The Unique Challenges of Having Chapters

Associations have some unique chapter challenges when compared to other associations. Do your challenges align with our data?
The Unique Challenges of Having Chapters

The Unique Challenges of Having Chapters

So you’ve got chapters. That might mean that you’ve also got a few problem children on your hands. Associations with chapters have some unique challenges when compared to other associations.

The good news? According to ASAE’s last benchmarking study, nearly half of all association have components, which means that you’re not alone.


Any of these sound familiar?

“Our chapter officers are so focused on membership and events that they don’t have time to reevaluate our operations or find new ways to make things easier for everyone or optimize our efforts.”


“We want to empower our volunteers but we don’t even know if chapters have all the resources they need.”


“We get our volunteers trained up on our processes and 2 months later they have to stop helping out due to the requirements of their full-time job and lack of time.”


“We want to change things, implement new tools and processes, but change is so challenging when chapters are spread out geographically and operate autonomously.”


“We operate primarily with the support of volunteers. Lately we can’t get anyone new to step up to the plate.”


“We do it that way because that’s the way we’ve always done it. It mostly works, so why would we get rid of it?”

If chapters collect dues: “We have zero visibility into how many members each chapter has and how much they are collecting. We just take the amount they send to us without question. I couldn’t tell you who it all came from.”

If parent association collects dues: “We rebate dues back to our chapters but it’s so tedious, takes a lot of resources and we have very little visibility into how those funds are being accounted for and used.”

If you’ve ever thought, heard or said any of these things, then you’re not alone. The traditional chapter structure wasn’t designed for the 21stcentury. It was created by and for a different generation.

Baby boomers sought out full-time volunteer positions in addition to their 9 to 5. It was just a regular part of life. The newer generations of Gen Xers and Millennials don’t have the same kind of freedom and choose to spend their down time differently. They want a complete volunteer experience, not just a second job.

So what can cause the breakdown between national and chapters?

  • Lack of trust/poor past experiences
  • Poor or bad communication between local, state/region and national levels
  • A different perspective on the member experience and value each level provides
  • Differing opinions on the direction of the organization at a national vs. chapter level
  • Insufficient time spent on operations efficiency
  • Inability/unwillingness to change


Often times this leads to chapters going rogue, wanting to defect and incorporate on their own. The problem with this is that chapters often don’t realize the resources they lack without national’s support, size and reputation.

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