CEOs Share the Advantages & Disadvantages of Chapters

New research has shown a wealth of untapped potential that just might be at your fingertips. It’s all a matter of making the most of your chapters. As part of an extensive study into the current state of chapters, this research has brought to light an important message: many organizations are overlooking their chapters, sections, states and affiliates, and it’s costing them. Big time.

So, if you’re looking into ways to update your organization, you might want to think about putting chapters at the top of the agenda. Whether you’re planning the strategic vision for the next three years, or you’re thinking it’s time to restructure and embrace change, now is the perfect time to turn things around.

Chapters can be a fantastic way to maximize the potential of your organization, but it’s no secret that they often also add an element of complexity that most associations could do without. In recent independent research, the current status of chapters has been examined in order to best understand the underlying problems and needs of chapter-based associations.



The research shows that many CEOs regard the chapter model as antiquated. With chapters varying so much in terms of size, staffing and sophistication, it is no wonder that the experience of members can be so different, all depending on their location and leader. And we all know what that means: massive potential for brand damage and disconnect.

In any typical chapter system, there’s a huge variety of different sizes, a range of different staff (or lack thereof) and a critical mass of potential members. All of which pose challenges that can make chapter networks incredibly inefficient and problematic to run.



It’s easy to see how chapters can fall victim to the disadvantages of their organization, simply through their sheer size and lack of central organization. However, there are also huge advantages to the system that we need to consider. Chapters perform an important role.

  1. DISTRIBUTION NETWORK: Chapters act as both a distribution network and a vehicle for promoting affinity and local connections.
  2. LOCAL VALUE-ADD:  They also add value to their members in a personal and localized way.
  3. FAMILIAR SYSTEM: Although they’re never perfect, chapters are a familiar system which organizations can make use of, to further their mission and get the word out about their associations.


An interesting point, which came out of the research was that in many cases, the obstacles to progressive change in terms of chapter organization come from the top. Many board members feel a natural affinity for their own chapter, and in some cases, this can lead to emotive feelings that cause the member to want to protect his or her own chapter from any structural changes. They’re fond of their personal chapters, and that fondness can make change a tricky subject.



The research suggests that the challenges chapter structures can generate could be rectified in a different way. By offering newer and more flexible structures, chapters can work seamlessly with higher leadership. In addition, affiliation agreements and bylaw updates can then be required as a condition for mitigating risk and creating accountability.


Of the CEOs who were interviewed for this report, these were the insights to the advantages
and disadvantages of chapters.



  • Chapters foster community. They are essential for grassroot movements.
  • Chapter members create and review policies, are involved in governance, do outreach to other members and play a critical role that you cannot quantify.
  • Chapters allow people to find others with common interests and subsequently increases engagement.
  • Allows national the ability to set bylaws and requirements to ensure higher chapter performance consistently across a large geography.



  • Lots of associations struggle creating the chapter model and bylaws.
  • Some chapters can cost national more than they bring in and require a significant amount of effort and time.
  • It’s difficult to create a sense of autonomy between national and chapters. Balance (or consistent alignment) can be very challenging.
  • It’s easy for chapters to be hijacked by a few bad apples who prevent progress.


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About the author

Charlotte Muylaert is the former Marketing Leader at Billhighway and greekbill. She oversaw the marketing and branding strategies for 10 years in the fraternal and association markets.