Insight Into Multi-Chapter Relationships

Lori Halley 05 September 2013 0 comments


What are the unique benefits and challenges involved with being part of a multi-chapter organization? And what do chapters and HQ really want from one another?

These are some of the questions that prompted us to conduct our Multi-Chapter Benchmarking Survey in June. While we recognize that most associations and non-profits face challenges in engaging and growing their memberships, organizations with multiple chapters have additional layers or levels of relationships to manage and maintain. So we launched our survey to shine a light on the specific advantages and hurdles that organizations with multiple chapters, branches or affiliates face.

What we’ve learned about multi-chapter relationships

We are just completing our analysis of the survey findings for our report – which will be available in late September. But generally, the findings indicate that while there are many challenges for multi-chapter organizations, there are so many benefits for both sides as well. The survey participants made it clear that chapters benefit from the “brand recognition, national or global reach”, as well as access to resources, available through their central organization. At the same time, having a local presence – through a chapter, branch or affiliate – is also extremely important to members and is instrumental in “helping grow the organization”.

Benefits of being part of a multi-chapter organization

After reviewing the responses to our open-ended questions on the advantages of being part of an organization with multiple chapters, branches or affiliates, the key benefits appear to be:

  • networking
  • mutual support
  • sharing of ideas (as well as resources).

What Obi-Wan Can Teach Us About Multi-Chapter Relationships

But the key message or theme that ran through the survey responses - is that all multi-chapter organizations have both special, and often complicated, relationships between the central organization (or head office) and the chapters. In fact, we were thinking about calling this post: “Darth Vader’s Guide to Multi-Chapter Relationships”. But after reviewing the frank responses from both sides of the multi-chapter equation, we don’t think there is an actual “dark side” to the HQ - chapter partnership. It’s just that, like all relationships, it’s all about perspective, communications and priorities.  

When reviewing our survey responses, we came to understand that just as Obi-Wan advised Luke Skywalker (in Star Wars: Episode 6 – Return of the Jedi), we found that "many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our point of view." 

What our survey confirmed is that while the central organization (or head office/ HQ) and their chapters share a vision and mission as well as a desire to serve their members, often their perspective, priorities, available resources, practices, and procedures may differ.

Representation from both sides of the HQ-chapter relationship

So we were careful to design our Multi-Chapter Benchmarking Survey to ensure we offered information as well as insight from both a chapter and central organization perspective or point of view. And as you can see from our infographic describing our survey respondents, both sides were almost equally represented among our  121 survey respondents – with 56.2% - representing a central organization (or HQ) and 43.8% - representing a chapter, branch, or affiliate.

We were also pleased to have almost equal representation from organizations with regional, national or international reach and a broad range of organizational sizes in terms of total membership as well as number of chapters – offering a well-rounded perspective. In addition, the individual survey participants hold a wide range of positions in their organizations – from President to Board Chair through to website manager.

More Multi-Chapter Survey findings and insight to come

Our upcoming Multi-Chapter Benchmarking Survey Report will offer insight into:

  • the hurdles central offices face in working with multiple chapters
  • the challenges chapters face in dealing with their central office (or HQ)
  • critical areas where chapters and their central organizations need to collaborate

In addition, the report offers preliminary benchmarking information on:

  • Membership at multi-chapter organizations:
    • Who manages recruitment and renewal
    • The type of member services or benefits offered by chapters and HQ
    • Processes for membership data management
    • Membership fees and funding structures
  • Communications and information flow in a multi-chapter environment

You can still register for the survey report

If you want to receive the full Multi-Chapter Benchmarking Survey Report (later this month) – you can register here: https://www.wildapricot.com/multichapter-benchmarking-survey.

In the meantime, stay tuned to the Wild Apricot Blog through September to hear more about our survey findings and the insight we’ve uncovered on organizations with multiple chapters, branches and affiliates.

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Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Published Thursday, 05 September 2013 at 8:30 AM

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