Guest Author: Jamie Notter, Association Success
For very many association members, ”engagement” will include experiences at the local level (frequently through a chapter/component) and at the national level, through the national association. There are obviously a LOT of issues wrapped up in the national/component relationship, and I’m not attempting to address them all here. But I want to pull out an important point, since it relates to culture.
When it comes to how associations manage the local/national split on engagement, we tend to divide and conquer. National does its thing, and the Chapters do their thing. I think in most cases, the chapters are separate legal entities anyway, so this makes some sense.
And historically, you tended to go to your local chapter for the networking events and local study groups for the certification, but relied on National to provide the big annual meeting and the certification standards. Fine. But this divide/conquer approach led to the development of distinctly different cultures at National and the Chapters over time.
And perhaps that’s not the end of the world (there are always variations among subgroups within a culture), but in today’s environment, much of engagement involves an online/virtual component, which means the lines between local and national can get blurred. The member wants to go online to find out about volunteering opportunities through the association’s new “volunteer bank” and they don’t particularly care if National created it or if the chapter did, but they’re expecting to see volunteer opportunities that are both local and national.
But our divide/conquer and separate culture pattern doesn’t like these blurred lines. Someone has to “own” that volunteer bank, and the thought of negotiating with 50+ chapters on how to manage it is really depressing. Let’s create a national volunteer bank, and then hope that the chapters can figure out a way to use it locally. That’s the best we can do.