Chapter Profile: Understanding Members, Boundaries & Structure

Understanding the association respondents from the 2019 Chapter Benchmarking Report on the chapter profile: members, boundaries, structure, and more.
Chapter Profile: Understanding Members, Boundaries & Structure

Chapter Profile: Understanding Members, Boundaries & Structure

The respondent pool represents a diverse group of membership organizations.


Membership organizations
  • 64% Individual member organizations
  • 23% Hybrid organizations with individual and organizational memberships
  • 10% Trade associations with organizational memberships
  • 3% Other
  • 1% Non-Member


Geographic constituency
  • More than half of respondents (53%) are global organizations.
  • 46% of the respondents have national organizations.
  • Only 1% of respondents are state organizations.


Organizational size
  • Participating associations have a mean annual budget of $31.6 million and a staff of 96.
  • 40,165 Individual members
  • 11,828 Organizational members
  • 96 Full-time staff

Chapter/HQ Relationship: United States

If you talk to component relations professionals (CRPs) about their association’s relationship with its chapters, you’ll hear a wide range of both encouraging and gloomy stories. In fact, we’re sharing success stories from some of our survey participants throughout this report.

  • 68% said HQ has significant control over its chapters.
  • 49% have separately incorporated chapters chartered by HQ.*
  • 23% have an independent affiliate structure.**
  • 19% have wholly owned subsidiary chapters.***
  • 6% are federations.
  • 4% in the other category reflect a blend of approaches.


*These separate organizations cannot exist independently of the central organization. Although we use the phrase “separately incorporated” to indicate chartered chapters, these chapters may not all be legally incorporated. They are, however, legally independent from HQ.
**Independent affiliate structure are separate organizations affiliated with the central organization and can exist independently of the central organization.
***Subsidiary chapters cannot exist independently of HQ. The chapters and HQ are a single corporation.

Business people discussing chart on digital tablet

Chapter/HQ Relationship: Non-United States

55% of respondents said they are operating chapters outside the U.S. Here’s the breakdown on those relationships:

  • 59% are separately incorporated and chartered by HQ.
  • 16% are separately incorporated affiliates of HQ.
  • 18% are wholly owned subsidiaries of HQ.

Chapters/Members & Boundaries

Number of Chapters & Members

The number of chapters reported by survey participants ranges from 4 to 807, with an average of 102 and a median of 55 chapters. 70% of respondents have fewer than 100 chapters, and 50% said they have fewer than 50 chapters.

  • The average chapter membership is 341, while the median is 200.
  • 70% of respondents have fewer than 100 chapters.
  • 50% of respondents said they have fewer than 50 chapters.


Chapter Boundaries

The most common (81%) chapter boundary is the state border. However, 69% of associations said they use a mix of boundary options. This chart represents more than 100% because some associations have multiple geographic boundaries. For example, they may have state chapters as well as metro chapters within some states.

Membership Structure

Require Members to Join HQ

More than half the associations (52%) require members to join HQ if they wish to become a chapter member. This is the case most often when chapters are wholly owned subsidiaries or separately incorporated chartered.


Allow Separate Membership

21% of associations allow separate, non-contingent membership. Members can belong to one (HQ or chapter) without joining the other.


Assign Members to a Chapter

14% of associations assign members to a specific chapter (based on their geographic location) when they join HQ.

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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