Guest Author: Peter Houstle, Mariner Management & Marketing LLC
Nearly half of all associations have components – a catch-all phrase for chapters, special interest groups and the like – according ASAE’s last benchmarking study. Back 2006, two research undertakings by Mariner and Whorton and by the ASAE Component Section Council sought to answer the question “are chapters worth the effort – do they have a defensible ROI?”
10 years and a much different economy later, we’re still hearing the question “How do we justify the cost of chapter support?”, and it’s getting louder. We can relatively easily identify the costs (financial and otherwise), but struggle to monetize the value.
This isn’t exclusive to chapters; for many activities in an association (or any business for that matter), it is often much easier to identify and track the direct costs associated with that activity than it is to assess the income resulting from that activity. We’ve all heard the classic statement, “I know that half my advertising dollars are wasted…I just don’t know which half.”
Despite this ambiguity, many associations continue to allocate resources to their chapter system without developing an objective financial rationale for that allocation. This allocation tends to expand over time until its cost butts into other association activities at which point the activity with the most influential advocate (not necessarily the greatest value to the mission or the members) gets the larger share of the budget.
So how might we approach this process in a way that replaces, as much as possible, the subjective assessment of value with objective financial measures against which resources can be rationally allocated?