For most members, their chapter or component experience is the most significant aspect of their membership. Yet, at association headquarters, C-suite discussions rarely focus on chapters and the value they bring to the membership experience.
How can you bring the chapter value conversation into the C-suite? At the Association Component Exchange (CEX) last fall, we heard advice on this challenge from three association professionals:
- Patrick Algyer, CVA, director of volunteer relations at the Global Business Travel Association
- Amy Lestition Burke, MA, CAE, executive director at the Special Libraries Association and vice president member engagement at MCI USA
- Kevin Jacobs, membership manager, MSI STEM Research & Development Consortium
In this post, we’ll share their advice for bringing the chapter value message into the association C-suite. Our next post will explain how you can elevate the chapter conversation throughout headquarters.
Speak the language of the C-suite
To get your voice and opinions heard, you must speak the same language as senior management. In most associations, this means becoming fluent with data. Patrick said he never liked nor was good at math, but he had to get comfortable with numbers and data so he could be heard at the leadership table.
Patrick was a team of one. To get the help he needed to manage the growing number of chapters, committees, task forces, and advisory boards, he had to effectively “talk numbers” with senior management. The CEO wanted to see data that showed the ROI of chapters, so that’s what Patrick gave him.
He spent a good deal of time collecting and analyzing data from chapters and from around the building. His efforts paid off because he found what he needed to support his argument for more resources. His presentation to the CEO began with a slide showing an 8:1 return on the association’s investment in chapters. The CEO stopped him right there and said, “Whatever you want, just do it.”
Pay attention to what your CEO and senior management talk about during meetings. Look for clues to the type of information they want from you. Most want data, but some, like Amy, also want to hear stories or examples to support that data.
Be proactive on issues concerning the C-suite. Amy recommended strengthening your foresight skills. The better you understand emerging and existing issues, the more effectively you’ll perform in the conference room.
Patrick advised being prepared to answer the C-suite’s questions. Anticipate their objections. But, never fudge it. Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know, but I’ll get you an answer soon.”
Show you’re open-minded
Kevin said, “Never assume you know all the answers, even if you do.” Remember, your way is not necessarily the only way. There might be another way to accomplish goals, maybe even a better, more efficient way. Let senior management know you’re open-minded and strategically focused. You see issues as opportunities, not obstacles.
Highlight the role of components in the association ecosystem
Take it upon yourself to help the C-suite find synergy and collaboration with components. Don’t assume they’ll do it on their own. Amy said to help them understand how components integrate into the membership experience and the association ecosystem that’s changing your profession or industry.
Show the C-suite the different ways components drive membership value. Find data and stories that support this message. For example, components help members:
- Create a sense of community.
- Broaden connections and develop relationships.
- Further careers.
And, components promote the association brand by spreading the word about National services and products… and that leads to increased revenue for your association.
Help the association C-suite see components as an opportunity to leverage, not a structure to manage. Knowing how to frame and present this message will help you convince senior management that components are strategic assets that help your association achieve its goals and fulfill its mission.