If your association has chapters, how many does it have? An impressive 84 is the average according to a 2016 benchmarking report from Mariner Management. That’s a significant number and likely means your chapters have a significant influence on your association’s overall performance.
Since 65 percent of associations don’t have any full-time staff devoted to chapter management, however, building solid relationships and increasing chapter performance is often a challenge.
The good news is that challenge can be overcome without placing undue pressure on your staff or your chapters. You just need to respect your chapters’ needs and empower chapter leaders – whether they’re volunteers or paid staff – to take initiative on projects that benefit both your association and chapters’ more localized members.
Here are six easy ways your association can manage chapters well and improve their performance.
1. Support Chapters’ Priorities and Processes
The work your chapters do should align with your association’s mission, but that doesn’t mean chapters can’t have their own ways of getting things done. For instance, your association may focus on events while some of your chapters choose to focus on advocacy. As long as your chapters’ priorities help advance your association as a whole, the association should support their initiatives.
Encourage your chapters to find the routines and processes that work well for them. Their staff, volunteers and members may prefer to do things differently from your headquarters staff, but they can be just as effective.
By giving your chapters the freedom they need to fulfill their responsibilities in their own ways, you’ll foster the independence chapters crave. Such a supportive, respectful approach will help you build stronger relationships with chapters, which is in everyone’s best interests.
2. Give Chapters the Tools They Need to Succeed
Asking chapters to engage members and get results without the proper tools isn’t productive. Provide chapters with the tools they need to win new members and motivate current members to participate. These tools may include:
- A unique website homepage or private online community for each chapter
- Email tools that chapters can use to send messages to all their members or more targeted audiences, such as those who joined in the last 30 days
- Event management tools such as calendars and calendar invites that can be sent to members via email
- Engagement and activity metrics that chapter leaders can use to determine how well they’re doing and where they can improve
Schedule regular conversations with chapter leaders and members to review how tools are helping or hindering their performance. These calls will help you provide better tools for chapters, as well as demonstrate your commitment to supporting every chapter under your association.
3. Encourage Healthy Competition
The best association technology will not only give chapters the metrics they need to assess their performance, it will show how chapters stack up against one another.
Often called a leaderboard or scoreboard, this tool combines performance metrics from within each chapter so your association can see who is making the biggest impact. It also lists chapters in order from highest performance to lowest performance to help set benchmarks and allow chapters to compare themselves to their peers.
Leaderboards are often used to foster a lightly competitive environment, since people naturally want to be at the top of the list and succeed. Getting to the top of your chapter leaderboard can be powerful motivation for chapters to step up their game. You could even hold a contest with rewards to give your chapters’ competitive spirit an extra boost.
4. Generate Revenue through Digital Advertising
Chapters are master fundraisers, encouraging donors to give and coming up with extra funds for their projects. Help your chapters generate even more revenue through digital advertising on their website or online community.
With digital advertising tools, chapters can sell ad space to one or more groups, automatically rotating multiple ads in a single location. By allowing chapters to display multiple ads in one place, you increase their chances of generating revenue without blocking off too much valuable real estate on their websites.
Chapter advertising also helps your association deliver more relevant ads to members and a greater ROI for sellers. That comes from the more targeted audience that chapters offer. Chapter members are localized and chapter leaders can use their intimate knowledge of member needs to choose very specific ads. Those hyper-relevant, targeted ads increase the likelihood that members will get value from the ads, click on them, and generate a high return on investment for sellers.
5. Highlight Successful Chapter Events
In addition to your association’s annual conference, many association chapters hold their own regional meetings as well as smaller advocacy, fundraising and networking events throughout the year. Encourage chapters to continue their great event work by highlighting successful meetings on association and chapter websites.
Common ways to recognize successful events include writing blogs, announcements, or summaries of the events. However, with the popularity of multimedia, it may be even more effective take a video at the event or showcase images in a slideshow. Image and video content is easier for members to consume, making it more likely that association and chapter members will learn about the event. As they do, chapters will increase post-event engagement and drum up enthusiasm for future events.
6. Recognize Influential Chapters
People and groups love to be recognized for their achievements, so make highlighting your top chapters a priority. You could do this by:
- Naming and giving awards to top chapters at your association’s annual conference
- Providing special perks, such as a discount on membership dues, to leaders and members of your best-performing chapters
- Featuring top chapters on your association homepage, in a blog, or via a newsletter
There are numerous other ways that you could recognize high-performing chapters and make them feel special. Find the method that works best for your chapters and do it regularly, such as every quarter, six months, or year. Done well, this can play into healthy competition and motivate chapters to improve so they’re recognized the next time around.
Expert Tip: When highlighting your best chapters, have a conversation with their leaders about the tactics they’re using and what works best. You can publish their tips online or send them out in a newsletter to give other chapters practical advice on how they can improve. If you want to encourage chapter leaders to help one another more frequently, consider creating a private online community where they can start discussions and share tips whenever they find a new technique that works well.
Motivate Your Chapters to Improve Their Own Performance
It’s tricky to effectively manage chapters and improve performance while still building positive relationships. The key is to respect your chapters’ needs and empower them to make an impact.
The tips above will help you do that while also taking some pressure off your association’s headquarters staff. They encourage your chapters to step up their game not because your association is mandating it, but to improve their reputation among members and other chapters. That helps your chapters succeed and contribute more to your association.