The Best Ways to Communicate with Chapter Leaders During COVID-19
The only town open for business these days is crazy town, but, hopefully, your chapters are open for business too. In our last post, we discussed how to help chapters with virtual governance during the COVID-19 crisis so they can continue to serve and support members. Since everything is topsy-turvy right now, find ways to keep the lines of communication open with your chapter leaders.
Communication guidelines for crazy times
Check in with chapter leaders regularly, perhaps weekly, until conditions change for the better—further down, we share how some associations are doing that.
Find the right balance. If your inbox is anything like mine, you and your chapter leaders have seen a surge in emails. You don’t want to become an additional burden. Depending on your industry and/or their situation at home, they may have a lot more going on than usual—or they could have more time on their hands.
Be concise. These busy volunteers are stretched in all kinds of directions right now. Make it easy for them to skim or quickly read your emails.
- Put the latest news up top.
- Use short blurbs containing the essential information and link to more detail on your website.
- Add bold subheads so they can see at a glance what you’re covering.
- Use bullet points.
- Keep sentences and paragraphs short.
- Add a list of linked resources at the bottom so they don’t have to go searching for URLs in previous emails.
With so many unknowns right now, transparency is comforting. You don’t want chapter leaders to question, doubt, or hesitate. Make everything you say and do as clear as possible and try to make yourself even more available than usual.
During a virtual idea swap for CRPs hosted by Peggy Hoffman and Peter Houstle from Mariner Management, Ann Dorough, CAE, director of component development at The American Institute of Architects, shared a story about transparency. AIA’s CEO attended a virtual idea swap for their chapter leaders. He admitted that the AIA team were all learning and didn’t have all the answers. Ann said their chapter leaders seemed reassured by his honesty.
Remind chapter leaders that you’re in it together. Having a meaningful role to play helps when everything seems out of control. You’re all fortunate that you can serve others while fulfilling your personal, professional, and organizational missions.
Virtual town hall for chapter leaders
Gather chapter leaders together for a virtual town hall, open house, or idea swap. Diana Tucker, CAE, Diana M.L. has a account vice president for membership and chapter relations at NAIOP, invited several department heads to their virtual town hall with chapter leaders. The participation of these staff leaders at NAIOP shows the association’s commitment to their chapters and helps chapter leaders put faces to names.
NAIOP’s vice president of business development shared ideas for working with sponsors so chapters don’t lose sponsorship revenue. The vice president of marketing/communications described best practices for crisis communications. The meetings director provided advice on contract clauses.
During the town hall, they talked about the education most needed by members and the types of content that NAIOP could share with chapters. Ann said they plan to schedule weekly meetings for now.
ASIS International held a chapter leaders open house, according to Alyson Freitas, volunteer engagement manager at ASIS. The vice president of meetings shared advice on contracts and the IT director reviewed web-conferencing and other virtual meeting options.
If you plan a virtual town hall, send out critical information beforehand so time together can be dedicated to questions and idea sharing. Request questions ahead of time. Address member and chapter leader needs, for example, guidance on virtual meetings, online education, marketing, and member online engagement.
Post a recording of the town hall on your chapter leader website. Add a brief description and topic timeline so leaders can quickly forward to the information they need. Display a schedule of upcoming chapter leader meetings with an option to add the meeting and reminders to their calendar. Post a form that chapter leaders can use to submit questions, ideas, and success stories.
If your town hall attracts an unwieldy, large group, add regional virtual meetups to the schedule. In these smaller meetups, chapter leaders can swap ideas and you can provide the latest updates on association news and resources.
Be mindful of not overscheduling them. Find out how often they want to meet. Since this is their second “job,” they’re the ones with schedule concerns, especially if they’re dealing with kids and work at home, or if they’re in an industry that only allows them enough time for work and sleep right now.
What’s on the town hall and meetup agenda?
You won’t run short of material for conversation, that’s for sure. Describe the support and resources you’re offering, for example, guidelines and verbiage on postponing/cancelling meetings, sponsorship strategies, member engagement options, and virtual meeting technology recommendations and tips.
Suggest topics for their board’s agenda. You may alert them to issues they haven’t considered.
Most importantly, listen. Ask them about concerns and problems. What do they want you to focus on? What do they need right now—and down the road? Explain how to give that feedback to you. Put HQ staff contact information on the chapter leader website so they know whom to call about different topics.
Chapter leader COVID-19 webpage
Reduce redundant calls and emails from chapter leaders by putting everything related to COVID-19 on one page of your chapter leader website. The chapter webpage at the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists is a great example.
- Association news
- Chapter leader resources
- Recordings of virtual town halls, meetings, webinars, and training
- Copies of blast emails with a brief description of each one’s topics
Organize information by topic, for example, governance, events/contracts, sponsorships, virtual meetings, virtual events/online education, marketing, communication, etc.
If some chapter leaders have no time for you because they’re on the frontlines of this crisis, find a few members to step up in the interim, perhaps retired or supplier members who aren’t as busy.
Make yourself available for private calls and virtual meetings. Chapter leaders need a friend more than anything right now. Imagine how much they’re trying to juggle. Be there for them and connect them with other leaders whom you think could provide the right kind of support.
And what about you? CRPs need their association friends too, especially now. Keep an eye on our Events page so you can join our next webinar, CRP virtual meetup, subscribe to updates, or follow us on Twitter, Facebook and/or LinkedIn. We’re always here for you.