You’ve seen the warning signs. Your chapter network and your relationship with your chapters is in trouble. You know it’s time to make changes. After evaluating your existing chapter model and envisioning options for a new one, you’re ready to move forward.
The National/chapter relationship must be a partnership. Each must acknowledge the contributions and strengths of the other and leverage those strengths to deliver value to members.
Of course, a shift like this in the cultural mindset of staff and leaders doesn’t happen overnight. Trust takes time to build. Actions are what count—not words.
Trust will build if national and chapter staff and leaders co-design their future together. “What we can do in that discovery process by having the chapters involved is we can understand what is truly not working or broken and make sure the system addresses that,” said Peggy Hoffman, president of Mariner Management.
Alignment on goals and roles in the new relationship
National and chapters must start by agreeing on the goals for restructuring and on each’s role in the new relationship. Without this agreement, the future model and relationship will not be sustainable.
Why didn’t it go as planned? National goals and chapter goals weren’t aligned. An LA chapter member wrote, “Keeping locally raised resources under local control…will allow them to be more nimble, more creative, and more able to optimize local partnerships for the benefit of those they serve.”
A Texas chapter member said, “By disaffiliating, we retain critical flexibility to respond quickly to community needs and we retain the authority to innovate and control our ongoing programs and service.”
When developing a new chapter model, make sure both National and chapters are empowered to achieve their goals. A common vision with aligned goals is the only basis for a sustainable relationship and chapter network.
What else do you need to consider during the chapter restructuring process?
Building the foundation for a more trusting and healthy National/chapter relationship is the most critical aspect of the restructuring process, but you also have other essential work to do.
Process review. Who will be responsible for the following processes? What role does National and its chapters play in:
- Dues collection and disbursing
- Prospective member data collection and sharing
- New member data collection and sharing
- Existing member data updates and sharing
- Renewal process
- Membership marketing
Technology review. What type of technology is needed to support this new model and shared processes? Is National hosting that technology? Will chapter staff/leaders have access to that technology? Who is responsible for the security and backup of shared data?
Metrics. How will you judge the health of this new chapter network and of individual chapters? How will you know whether this restructure helped? Make sure you track key performance indicators (KPIs) that show whether chapters are meeting mutually agreed upon goals. For help developing effective chapter KPIs, check out our on-demand webinar and/or workbook.
According to Mariner Management’s 2016 Chapter Benchmarking Study, only 5 percent of associations with chapters calculate the return on investment (ROI) of their chapter networks. If you want to calculate your ROI, you’ll need the data to do it. How will you collect that? The chapter KPI on-demand webinar can help you determine how to move forward with these efforts.
You must create a safe place for difficult conversations and encourage people to share the good, the bad, and the ugly. If festering issues are repressed, they will rear their ugly heads later to sabotage any progress.
Develop a communication plan for how you will roll out information to National and chapter staff, leaders, and members about the restructuring planning process and implementation.
Change management. You need a change management plan. Project leaders, champions, and communicators must understand why people resist change. The reasons for resistance could be warning signs of issues you hadn’t considered. But other motivations will be purely human:
- They’re not comfortable giving up control.
- Their institutional and/or personal ego is threatened.
- They’re anxious about the unknown and worried about future chapter viability.
- The mere idea of change stresses them out because they’re already overwhelmed with existing work.
Official agreements. Identify what revisions must be made to existing affiliation agreements and bylaws.
Official documentation is necessary but that’s not what holds together the chapter/National network. The real glue is the relationships between staff and volunteer leaders in the chapters and National—relationships built on trust, common purpose, and an understanding of each other’s value. National has the responsibility to take the first steps toward creating the conditions for this collaborative partnership with its chapters.
Haven’t read our previous chapter restructuring posts?
- 10 Warning Signs of a Chapter Network in Trouble – Are these signs prevalent in your association and chapters?
- What Does the Process of Chapter Restructuring Look Like? – Discover what processes and considerations need to be analyzed when contemplating a restructure.