How the Global Business Travel Association Measures Chapter ROI

How do you feel when someone on staff or a board member asks, “Are chapters worth it?”

It’s a valid question. But do you have a good answer? You may intuitively know they’re “worth it,” but can you prove it? Can you prove your chapters are worth the time and money your association invests in them?

Patrick Algyer can.

Patrick’s the Senior Manager of Volunteer Relations at the Global Business Travel Association(GBTA) which has 39 chapters in the U.S. A few years ago, a group of GBTA staff and chapter members worked with Mariner Management to look at new membership models.

They already had a GBTA-only, global membership (Industry Membership) and a chapter-only membership (Community Membership). As a result of their work with Mariner, they added a new joint global and chapter membership, All Access Membership. Since it was launched, the number of All Access members has more than doubled.

GBTA wanted to invest in additional technology so the GBTA and chapter membership databases would synchronize fluidly. Because of their fiduciary responsibility for the association, the board naturally asked, “What are we getting in return for this investment in our chapter network?”

Patrick knew he had to demonstrate this ROI in numbers.

The Chapter ROI Project

Patrick and his boss ended up spending a month on the ROI project.

“When you talk about ROI, you look at hard dollars,” said Patrick. “That’s the easiest way to measure something, so that’s where we started.” They pulled the registration lists for events in the past 12 months to look at event revenue.

They also looked at volunteer activities such as leadership service on boards and committees, speakers, writers, and participants in Capitol Hill meetings. Patrick explained why, “While there’s no direct financial return from a volunteer’s activity, there is a potential replacement cost for it because without your volunteers, what’s your option? You’d have to hire staff to replace them.”

Out of the total number of members participating in each of these activities, whether as part of a direct financial return for an event or indirectly as a volunteer, they determined the number of each type of member: global (Industry), chapter (Community) and joint (All Access).

Everything ended up in a spreadsheet.

They came up with a list of the different returns categorized into financial and indirect. “The financial return represented the hard dollars received by GBTA,” said Patrick. “The indirect return represented the replacement cost we’re getting by having volunteers do various activities for us—generating education, white papers, things like that. We chose a dollar figure for the salary and benefits that volunteer activity replaces.”

Patrick said it took a bit more thought and work to calculate the indirect return. “Everything we did was literally starting from scratch,” he said. “Thankfully we didn’t have to involve chapters in information-gathering because I had access to it through the event registration system and membership database. Otherwise, it might have been more of a struggle to get the data I needed.”

Results: Chapter ARE Worth It

First, Patrick learned that 30 percent of their global (Industry) membership participates in a chapter in some way.

“I was surprised we have 30 percent of our global membership engaged in the chapters,” he said. “The exciting part for me and where I kind of get nerdy is, how do I grow that? How do I bring more people into the fold and increase that engagement from 30 percent to 50 percent to 70 percent? That’s the long-term plan.”


The Big Question Was…

For every dollar GBTA invests into the chapter network, were they getting a $5 return? A $10 return? Or, were they getting a $0 return? Patrick says, “I have to say, we are getting an incredible return. I’m not able to share the exact dollar amount, but, essentially, it’s an 8:1 return.”


Yes, Chapters at GBTA ARE Worth It!

Now that Patrick has an ROI baseline, when budget time comes around, he has evidence of the type of return GBTA can expect if they continue to invest in their chapter network. “We can be more strategic about what we’re doing,” he said. “We have a huge opportunity to grow our membership through our chapter network.”

To encourage that growth, Patrick is establishing a baseline for each of the chapters on member acquisition, retention, and event attendance. They hired someone to train chapters on best practices in member recruitment, retention, and event marketing and will track each chapter’s progress going forward.

Monetizing the Value of Chapters

When he needed funds for chapter technology, Patrick Algyer, director of volunteer relations at the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) had to demonstrate the return GBTA could expect from investing in their chapter network. To do that, he had to figure out what metrics would show the value provided by chapters to GBTA.

So how do you show the true value of chapters using objective financial measures instead of subjective assessments of value? How do you show the ROI for the resources your association allocates to chapters? In 2016, Mariner launched the Chapter ROI Project to envision a financial framework that places a monetary value on chapter activities. The framework eventually became the Chapter ROI Valuation Matrix.

Patrick incorporated the data GBTA collected about its chapters into the ROI Valuation Matrix to assign a dollar value to chapter activities and rationalize the resources allocated by GBTA to its chapters. His effort netted him a substantial increase in his annual chapter support budget.

Breaking Down the Chapter ROI Matrix

You can adapt this tool to help your association and chapter leaders understand the value your chapters are creating.

First, identify chapter activities or roles to analyze and monetize, for example:

  • Marketing and communication
  • Listening/feedback
  • Member recruitment
  • Member engagement
  • Advocacy
  • Continuing education
  • Next generation development
  • Product development
  • Leadership development

Then, choose one of these four methods to assign value to a chapter activity:

  • Identify the direct value of the activity.
  • Price the service.
  • Price the volunteer contribution.
  • Identify the indirect value of the activity.

Let’s look at each one of these methods in examples from associations who are using the ROI matrix. While there are surely other variables at play, each example shows the connection of a chapter activity to a dollar value generated for the association.


Direct Value of a Chapter Activity

This one’s easy to measure. In our example, the association looked at the direct value of chapter membership drives. 29 chapters ran drives last year. They averaged 28 new members per drive. The association netted $114 dues per member. The total value of these drives is more than $92,000.


Price the Service

In this case, chapters run PR campaigns to raise public awareness of the profession, for example, radio appearances, public service announcements, and presentations at local schools and universities. PR firms typically charge $1,000 to $5,000 for a monthly retainer to run similar PR campaigns.

28 chapters ran public awareness campaigns. If we take the lowest PR firm charge of $1,000/month and apply that to 28 chapters running these campaigns, that’s a $28,000 service the chapters produced on the association’s behalf.


Price the Volunteer Contribution

At GBTA chapters, four volunteers spend two hours a month on tasks related to educational programs, for example, finding speakers, working with venues, and submitting applications for CEU credits. Patrick based his calculation on the Independent Sector’s value of one volunteer hour: $23.56 (at the time). Multiply that by 32 chapters to get a total volunteer contribution of just under $70,000.

Patrick said, “When I talked to senior leadership, I kept reiterating, ‘This is how much money we’re saving by having our volunteers do this work. We always say that volunteers are the heartbeat of our association and this clearly demonstrates just how valuable they are.’


Indirect Value of a Chapter Activity

In this example, the association looked at the impact of chapter mentoring programs that help drive members into the association’s certification program. Peter said, “This is a place where it’s difficult to come up with a precise number, but you can come up with a number.”

The association found a 15 percent higher certification program enrollment from areas with chapter mentoring programs. The association nets about $275 per certification enrollee, of which 238 came from such areas. So they attributed 15 percent of that total to chapters, generating about $10,000.

How to Start Your Own ROI Project 

When selecting activities to analyze, Patrick said the evidence becomes more powerful when it reflects your association’s goals and aspirations over the next three to five years.

What data do you have that can help support that work, and bring your department and chapters into alignment with that journey?

He also suggests starting small and not “biting off more than you can chew.”

He started with U.S. chapters and the data they already had at their fingertips because he didn’t want to spend a lot of time digging or begging the chapters for information.

Eventually Patrick worked with other departments to collect the data he needed to fill out his ROI matrix. But he also had an ulterior motive for working with them: “I wanted to educate other staff about our chapters so they could form a different perspective about what chapters do and the value they provide to our organization.”

“This was an eye-opening exercise for us at GBTA,” Patrick said. “I’m not going to lie; I was terrified to run this exercise because I was afraid I’d get numbers that showed we were getting a zero return from all the money we’re investing in our chapter network.”

His ROI matrix proved the opposite: chapter activities had a direct impact on additional revenue for GBTA. As a result, he got the approval to hire an additional staff person who will focus on volunteer engagement and help him oversee their committees.


Advice For CRPs

Patrick shared some advice for fellow CRPs who want to figure out the ROI of their association’s chapters:

  1. Define your goal and work backwards from there. Give yourself an achievable goal. Start slow, start small.
  2. Start documenting everything. Any data point could be relevant down the road.
  3. Work smarter, not harder. Don’t overthink the process because that’s when you’re going to end up running in circles. Once you start digging into it, it’s a lot easier than you imagine. But it is going to take some time.
  4. Don’t think if you don’t have an 8:1 return, you’re a failure. That’s not what this is about. It’s about knowing where you are today, then figuring out what to do that will benefit the association and members, and increase that return.

He said. “As CRPs, we sometimes lose sight of that second part. It’s not just about what’s happening at HQ or enforcing the rules. You have to really focus on the member and volunteer experience because the better experience they have, the more time, energy, and money they’ll invest in your association.”

Each side of that association/chapter equation brings value to the other. You know the value your association provides to chapter members, but when you have an ROI metric like Patrick’s, you can prove the value chapters bring to your association.


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About the author

Mark is known for his success in helping empower non-profit organizations across the U.S. and around the world to do more, multiply their impact, and grow. He regularly walks organizations through discovery processes that uncover internal obstacles, helping them identify and implement ways to more effectively run chapter-based organizations through process improvements and the use of innovative technologies. As a sought-after industry thought leader, he often speaks at leadership conferences, and regularly hosts educational roundtables and workshops in the non-profit sector. Mark has an unrelenting passion in helping solve problems for mission-based organizations so they can better focus on their mission and expand their impact across the nation and around the world.