Chapter relations – such a common and frustrating issue within associations at the national level. I’ve heard the debates over and over again. Organizations want to know what they should be doing with their state chapters and local affiliates and whether or not developing these relations are really worth it.
A few thoughts for you:
- Identify how members benefit from the affiliation: Does the seamless connection between local and national deliver unique value to the industry? Or is it just a legacy governance issue that generates missed expectations and frustration? What type of joint effort will make a tangible difference for your members if you will? Nail down how members benefit through the connection.
- Then, consider the differentiation between the state chapter and the national organization. What do you do well? Is it federal regulatory work, lobbying, and the annual convention? What do the state chapters do well? Local networking, the promotion of business at the local level, grassroots legislative efforts? Start identifying the differentiation.
- Align the strengths of both organizations to articulate a clear message for the industry. Based on my experience, even the most engaged members may not be familiar with how this relationship fits. A concerted effort among the local, state and national association can deliver an unbelievable experience for the member of your organization. The question is – is it possible to work together – and, is there a willingness to bridge a fantastic experience
- Identify your allies and go to the end of the earth for them. A focus of my time at the US Chamber was to build relationships at local and state chambers for a more productive collaboration. It was difficult to overcome years, if not decades, of perceived or real slights or misunderstandings. Some local groups would never work with us. You have to be willing to live with that and embrace your “coalition of the willing.”
Whatever your path, the relationship of affiliates and national organizations is ever-changing. The efforts will be never-ending and require constant attention. That’s a given. However, the federations that are successful are much more likely to make progress on their mission. And, that’s what it is all about.