An unplanned move to virtual operations can be a scary time for both you and your chapter. What does it mean for chapter meetings? How do chapter leader’s jobs change? How does your job change? Will the chapter survive? The answers to these questions can sometimes be uncontrollable, but there is prep work that can make a difference in the outcome.
This is the last in a series of posts focused on challenges brought on by moving to virtual operations, something the world had to face with the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve took/taken a deep dive into everything from virtual chapter communications to virtual event sponsorship options:
- How to maximize virtual governance for your chapters
- Simple ways to take chapter communications virtual
- Keep chapters socially connected during virtual operations
- Leverage new virtual education options for chapters
- Preparation tips to make any virtual chapter event a success
- Help chapters recover lost revenue from cancelled events
- How virtual events can help chapters achieve revenue goals
You, your colleagues, and your volunteer leaders have had to respond to all new member and industry needs. Members might be taking classes from home, adapting to new ways of life, struggling with the loss of their job or a family member’s job, or completely immersed in a health or family crisis. Let’s take a step back to look at the broader thoughts and lessons we continue to learn from the move to virtual operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
THE CHANGING ROLE OF THE CHAPTER LEADER
When your chapter leaders took on their role, this was not what they had in the plans. They never would have imagined seeing the upending of the usual chapter leader role – facilitating in-person connections, education, and events. They’ve had to deal with financial questions that may never have been thought through in the past. All leading to the anxiety of: will the chapter fail under my watch?
Chapter leaders have had to make the difficult decision to cancel or postpone events. Unfortunately, in a situation like the COVID-19 pandemic, so much is riding on factors outside of their control: state guidelines, restrictions, budgets, and member anxiety about group settings.
We’ve learned that your relationship with chapter leaders will likely change in a period of virtual operations. You’ll have to do more hand-holding and coaching for leaders. Leaders will need help making decisions without data, finding ways to serve members virtually, and continuing to fulfill their chapter’s mission.
You can’t be everywhere at once for your leaders. Chapter leaders need to lean on their peer network for support and some personal intuition. Make sure they have a way to connect, hear perspectives, and learn from each other during challenging times.
CHALLENGING TIMES DRIVE INNOVATION
In our last post, we urged you to consider ideas that may have been dismissed in the past as impossible, impractical, or inappropriate. Unique circumstances like moving to virtual operations can give you and your chapter leaders the permission to experiment with new ideas – and not have the pressure of trying to make things perfect.
Chapters have the permission to rethink everything:
- New diversified revenue streams
- Sponsors as partners to provide programming, not just logos
- Sustaining virtual learning and social events as a supplement to in-person events
- The place of virtual connection and collaboration in the chapter’s permanent schedule
COLLABORATION BETWEEN NATIONAL AND CHAPTERS
Both chapters and your national organization have the opportunity to rethink membership value delivery. You could work more cooperatively to divvy up value offerings. Who does what best? Where can you collaborate?
National can provide support by providing Zoom licenses, technical assistance, and consultation on virtual events and non-dues revenue generation. If national events are limited, chapters can play a role in hosting smaller or regional gatherings.
Or collaborate on events. National can design a two-part program and host the virtual segment first – a live webinar or on-demand online learning program. Then, chapters host a smaller virtual meetup for the second discussion segment. This could be an opportunity to become true education and event partners for members.
HELP MEMBERS FIND PURPOSE IN CHALLENGING TIMES
If it’s a pandemic, weather event, economic crisis, or some other calamity, challenging times mean psychological fatigue. Everyone will be tired and anxious to get back to normal… or some version of normal.
Chapter leaders will be understandably fatigued. They will be juggling personal responsibilities while trying to fulfill new chapter expectations. Challenging times could stretch their comfort zone to a painful extent.
They could start entering burnout territory if they don’t get more help. Encourage chapters to recruit members to be virtual volunteers and take on some of these new (and traditional) tasks. Volunteering won’t only help burnt out chapter leaders; it provides a needed boost to members too. They get an opportunity to create value for their chapter and the community. Volunteering is a much needed counterbalance to the lack of control they could be feeling.
Regardless of the circumstances, your organization’s mission remains the same – to connect, educate, and serve your members. It’s time to rethink how you and your organization can fulfill this mission when challenging times arise.