Part I: The Field Guide to Chapter Crises

The first half of our two-part post on handy strategies that help prevent chapter crises. Here's preventative strategies to keep in your back pocket.
Part I: The Field Guide to Chapter Crises

Wouldn’t it be nice to have an operations manual for how to respond to every challenge your chapters face? In our Chapter Rescue series, we took a close look at nightmare situations that can wreak havoc on chapter operations. No matter what the crisis, there are several prevention themes that weave through them all. In this post, we cover the first half of eleven prevention strategies to keep in your back pocket.

For a deeper dive, here are the eleven crises we’ve covered in this series:


#1: Communicate often with chapter leaders.

Throughout our series, one question continually popped up – are your chapters comfortable coming to you for help? If not, chapter leaders may not admit their mistakes or come to you when something doesn’t feel right. They need to know you are on their side and here to help right the ship when something goes wrong.

Build the foundation for a trusting relationship by continuously communicating with chapters. You may not be able to connect with each chapter personally, but you can make them feel connected by offering regular conference calls or sending out leader newsletters. Make it easy for chapter leaders to contact you and be responsive when they do.


#2: Support chapters with time-saving technology.

One of the scarcest resources for chapters is time. Chapters have to tackle administrative and operational challenges on top of their school, work and personal lives. Support chapters by providing time-saving technology or subsidizing their technology investment. Leveraging technology can both save your chapter leaders time and prevent errors that lead to headaches for you down the line.

In our posts on financial mismanagement and fraud, we cover the benefits of banking software that helps ensure chapters are following sound financial management practices. A banking platform can automate tasks, consolidate reporting and offer more control to National. This gives chapters back their valuable time to focus on programming and member engagement.


#3: Provide online training for chapters.

Just as your role is ever evolving, the world of a chapter leader is continually expanding. The training you provided when they started their role should be supplemented throughout their experience as a leader. Oftentimes, crisis situations arise due to simple mistakes made out of unawareness.

Offer continuous online training options that fit into a chapter leader’s busy lifestyle. Your online content could include videos, short articles (or blog posts), tip sheets, webinars, virtual roundtables, and conference session recordings. For example, in our federal and state compliance post, we discuss the importance of maintaining a tax-exempt status. You could create a short video series to translate this dense and technical information for chapters.

Chapter Leader Training Provided by Headquarters

#4: Create solid chapter policies and procedures.

Chapter leaders don’t have years of experience behind them to reference when making decisions. Having sound policies and procedures in place gives them a stepping stone in the right direction. In our post on cybersecurity, we speak to the importance of having clear procedures for common tasks and communications. If chapter leaders know the proper procedure, they will be better able to spot red flags and less likely to fall for social engineering scams.


#5: Offer chapter consulting services.

Even with the resources, training and policies you provide, chapters may require additional assistance on certain chapter functions. Offer chapters consulting services and work with them to develop an action plan that gets them on the right path forward.

In our post on website disasters, we explained how you can offer website audits to identify any potential gaps and keep chapter websites aligned with branding requirements. Your consulting service offering could also include help with data governance plans. When we discussed data privacy, we looked at how implementing best practices can minimize the risk of data privacy complaints.


Providing chapters with support and resources builds the foundation for a trusting relationship, making it more likely that leaders will come to you for the right guidance in times of crisis. In our next post, we round out our field guide to chapter crises with six more preventative strategies.