Yesterday, Leap Day 2012, some 30 association professionals gathered in the conference room at Printing and Graphics Association MidAtlantic to explore three topics: membership models, learning models, and social media. Formally titled an ASAE Super Swap, what we had was a social learning event where SMEs faciliated conversations on the three topics.
What this represented though was an informal chapter doing what it does best: generating accessible value for association professionals. The back story is that for all intensive purposes The Maryland Society of Association Executives is really struggling and barely exists. In fact this year, they didn't even send me a renewal notice (not that I'm asking for one!). On the other hand, this informal group has been thriving for 10 years.
Chapters are simply communities built around geography (rather the other three drivers of issue, interest and disclipline) to establish community connections at the local level. Chapters allow members to connect across the street without having to reach up through the main office to find a connection.
Our informal group will never have a bank account, never develop a budget, never hold an election... Our informal group will however pay its way, engage members, leverage the community and resources of ASAE and associations in our area, and - most importantly - deliver value.
Why are we successful? Well it's because we see membership as not dues-paying customers but as a living community. Anna Caraveli, writing in her monthly column for SocialFishing, describes this best in her post "Membership As Living Community." Read it with this question in your mind (especially so if you are trying to help a struggling chapter): if I wanted to create a space where people can connect at the local level in their own time, what would it look like?