the success of women in the industry through education, mentorship, networking, and service, we look forward to collectively fueling our growth through shared knowledge, resources, and support.” This group also offers a mentor program.


Made up of SSA and state-managed members 40 years of age and under, the SSA’s YLG was established to provide education and socialization opportunities for the industry’s younger generations while fostering future leaders for the association. Benefits of the group include educational seminars and webinars, a newsletter, and receptions at the SSA’s annual spring and fall conferences.


As for LOC, it’s a group of self-storage owners/operators with 10 or more facilities and at least 1,000,000 rentable square feet of self-storage. LOC meetings, which take place at the SSA’s annual spring and fall conferences, cover issues that are relevant to owners of multiple facilities.


Stengel doesn’t oversee all these councils, but she is responsible for curating the programming for the SSA’s events. She selects the content and hires the speakers, utilizing post-event surveys as a springboard for choosing subject matter for future events. “We try to keep it fresh and appealing,” says Stengel, who also stays abreast of industry happenings to make timely, relevant selections and informed decisions.


“We see what will be beneficial to attendees and appeal to them.” On another note, with the SSA’s headquarters being near Washington, D.C., and a presidential election in November, Stengel reveals that there will likely be content related to that national event throughout the year.


Till The End

“I will be at the SSA for as long as they will have me,” says Stengel, who’s content spending the rest of her working years (five or so) at the association. “It’s a great group of people to work with, and the self-storage industry is so great to be in!”


Until she retires, Stengel will remain focused on providing the best programming possible and planning for the association’s milestone 50th anniversary next year, which will be held at the Aria Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. “We’re planning a great party to celebrate the occasion so I hope to see a lot of familiar faces there. I’m excited to see what will happen with the industry and where it’s headed.”


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Erica Shatzer is the editor of Modern Storage Media.