Make a Case for a Bigger Chapter Budget with the Help of Chapter Member Engagement Data

Association budgets are tightening in response to pandemic-related revenue losses and in anticipation of more financial challenges ahead. This is bad news if your association’s C-suite and board see chapters as a cost center, not a revenue source.

In reality, chapters contribute to your association’s bottom line. They bring in new members and deliver value to members through educational events, volunteering, and networking—activities that increase member engagement and retention. But how do you prove the ROI of chapters?

With the help of chapter member engagement data, you can make the business case for more HQ attention and investment in chapters. Engagement data shows the positive impact of chapters on association revenue when they’re empowered to better serve members.



Chapter member engagement remains a mystery for many associations. Your association management system (AMS) captures member engagement data at the national level, but not at the chapter level—that’s the missing piece.

How do you know if a chapter is offering fewer programs during the pandemic and if member engagement is declining as a result? If you wait for chapters to submit a report, it might be too late, the damage to membership value already done.

Monthly membership reports alert you to declining membership renewals—an obvious signal that membership value isn’t being delivered. But retention is a lagging indicator. It measures something that happened (or didn’t happen, in this case) in the past.

You need a leading indicator, like chapter member engagement data, to get ahead of retention issues and prevent non-renewals. You need access to chapter data—like registrations for virtual meetups, webinars, and virtual conferences—that reveal declining member engagement in real time.

If you can watch registration and payment data in real time, you can spot worrisome engagement trends before it’s too late. You can see the leading indicators that influence member retention.

You need a way to peek behind the curtain and see what’s happening in your chapters right now. You need to know how (or if) members are participating in chapter activities so you can ensure membership value is delivered and membership dues revenue is received.


You can’t manage what you can’t measure. You need to understand what’s going on with member engagement in each chapter so you can show them how to recover at-risk memberships before it’s too late.

Your AMS tells you how a member is engaging with your association, but not with their chapter—and that’s where members are most active. So how do you peek behind the chapter curtain? Billhighway captures the chapter member engagement data you need. All chapter payments and registrations flow through our software.

With the data Billhighway collects, you can help chapters identify members who aren’t attending chapter meetings (virtual or in-person) and develop a proactive retention strategy. This intel helps you direct your focus to chapters that need help with reengagement campaigns. For example, you can show chapters how to learn more about member needs and remind members about relevant opportunities and benefits. This type of intervention will increase retention and revenue.

You can identify non-members attending chapter events and add them to membership marketing campaigns. If you can help chapters convert these attendees into members, you’ll both see increased revenue in the years ahead.

With Billhighway, you can watch registration and membership trends across your chapter network, identify lackluster chapters, and intercede before it’s too late—before memberships drop or chapters fold.


The C-suite and board can easily see how much your association spends on chapters, but the chapter ROI isn’t so obvious. Chapter member engagement data proves that the resources your association invests in chapters is justified. This data also supports your argument for additional chapter resources from HQ.

Leadership decisions about chapter resources should be based on data, not assumptions. Preventing knee-jerk decisions is especially important when HQ staff and board members aren’t clued into local chapter culture, community and activities, and don’t “get” the role of chapters in members’ lives.

Chapter member engagement data is the intel that helps you keep membership growing and chapters playing a vital role in helping your association fulfill its mission. It shows the value your members get from their chapters.

Chapters with engaged members help your association achieve its goals and improve your association’s bottom line by:

  • Recruiting members
  • Saving memberships by delivering value on the local or state level
  • Spreading awareness of HQ benefits
  • Increasing the audience for HQ programs
  • Strengthening member loyalty


Local is where it’s at for many members. Associations are not alone in this phenomenon. During the pandemic, megachurches, like associations, couldn’t have in-person services, so they went virtual. They organized members into small groups who meet for bible study and socializing. As a result, church membership and revenue are still growing, despite the pandemic.

Your chapters are like those small, local groups. They’re the face of association membership, the boots on the ground. Your association needs to leverage them more, not less, to help you deliver membership value—and see a positive impact on retention, reach and revenue.

Chapters are the golden geese for associations. Their strength contributes to your impact. But you need to know what’s going on in them. You need to know how members are engaging—or not engaging—so you can help chapters contribute to your bottom line and you can both continue delivering value to your members.

During our webinar, “Chapter Performance Reimagined: Taking Your Association’s Growth to the Next Level,” attendees learned how their association can mobilize chapters to better serve members, and increase recruitment, retention and revenue. If you were unable to join us for the webinar, here’s a link to the session recording and the slide deck.


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About the author

Sarah has a soft-spot for component relations professionals (CRPs), creating amazing experiences, and having a good laugh. She focuses her time at Billhighway on building and delivering chapter-focused resources, creating unique experiences for CRPs through webinars, events and the one-of-a-kind Component Exchange (CEX). Sarah is passionate about exploring new ideas and trying new things. What we really want to say is Sarah is a component bad@$$ who is sure to put a smile on your face.