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How Boards Build Strong Dynamic Relationships with Their Chapters
Chapters can present an association with opportunities to fulfill the association’s mission at a grassroots level, and to garner additional support from members and prospects both locally and regionally. In a time of limited and competing resources, chapters can also be a driving force in increasing awareness, brand recognition, and member recruitment and engagement.

Some say chapters compete with the association when it comes to programming, membership and securing support dollars. While these can be valid concerns, this notion of competition can be avoided or mitigated if the association and its chapters have a strong relationship and shared commitment to fulfilling the association’s mission. Here are a few tips for ensuring chapters are working toward the same goal as the association:
  • Share the association’s strategic plan – Chapters need to know what the association is planning and prioritizing over the next three to five years. Provide them the association’s strategic plan and identify areas where chapter involvement will play important roles.
  • Assign board representation – Depending on the association’s culture and the number of chapters it has, consider having a board seat devoted to each chapter, a number of seats assigned to clusters or regional groups of chapters, or one seat that represents all chapters.
  • Promote chapter involvement – Make sure new members understand the value of chapters. Consider making chapter involvement a requirement – or at least encourage participation – for all new members in their first year. Also promote chapter events on the association website.
  • Provide standardized communication standards – This will ensure consistent branding and messaging.
  • Institute a chapter/association agreement –This document sets expectations and specifically outlines the rights and responsibilities of both the chapter and association.
  • Leverage technology – Provide chapters with a real-time membership directory for their specific chapter, as well as access to private discussion forums, social media channels and chapter-specific webpages hosted by the association.
  • Visit a chapter – Show support by having an association board member or staff person attend a chapter meeting or event.
  • Maintain open communication – Communication is key. Consider holding quarterly webinars or conference calls between association and chapter leaders. This provides an opportunity for the association to share information and understand what is happening at the chapter level. Also consider assigning a key volunteer to each chapter to serve as a liaison and a main point of contact.
By establishing a well thought out plan for chapter involvement, an association can add significant value and create a unique member experience that will help ensure its relevance, impact and long-term vitality.
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MAY 2014 EDITION
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Board Forward is published 10 times a year by SmithBucklin, the association management and services company more organizations turn to than any other. SmithBucklin has served volunteer board members for more than 60 years.

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