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Membership Management At Multi-Chapter Organizations

Lori Halley 11 September 2013 0 comments

How do organizations with multiple chapters, branches or affiliates handle membership management practices?

Recently, we completed a Multi-Chapter Benchmarking Survey to find out more about the specific practices that are unique to organizations with multiple chapters, branches or affiliates. The full survey report will be available at the end of this month (you can register here), but we wanted to share some preliminary findings about membership management practices at multi-chapter organizations – some of which are illustrated through the infographic we've created - at right (click to enlarge).

What is unique about membership management at multi-chapter organizations?

As providers of membership management software, we understand the many challenges organizations face in maintaining membership databases, managing renewals and engaging members. But the survey findings confirmed our hunch that the process can be even more complicated when information is captured, stored, or shared between central organizations (HQ) and numerous chapters.

As we noted in a post last week, chapters may share a common vision and mission with their head office or central organization, but their perspective, priorities, practices, procedures, and available resources, are often understandably different. So we hoped the Multi-Chapter Benchmarking Survey could shed some light on day-to-day membership management activities, such as:

  • Who manages renewals, recruitment, and database management – chapters or HQ?
  • What member benefits, services or functions are provided through the central organization versus the individual chapters?
  • What funding and fee collections models are most common in multi-chapter organizations?

Here is an overview of some of the survey highlights:

Membership benefits in multi-chapter organizations:

The survey findings indicate that the top 4 membership benefits offered to members through both their chapters and their central organizations are:

  1. Member education / professional development 
  2. Networking events 
  3. Information / publications 
  4. Conferences / trade shows 

However, aside from the top 4, there are some key member benefits that are being offered specifically through either chapters or central organizations:

Central organization – specific member benefits:

The survey indicated that the member benefits provided by the central organization included:

  • Magazine or journal subscriptions (53.2%)
  • Online forum(s) (44.7%)

Chapter-specific member benefits:

There were also some programs or services that were more often delivered through the chapter rather than via the central organization, including:

  • Mentoring programs (33%)
  • Certification programs (26.8%)

Overlap of functions and services:

In the verbatim responses to questions about the specific challenges and hurdles multi-chapter organizations face, a number of respondents identified that there is definitely confusion over “who is responsible for what” in the chapter-central organization relationship. The survey also asked respondents specifically if there were “any areas where the central and local/chapter functions overlap”. Over half of the respondents - 51.1% indicated there was overlap and 48.9% reported no overlap.

The functions and services that often overlap include:
  • Updating member records; maintaining membership database and directories  
  • Social media & news distribution
  • Education programs, professional development, conferences
  • Advocacy, mass emails to members

Who manages what? 

Recruitment and renewal practices:

Since effective recruitment and renewal are essential to the success of membership organizations, the survey looked at the practices in place in multi-chapter organizations.

Recruitment: The findings indicate:

  1. 50% of the organizations surveyed have a recruitment model that involves a partnership between the chapter and central organization.
  2. In the second most common model, reported by 35.8% of respondents, chapters were solely responsible for recruitment.

Renewal: The survey did not identify any common ground in terms of renewal procedures across multi-chapter organizations. The findings indicated:

  • For 39.6% of organizations, renewals were “solely the responsibility of each chapter”
  • At the other end of the spectrum,  28.3% reported the “central organization being responsible for membership renewals”
  • This was followed closely by 22.6% who indicated that “chapters and central organizations work together on renewal efforts"

Membership database management:

Maintaining, tracking and reconciling member records was one of the top challenges noted by respondents – both chapters and central organizations. Based on the survey findings, it appears that there is no standard or common practice across organizations in terms of maintenance of membership databases.

The survey found that:

  • For 37.7% of respondents, “each chapter has its own membership database”
  • For 32.1% of respondents, “there is one member database that the central organization maintains and makes regular updates based on chapter input”
  • An additional 12.3% of respondents had “a central membership database provided by the central organization, with chapters having access for updating.”

Membership Fees and Funding Structures:

Multi-chapter funding structures:

Close to two-thirds of the respondents (61.8%) reported that the individual chapter is responsible for raising and managing their own finances, while 18.6% noted that chapters maintain their own finances but receive funding from the central organization.

Allocation of membership fees:

The survey did not identify one common or standard funding structure at multi-chapter organizations, with funding structures including the following allocation of fees:

  • 23.5% – reported that chapters receive all fees, none goes to the central organization
  • 13.7% – noted that all fees go to the central organization, none goes to the chapters
  • 20.6% – reported that between 1 - 50% of membership fees go to the central organization
  • 15.7% – reported that between 51 and 99% of membership fees go to the central organization
  • 26.5% – noted alternate allocation of fees (e.g., separate national and chapter fees, quarterly payments to chapters, rebates back to chapters on per-member basis, collection by chapters who retain a portion, etc.)

Membership fee collection:

It was interesting to note that for just over 90% of respondents, procedures for membership fee collection fell evenly into three categories:

  • fees are paid to the local chapter - 30.1%
  • fees are paid to both the chapter and central organization - 30.1%
  • fees are paid to the central organization only - 30.1%

Details on our survey participants (infographic):

If you’d like information on our Multi-Chapter Benchmarking Survey respondents – check out last week’s blog post – Insight Into Multi-Chapter Relationships and infographic.

Register for the full Multi-Chapter Benchmarking Survey Report:

To check out all of detailed survey findings, register to receive the full survey report (available at the end of September) here: https://www.wildapricot.com/multichapter-benchmarking-survey

Stay tuned to the Wild Apricot Blog this month for more insight into Multi-Chapter organizations.

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

Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Published Wednesday, 11 September 2013 at 8:30 AM
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