Most associations appreciate the effect a good chapter system can have on their members but cannot dedicate a lot of time and effort into maintaining those chapters either by committing staff to chapter-specific work or supporting chapter-level volunteers in their enthusiasm. In fact, Associations Now reports that 65 percent of associations they have surveyed said they have no full-time employees at their chapters. That can leave a lot of work to very little staff. So how can organizations take advantage of the positive effect of chapters without expending a lot of effort?
Here are the top 3 ways to engage members at the chapter-level while minimizing your staff effort.
1. Set up individual websites for each chapter that feed in chapter-specific data automatically.
Use the data already being entered into your CMS (news items, events, blog posts, etc.) and categorized for a specific chapter to create a template-based webpage specifically for that chapter. The information will feed in automatically to a URL specific to that chapter (like www.myassociation.org/northeast). Chapters will be able to promote these webpages to keep their members up-to-date on current chapter news, events and other data and the day-to-day effort needed from your staff will be zero.
2. Set up chapter-specific areas of your mobile app with automatic data feeds.
Similar to the website suggestion above, have your app collect chapter-specific data into one place and display for users. The key at the app-level is to make sure the app recognizes the logged in user’s chapter and automatically display those chapter details for him or her. Any process that does not automatically recognize and display this type of information will lead to additional steps on the user’s part, which is a bad user experience.
3. Set up individual email blast accounts for chapters that automatically feed in email data for their members.
If your organization allows chapters to email blast their constituents, set up accounts for each individual chapter that chapter officers/volunteers can access that have programmed feeds coming from your database to routinely update their member list and details. This set up eliminates the need for staff to send updated lists to the chapters manually, a process that takes up a lot of time and often needs to be done on a monthly basis.
Most email platforms offer the functionality to feed information in from your database using a one-time set up. The flow of data from that point on will require little to no effort.
To help chapter volunteers even further, make sure to provide them with any links you have in place to automatically log users in (say to the event registration page) to use in their marketing emails.
If you are like most associations, you want to take advantage of your chapters with minimal effort in the day-to-day. Make your first step in any chapter game plan automation like the steps above and you will find your organization earning more bang for its buck.