Once someone adopts a perspective or mindset, it’s tough to shake. In many associations, the chapter/National relationship had degenerated into an “us vs. them” pattern. How can you shift the thinking of senior management, department heads, and other staff so they see chapters as an opportunity to be leveraged, not a situation to tolerate? How can you help them understand the valuable role chapters play in the association experience?
In our last post, we shared strategies for bringing the chapter value discussion into the association C-suite so you can get the resources you need to improve the membership experience and the chapter/National relationship. Now, let’s focus on how you can shift the chapter mindset throughout the rest of your building.
Build a reputation and relationships
Spend time with executives, senior staff, and department heads so you can get a better understanding of organizational and departmental goals and strategies. How do components fit into the picture? How can components help the association and departments reach their goals?
Learn about the concerns and challenges facing senior management. Find out what makes their job tough. How can you (and “your” chapters) make their job easier? Can you provide useful data, information, ideas, or perspectives?
Become known as the chapter expert, the staffer who has insight about the average member. What can you share of your chapter knowledge that will help staff around the building?
Be frank, trustworthy, accessible, and transparent
Be known as a straight shooter.
You tell association and chapter staff and leaders what they need to hear which won’t always be what they want to hear. You don’t deal with personal drama or historical grudges. You’re focused on improving the member experience and that means improving the chapter/National relationship.
Relationships are based on trust.
Association leaders and staff must see you as a team player who’s driven to achieve association goals, not as a chapter yes-person. Chapter leaders must believe you’re an objective supporter and resource who believes in their value. You must have both sides’ trust and belief in your integrity. Otherwise, you’ll have trouble getting cooperation from both sides.
Keep communication open with both groups.
Make yourself available. Be a good listener and withhold judgement until you’re sure you’ve heard the whole story.
Explain how and why decisions are made. Clear up misinformation and misperceptions. Transparency is necessary to eliminate the “us vs. them” mindset so often seen between associations and their components.
Collect and share strategically valuable information
You have access to valuable chapter and member intelligence. Take advantage of your relationship with chapter leaders and the access it provides you to the diverse range of member types and perspectives. With your connections, you can tap into the needs and interests of a variety of chapters, leaders, and members.
Analyze what you learn. Identify emerging issues, trends and strategic opportunities for your association. Look for places where National and chapters can align and collaborate to achieve mutual goals.
As a component relations professional, you are a liaison between your association and its chapters. Like an ambassador, you must explain one mysterious culture to another. You can also play a huge role in aligning the interests of National and its chapters, changing relationship dynamics, and spreading the chapter value message throughout your association.