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10 Worst Habits for Chapters

By: Peggy Hoffman | Dec, 29 2023
Technology Education Strategy & Learning Design

This guest blog post is by Peggy Hoffman, FASAE, CAE, Mariner Management

Chapters are the heart and soul of many associations. And nothing is more important than incorporating good habits to help nurture both. Cultivating good habits in our chapter systems is critical so when we came across AARP’s 10 Worst Habits for Your Heart, we could relate. Here’s our list of the 10 worst habits for chapters and chapter systems. 

1. Ignoring the details: Chapters get in trouble often by missing or ignoring details. Details like legal filing deadlines, financial requirements, compliance deadlines, and cyber security checks.  Reminders, training and checklists – but mostly reminders – help busy volunteers stay on top of the details. Check out 11 Strategies for Preventing Chapter Crises for more ideas on helping chapters.  

2. Staying on the sidelines: We all have that chapter just waiting for something to happen wondering why its members aren’t engaged. Members join a local chapter looking for a thriving community closer to home, and events are a large part of that equation. So, a lackluster event calendar can be a dealbreaker. Here are tips to pass on to your chapters so they can create events that increase member engagement.

3. Waiting to lose dead weight programming: Another dealbreakers: doing the same event over and over. It’s easy to make decisions based on last year’s calendar because “that’s what we’ve always done” and “we’re selling seats.” But if the data says most of those seats are repeats and a huge percentage of members are on the sidelines, then it’s not serving the chapter anymore. Help your chapters go beyond established best practices and plan programs that truly resonate with their members.

4. Skipping on technology: There’s new technology developed every day (AI, ChatGPT anyone?) that can help chapters with a range of tasks. But are your chapters scared of or even aware of what’s out there? Be sure to incorporate tech skills into your volunteer training. For more on how tech can boost your chapters efficiency, check out this post and this post on how AI is the next best, albeit scariest, thing for your chapters.

5. Neglecting the data: Chapters can rarely tell you how many people attended an event – sure they count seats but not individuals. And less often, they can tell you how many members have connected in any way. We helped a group of chapters for one association take a deep dive into their individual data. One disturbing fact was that they were selling seats and yet engaging less than 20% of their members. One fun fact was that smaller informal member meetups drew members who weren’t attending the other events. An opportunity emerged and the decision was made to offer fewer formal (labor intensive) events and build more informal meetups. 

6. Missing data: As revealed in the 2022 Association Chapter Benchmarking report, fragmented and disconnected data continues to deliver fractured views of how chapter systems deliver value to the members and serve the mission. Enter the future-focused dashboard, a practical approach to help you evaluate a chapter’s health and pinpoint ways to strengthen it. The dashboard can also show the impact of chapters in totality with a picture available for each chapter and, better yet, spark strategic conversations with the chapter leaders and the c-suite. 

7. Being disconnected from our volunteers: A recent ASAE Research Foundation report found a disconnect between how volunteers are viewed by association staff and how volunteers view themselves. This is just as prevalent at the chapter level where volunteer boards seem disconnected from how members want to volunteer. Taking a more holistic approach to your volunteer system can help associations and chapters find that connection with volunteers leading to powerful volunteer engagement.

8. Minimizing the needs of volunteers: Willingness to the do the job does equate to skills or knowledge needed, yet too often we skip the training. When we shift from a “here’s what we need from you” attitude to “what do you need from us” approach we can better align our training to the volunteer’s motivations and aspirations. And we can do this through volunteer journey mapping.

9. Relying on metrics that don’t count. Building connection is more than how many seats you fill. When our chapters base their success on how many events they had, how big those events were and how many new members they got they get a false sense of success. Picking the right metrics allows chapters to find their focus and create outcomes that matter. Check out this example and watch The 5 Most Important Metrics for Your Components where we discuss important metrics and trends you need to watch to stay ahead of the game and uncover some bad habits that stand in the way of it all.

10. Giving up too soon: Are chapters worth the effort? Of course, we believe they are! But chapters often get caught up in outdated and ineffective systems that stifle their growth, leading to frustration for both you and your struggling chapters. Instead of letting them just throw in the towel (or throwing it for them), find ways to support your chapters by helping them develop habits that can make all the difference. Here are 6 good habits for you and your chapters to embrace.

Photo credit: Pexels.com

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