I sometimes wonder what the break-up rate will look like on the other side of the pandemic. A crisis can bring some couples closer together but drive others further apart.
How has the pandemic affected your relationships with chapters? Are you talking regularly with chapter leaders or getting ghosted? Are you “all in it together” or regressing into “us vs. them” territory?
Would you believe me if I told you that chapter performance data could put you and your chapters on the path to a rewarding relationship? Read on to find out how data makes you a much more alluring chapter partner.
Challenge: balancing your need-to-know with chapter autonomy
Understandably, you want to know what’s happening—and what’s not happening—in chapters so you can provide the support they need and build a stronger relationship with them. But, even in the best of times, you probably have to incentivize (or strong arm) your chapters into submitting the data you need.
We’ve seen several successful strategies for getting chapter data:
- The chapter recognition program at the Association of Government Accountants awards points to chapters based on their activities and compliance with affiliation requirements.
- The Association for Corporate Growth gets the chapter data it needs via the annual chapter self-assessment
- The College and University Professional Association for Human Resources collects data through its chapter awards program.
But sometimes, the threat of disaffiliation is the only thing that works. That’s no fun for anyone.
Even if you explain the rationale behind your data request and spell out what’s in it for them, some chapters will get around to it on their own timeline or never bother to comply. During the pandemic, submitting data to HQ is way down on the list of priorities for a busy, stressed out volunteer leader.
Nagging for chapter data does absolutely nothing for relationships. It feeds the “us vs. them” mentality, and, if that’s already the norm, this dangerous mindset becomes even more entrenched. You get the reputation for always wanting something and always pushing something.
How chapter performance data can improve your relationships with chapters
So how do you turn that around? How do you get the chapter data your association needs—data that chapter leaders will benefit from too—without stepping on toes and causing resentment and stress?
Software like Billhighway allows for a healthy balance of association visibility and chapter autonomy. You can see chapter performance data in real time—no nagging required. For example, with Billhighway, you can see the:
- Number of events chapters are hosting
- Types of events they’re hosting
- Percentage of members attending
- Percentage of non-members attending
You have access to chapter data that allows you to benchmark and understand the correlations between chapter activities and performance.
Once you’ve identified low-performing chapters, you know where to allocate more of your time and where to step in to provide coaching and resources. When you identify high-performing chapters, you can study these chapter bright spots to see what they’re doing differently to engage and deliver value to members.
- What kind of programs are they offering?
- What are their marketing strategies and tactics?
- How are they getting more member engagement?
- How are they attracting non-members to their events?
Share these bright spot practices with other chapter leaders. Spot opportunities for peer mentoring and pair struggling chapter leaders with successful ones.
An uncertain future requires trusted chapter partnerships
You can’t face existing challenges or future unknowns without strong relationships with chapters. They need your support and the connections you can help them make with other chapters. Since chapters personify the association for most members, you need them to be a voice for your association.
The Illinois Principals Association (IPA) recognized the influential role chapters had in members’ purchasing decisions. IPA asked their chapters to help them increase annual conference attendance, giving each chapter a targeted prospect list. Chapter leaders had access to a Nucleus dashboard from Gravitate Solutions where they could see their progress toward regional goals—and the progress of other chapters. Conference attendance increased by a whopping 30%.
Chapters have a potentially huge role in your 2021 (and beyond) conference strategy. Next year, large in-person events are not likely to happen at the national level since members and industry professionals won’t be willing or able to travel.
Make chapters part of your hybrid event strategy with HQ hosting a virtual conference and chapters (or regions) hosting in-person conferences. The International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) recently hosted a virtual conference “hub” with eight regional “spokes” around the world. The virtual live feed was broadcasted to the spoke locations. The spokes also had live in-person programs.
These collaborations require strong relationships with chapter leaders who are willing to share both the work and rewards (revenue). HQ provides the resources and chapters provide the local, personal touch. Chapter performance data can help you lay a foundation for your association and chapters to learn from each other and grow stronger together.
During our webinar, “Chapter Performance Reimagined: Taking Your Association’s Growth to the Next Level,” attendees learned how their association can mobilize chapters to better serve members, and increase recruitment, retention and revenue. If you were unable to join us for the webinar, here’s a link to the session recording and the slide deck.