Successful associations have more than occasional high-performing components or chapters; they’re built upon a base of overall achievement and solid quality control. However, if quality control is an issue, that could hinder chapter success. According to Mariner Marketing’s Chapter Benchmarking Report, 71 percent of survey respondents indicated that quality control is considered an issue by headquarters (HQ). Not surprisingly, 40 percent, which was the majority of survey respondents, described it as their top concern – namely, that chapter products and services, whether they're virtual events, membership meetings, and the like, can be uneven or frequently low quality at worst. Let’s put those worries to rest and look at ways to engage all of your chapters and bring the overall quality and performance of them closer to that of your best. These 6 tips will show you how.
1. Foster friendly competition
Analyze the metrics you use to measure your chapters and identify your most consistent performers, then use that data to create a single yet realistic goal for chapters that are struggling. It can be tied to an annual membership drive or philanthropic event where participation within a chapter can boost its overall success. This allows for even your under-performing components a fair chance to succeed, while potentially inspiring them to see their potential going forward. You can also opt to reward creativity and offer the component with the freshest idea or concept for membership recruitment (for example) the chance to lead that online event for an inter-chapter competition.
2. Utilize the buddy system
Take advantage of the metrics you use to measure quality control and take note of which components do well and those that have considerable work to do. Break it down by area to distinguish between member services, fundraising, and activities. Pair top performers with struggling chapter reps. This will not only help build camaraderie and rapport between your chapters, but it will allow metric leaders to use their own words and approaches to be a resource to those who are underperforming. Sometimes help from peers can work wonders – it’s simply the way chapter leaders hear certain tips or approaches from someone in their shoes that can turn their own metrics around. Buddy up and let chapter-to-chapter leadership flourish.
3. Empower your chapters with the tools they need
Another way to boost chapter performance is to arm chapter reps with the necessary tools to effectively manage their chapters. Since many chapter reps are volunteers with full-time jobs – making the most of their limited time and resources is paramount. Make sure you cover the basics; every chapter should have a toolkit that includes a chapter website, communication, and digital marketing tools to promote the association’s brand while maintaining consistency. If you can, include online event management tools and best practices for promoting activities and events. Make your toolkit even more robust by providing an online community for members to interact with each other that include online database management. A comprehensive association management system (AMS) maximizes the time of your chapter leaders while providing them the most useful tools to recruit and retain members.
4. Recognize stellar chapter performances
Provide your most successful chapters with the recognition their hard work deserves, and also recognize those who made an outstanding effort. You can publicize a short awards ceremony on social media or post names on your website to really highlight standout performances. Include a variety of categories and awards such as a Rising Star Award, Most Creative Event, etc. so that people can vote for the winner online prior to the ceremony. A comprehensive AMS will have secure, online polling functionality, so you can leave the voting up to national-level staff, or you can open it up to everyone, which will further enhance the bond among your components. Everyone loves a moment in the spotlight, and it gives those who aren’t receiving awards reason to strive in the following year. You can also offer prizes in terms of discounted dues membership or a special section in your email newsletter to more frequently highlight chapters that are striving to go above and beyond.
5. Create a system for officer transitions
Consistency is a key marker of ongoing success. One way to ensure chapters maintain their best elements year over year is starting with a standardized toolkit and support resources to onboard new leadership. A standardized toolkit will help officers keep all relevant documents and reports in an easily accessible place like an online portal, which would be a great start for an incoming officer. It goes without saying that outgoing officers should help train incoming officers. It’s also crucial to have an ongoing FAQ, ideally one passed down from officer to officer. It essentially becomes a success guidebook for each new officer to learn from mistakes or common questions previous leadership experienced and solved. Making sure your chapters have these support resources in place sets up incoming officers for success. You can also take time to speak with successful chapters about the strategies they employ during officer transitions and take advantage of what works for them by passing it along to all your other components.
6. Build strong chapter rep relationships
Your chapter reps are people who’ve volunteered to lead, who were willing to take on the responsibility of that role because they truly support and believe in the mission of your association. Strengthen your bond with them by reaching out; engage them by getting to know their interests and personal goals. Help them feel seen not only as a chapter rep but as a person you respect. Emails and text messages are fine, but phone calls and video chats are better. Another suggestion before hopping on the phone is to send a simple chapter leadership poll to understand their needs and expectations. Review their responses on your call and use this connection to also clearly establish your expectations from them and the chapter; illuminate them by defining what success looks like to you. Share the metrics you’ll be using to measure their chapter success while also clearly stating your goals.
Following these tips will help you better support struggling chapters by maintaining quality control and offering a little more TLC when it’s needed. Consider implementing a solution that will empower you and your components to accomplish more, maintain visibility, and manage membership with ease.
Updated since original publication on 1/9/20.