“If only…” Those two little words take on so much significance if you’ve ever had the misfortune of dealing with a chapter crisis. If only you had provided the training or resources that would have prevented the crisis. If only you had a better relationship with the chapter so they would have asked for help before it was too late.
In our series on chapters in crisis, we covered 11 different types of troublesome scenarios from financial mismanagement and fraud to leadership succession challenges and website disasters. Now, we’re reviewing 11 crisis prevention strategies. In our last post, we covered 5 strategies:
- #1: Continually work on your relationship with chapter leaders
- #2: Support chapters with time-saving technology
- #3: Provide online training for chapters
- #4: Create chapter policies and procedures
- #5: Offer chapter consulting services
Now, let’s look at 6 more.
#6: Use a chapter checklist or self-assessment
Associations usually approach compliance with the chapter affiliation agreement in one of two ways. Traditionally, chapters complete and submit an annual checklist. But another option is becoming popular: a chapter self-assessment.
With a self-assessment, chapters evaluate how well (on a scale) they meet ‘best practice’ criteria. The assessment can also include open questions about their biggest successes and challenges, and ask chapters to assess your association’s support in different areas.
You can also use a checklist or self-assessment for a more in-depth and instructional evaluation of specific chapter functions. For example, a website checklist assesses a chapter on how well their site meets information requirements, provides functionality needed for an optimal user experience, and complies with procedures for domain renewal and other important deadlines.
Chapters also benefit from checklists for:
- Data privacy compliance
- Determination of employee or contractor status
- Legal liability and risk exposure
#7: Host monthly peer education/networking sessions
By facilitating a network for chapter leaders, you provide the opportunity for them to get to know, support, and learn from each other—an invaluable resource, especially since chapter leaders are often more receptive to advice coming from their peers than from HQ.
Dedicate a private group in your online community to chapter leaders where they can ask questions, provide advice, and share resources and success stories.
Host monthly chapter leader web meetings to discuss common or timely issues. As mentioned in our post on struggling chapter leaders, you can use these meetings to discuss prickly leadership problems in a general way without having to call a particular leader out for their behavior. Post recordings of these meetings on your chapter leader web page along with a description of topics covered so leaders can easily find them.
Use these meetings as a training tool. For example, if the monthly topic is microvolunteering, ask chapter leaders to share examples of the microvolunteering opportunities they’re offering. Then, you can discuss how microvolunteering can help alleviate a leader’s workload (the cause of many crises) and grow the chapter’s volunteer and leadership pipeline.
#8: Provide a budget match to chapters
Identify the chapter activities you want to encourage and provide a budget match for them. For example, you could match the dollars a chapter invests in leadership development, thus ensuring a healthy leadership succession plan.
A match could be used for other initiatives, such as technology investment. With a dollar match, the chapter has some skin in the game. A match also demonstrates HQ’s acknowledgement of the chapter’s limited resources and its commitment to the chapter’s success.
#9: Distribute how-to resources
Toolkits and quick-start guides provide a handy reference for chapter leaders who are taking on a new project or figuring out a new task. For example, chapter leaders and staff most likely need help with understanding best practices for outsourcing, contracting services, and hiring employees. The toolkit can include:
- Checklists for hiring vendors for website, IT, meeting planning, and/or marketing/PR services
- Vendor due diligence questions and red flags
- Questions for vendor reference checks
You may also want to develop toolkits for preparing a budget, building a website, making site visits, and negotiating contracts.
#10: Identify local/regional professional services
A list of vetted professional service providers ensures that chapters know where to turn when they need help. The list also minimizes the likelihood of conflicts of interest.
For example, to help chapters deal with legal issues, identify a nonprofit attorney with association experience for each state and share this list with your chapters.
You could also provide a list of vetted association management companies (AMCs) or consultants with association experience for meeting planning, administration, HR, marketing, PR, advocacy, and website development/design.
#11: Develop templates
Templates developed by your association give chapters a head start, so they don’t have to reinvent the wheel. They can take one of your templates, for example, a template for a business continuity/disaster recovery plan, and customize it to their chapter’s needs.
Looking back on these 11 strategies, a few recurring themes are evident: communication, support, and education. If you stay in touch with chapter leaders, learn about their needs, and provide resources that help them do their ‘job,’ you will lay the groundwork for establishing a trusting relationship. Chapter leaders will become more receptive to your advice and more willing to ask for help before a potential problem turns into a full-blown crisis.