There’s a tool out there for pretty much everything. But who has time to wade through Google search results and website sales copy to find one that works best for your purposes? Wouldn’t you rather hear about a useful chapter tech tool from a fellow component relations professional (CRP)?
That’s what we thought too so we invited 16 CRPs to speak at the Association Component Exchange (CEX), hosted by Mariner Management & Marketing and Billhighway, about the tools they use for their work with chapters. In this series of posts, we’re covering three categories of chapter tech tools:
- Collecting chapter information and data
- Providing resources to chapter leaders
- Creating visual content for chapters and chapter leaders
In this post, we hear how six CRPs use tech tools to provide resources to chapter leaders.
Email address Hunter
Dresden Farrand, MPA, MPP, CAE, vice president of membership and chapter development at the Independent Electrical Contractors (IEC), found a great tool to help chapters build their prospect lists. Hunter lets you find email addresses right from its home page.
All you do is enter the company domain into the search field, click search, and all the publicly available email addresses for that domain are listed. You can then download the list to your database. Hunter also integrates with LinkedIn, Google, HubSpot, and other platforms.
You can get a free Hunter account that allows 100 free searches a month. Dresden purchases a subscription so her chapters have unlimited free use. Hunter has made a difference for them. For example, one chapter split their list of prospect companies between board members. Using Hunter, they got 220 email addresses in 1 hour and 15 minutes. Purchasing that same list would have cost $800, so they saved time and money.
Hunter.io is chapters, make sure they understand good email marketing practices so they don’t end up spamming prospects. For example, send a welcome email letting the recipient know they can stay on the list to receive valuable information or they can easily opt out if they don’t want to receive the chapter’s emails. Most importantly, make sure your chapters have the training, processes, and tools to store data securely.
Everyone’s favorite survey tool: SurveyMonkey
Abigail Solazzo, chapters and leadership manager at the Association of Nutrition & Foodservice Professionals (ANFP), reminded CEX attendees to not overlook “RAT” (readily available technology) like SurveyMonkey.
Here’s a case of a tech tool that helped an association solve a serious chapter challenge. ANFP staff used to visit chapters every three years to conduct a SWOT analysis and leadership training. But nothing ever came of the visits—no follow-up, no goals met or outcomes achieved, and no ROI for ANFP or their chapters.
So they overhauled the entire process to focus on chapter needs. They use a biannual chapter status report to assess chapter performance and identify at-risk chapters, for example, the ones with decreases in membership and volunteer retention. They also note which chapters have made distress calls to ANFP about issues like volunteer burnout, personality problems, or power struggles.
Before the visit, the chapter does their SWOT analysis using SurveyMonkey. The survey is a self-guided process. To help the chapter provide the most useful answers, ANFP provides tips within the survey. Answers are anonymous and, therefore, candid. ANFP is getting much better information than they did when the SWOT was conducted in person.
Chapters have a month to respond to the survey. Having the analysis ahead of time allows ANFP to customize the chapter’s on-site training. Now chapter training comes with expected outcomes attached to deadlines.
Mind-mapping tool: GroupMap
Jenny Heger, CHSE, director of chapter management and volunteer experience at the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International (HSMAI), introduced us to GroupMap, a mind-mapping tool. Say goodbye to easels and sticky notes. You can use GroupMap for online or in-person brainstorming, journey mapping, and group decision making.
At HSMAI’s chapter roadshows, they familiarize chapter leaders with GroupMap at the reception the night before the event by having them work on fun questions. The next day, members work on three questions in the morning and three questions in the afternoon. A recorder at each table uses a laptop to enter responses into the GroupMap site. Participants see the results from each table aggregated live.
GroupMap offers about 60 best practice map templates for planning, brainstorming, and developing strategy, or you can create your own. Jenny cloned a master map for each city they visited. Each map has its own link and password. You can customize map headings and add instructions to help focus thinking.
Jenny loves GroupMap because it’s easy to learn and teach others how to use. People can work on a map independently and then gather together, or they can use it in a group like they did at the roadshows.
- There’s no need to type up notes from sticky pads.
- The participants do all the work for you by entering notes right onto the website.
- Results can be sorted, analyzed, and exported right away.
- And, it’s inexpensive. You can pay just for the months you need with pricing starting at $20/month.
Collaboration platform: Slack
Corey Strausman, associate director of chapter development at the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA), talked about their chapter Slack channels. Slack is a collaboration platform. Its acronym means “Searchable Log of All Conversation and Knowledge.”
AIGA started using Slack to reduce the burden of emails for AIGA staff and chapter leaders. Slack makes it easy for AIGA to communicate, connect, and engage with chapter leaders, and for chapter leaders to connect with each other. It serves as a clearinghouse for ideas. Corey promotes successful chapter programs on Slack so chapter leaders can see what their peers are doing elsewhere.
Slack has also helped Corey highlight problems with AIGA’s communications. Through Slack, he’s proven to AIGA leaders that he can think differently, communicate differently, and succeed differently. He now has support to try new programs, like three new web series for chapter leaders:
- Community meetings: virtual conversations on topics predetermined by chapter leaders.
- Lunch and learn with chapter leaders: pre-recorded snackable interviews discussing challenges, successes, and solutions that are being implemented at the local level.
- Streamed content from the annual leadership retreat.
To learn more about how AIGA and their chapters are using Slack, check out our post, How to Improve Chapter Communications.
Online community platforms
Lindsay Currie, director of stakeholder engagement at the Regulatory Affairs Professionals Society (RAPS), and Sara Sanders, regional chapter manager at PEAK Grantmaking, discussed how they use the Higher Logic online community platform for their chapter leaders.
Upon taking office, RAPS chapter leaders receive resource binders, but they still continually called HQ to ask the same questions. Lindsay’s team needed a solution to this time-consuming problem, but didn’t have a budget for new technology. When you don’t have a budget for new tools, where do you turn? That’s right, ask the IT department what options are already available in your association. It turns out another department was using (and footing the bill for) the Higher Logic platform.
The chapter leader portal is still a work in progress, but Lindsay’s team has built a library by repurposing the resources and materials they already had. They focus their resource-building efforts on the issues they most need to communicate to chapter leaders and the most critical needs of chapter leaders.
They’ve used quick tips, videos, and in-person training to encourage leaders to use the resources on the portal, along with the help of portal ambassadors. As a resource for new leaders, the portal has helped with succession planning. It’s also helping leaders build relationships with their peers. They’ve used the portal to share ideas, arrange visits with others, and plan dinners together at RAPS conferences.
PEAK Grantmaking also built an online chapter leaders community in Higher Logic as well as a community for each of their 14 chapters. Upon joining, members are added to their regional chapter community, thanks to the Higher Logic integration with their AMS.
The chapter leaders community is a one-stop shop for leadership needs, including a resource library. Sara individually asks chapter leaders to post about what they’re doing so good ideas can be replicated elsewhere.
Bigger and expensive doesn’t mean better. Other options besides Higher Logic can provide some of the functionality you need for chapter leaders, for example, Google Docs, Slack, Dropbox, list serves, or project management tools.
Stay tuned for the next post in our series. We’ll share CRP advice about good tools for creating visual content for chapters and chapter leaders.