Chapter Profile: Understanding Dues, Budgets & Taxes

Understanding the association respondents from the 2019 Chapter Benchmarking Report on the chapter profile: chapter dues, budgets, taxes, and more.
Chapter Profile: Understanding Dues, Budgets & Taxes

Chapter Profile: Understanding Dues, Budgets & Taxes

Membership Dues Structure

42% of associations said members are charged separately for chapter and HQ dues. Separate dues are most prevalent in organizations with separately incorporated affiliates or federations.

40% said they have unified dues, i.e., chapter dues are included in HQ membership dues.


Scenarios For a Single Dues Payment

Here are a few possible scenarios where a single dues payment occurs:

  1. A member makes a single payment to HQ or a chapter for both memberships. Dollars are split and each party receives their share.
  2. A member makes a single payment to HQ because there are no separate chapter dues. HQ might provide financial support to its chapters, for example, a stipend per member or a financial incentive for new members.


Dues Structure by Relationship
  • Wholly Owned Subsidiaries
  • Separately Incorporated Chartered
  • Separately Incorporated Affiliates
  • Federation
  • Other
  • All

Chapter Dues Rates & Collection

Dues rates are more often set by the chapter (52%) and vary across chapters (66%). It is notable that only 16% said HQ unilaterally sets the chapters dues rate, however 20% do not have separated chapter dues. More than half, 56%, said HQ collects chapter and HQ dues. Of those, 83% pay a rebate to chapters.


  • Only 16% said HQ unilaterally set the chapter dues rate.
  • 34% have a standard chapter dues rate.
  • In 20% of associations, no separate chapter dues are charged.
  • Where HQ collects dues, 83% pay a rebate to chapters.


  • 9% said chapters collect chapter and HQ dues.
  • 14% said dues are collected separately by each entity.
  • 56% said HQ collects chapter and HQ dues.
  • Where the chapter collects dues, 79% send funds to HQ.

Incorporation Status

69% of respondents said their chapters are separately incorporated—this mirrors the chapter/HQ relationship data.

34% of associations said some of their chapters, up to 51% in a few cases, aren’t incorporated.


Reasons Chapters Aren’t Incorporated

Possible reasons for why 51% of chapters aren’t incorporated include:

  • HQ not requiring chapter incorporation—only 41% do.
  • Chapters losing incorporation status due to missed tax filings.

IRS Tax Exemption Application & Tax Filing

HQ is more likely to handle the tax exemption application when chapters are wholly owned subsidiaries (87%).
It’s a toss-up with separately incorporated chartered chapters:

  • 46% of respondents said HQ applies for the chapter’s tax exemption.
  • 45% said the chapters handle the application themselves.
  • Most chapters of affiliated organizations (80%) and federations (83%) apply independently.


When it comes to filing tax returns, this pattern continues. Associations with more centralized structures tend to file a group return. Many survey participants commented on their ongoing challenge with chapter tax exemptions and returns. We heard elsewhere about an association with a huge mess to clean up after discovering one of its chapters hadn’t been filing its 990. As a result of missing 990s, the chapter lost its tax exemption status and Employer Identification Number (EIN).


Most Common Types of Support

The most common type of support provided by survey respondents to help keep their chapters on track is sending reminders to file and requiring them to submit tax returns to HQ. One organization provides chapters a password-protected document library where they post their returns and other important documents.

Programs & Services Provided by Chapters

Networking and education top the list of chapter programs and services. What’s changed since the 2016 Report? Most significantly, we see an increase in the variety of chapter activities reported, especially in programs that engage young professionals. Here’s what we found:

  • 70% of chapters offer public service/charity programs, up from 48% in 2016.
  • 91% of chapters design their own professional development programs, an increase from 68%
    in 2016.
General local networking activities
Regularly scheduled meetings/events
Chapter-developed educational/prof.
Newsletters or other periodical publ.
Website separate from parent org.
Tours or special events
Public service/chartiable programs
Sponsoring programs for students
Mentoring programs
HQ-developed education/professional
Preparation or Report programs
Advocacy/government or reglatory affairs
Trade shows/expo
Member directory
Career services
Product sales
Product development

Chapter Staff & Budgets

Among our survey respondents, the median operating budget for chapters is $27,321, and the average chapter budget is $95,239. Budget is a driver for paid staff, so it is not surprising that 49% of chapters rely on volunteers.


Staff vs. volunteers
  • 51% of the associations participating in the survey said some or all of their chapters have paid staff.
  • The remainder (49%) rely on volunteers to handle chapter management and administrative responsibilities.


Paid chapter staff
  • The average number of paid staff was 1.4
  • The smallest number of paid staff was 0.5
  • The largest number of paid staff was 9.9


Chapter Operating Budget
  • The average operating budget is $95,239.
  • The median operating budget is only $27,321.
Chapter Benchmarking Report: What the Data, Success Stories & Opinions Tell Us

Download The Report

Mariner Management, in collaboration with Billhighway, launched this second edition of the Chapter Benchmarking Report. The report was designed to gather industry data that helps associations benchmark their chapter programs against others. We also wanted to fuel the dialogue on what makes an effective chapter—and an effective chapter/association relationship.

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