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:



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.



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.



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 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.



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.



It’s difficult to put together your financial plan for fall without knowing what the future holds. A good method is to plan out three scenarios that chapters can pivot to depending on the circumstances come fall. Take your current plan for the fall and outline the following three scenarios:

  • Scenario A: This is the best case scenario. Here you look at fall returning to a standard plan minus 10%.
  • Scenario B: In this case, your chapters would be taking a harder hit of a standard plan with a 25% decrease in revenue.
  • Scenario C: This is the worst case scenario. Here your chapters won’t go back to normal operations in any way this fall.

It isn’t fun to have to plan out any of these scenarios, but doing so will allow you to be agile should a change in the standard plan be needed. Once you have it mapped out, start managing to the middle ground, Scenario B, now.

Ask yourself, from a cash management perspective, what moves do you need to make today to sustain through that period? If it looks like you would need to have access to a line of credit, should you start looking into that now?

As part of your planning efforts, also keep your eye on the governmental programs that are coming up. There are several, like the CARES Act and SBA Disaster Loans, that could help you sustain through the middle ground scenario in the fall.

Planning to multiple outcomes and reviewing budgets will be an essential part of your organization’s COVID-19 strategy.  Billhighway | greekbill will continue to monitor and share information to help you navigate chapter finances during COVID-19.

About the author

Katie Carson is the former Marketing Specialist for Billhighway and greekbill. She oversaw the marketing strategies for all things fraternal.