Two chapters I met recently are struggling. In both cases, the leaderships have kept their collective eyes and heads down over the past couple of years, muscling through the program year while the world around them changed. Suddenly – it feels to them – people are no longer attending events like they did. Membership is stagnant and even dropping. All our committees are teams of one. The change didn’t happen suddenly. But the leadership’s eyes were not on the horizon so they missed the signals. The times changed, they didn’t. They lost traction – they lost community.
The mythological phoenix provides a methaphor for how we can solve these situations. Like the bird which dies to regenerate, we should allow chapters to cyclically regenerate. It giving chapters permission to go to sleep. In this sleep mode, allow a beacon to send out its signal and listen for interest. Let members ponder what they need. Let them talk and begin to frame what they want that they are willing to make happen. Be there to listen and to facilitate.
I doubt either group will do this. It’s too risky they say. And the members “want” the chapter. And the chapter is so "important to the members and the profession". What is riskier I ask: a chapter which cannot support the brand or meet the level of service or an area without a chapter? In one case it reflects on the organization and in other on the members. If members want the chapter and it is important, then why aren’t they participating and volunteering? Either the chapter isn’t delivering the value or the competition is winning.
Chapters are extensions of the national organization and extensions of the value proposition. They are meant to member-driven communities. If members aren’t driving or willing to drive, then the community isn’t meant to be. We can’t force a chapter and we don’t want to force a chapter. Both of these chapters have small boards but no energy to build new programs. They are missing a catalyst and champion. They are waiting for one to emerge. The very presence though of the board and minimal activity is hindering success. Better to enter sleep mode from which they can be reactived when the beacon signal is answered. The challenge for the current boards is to be ok with this. And be patient. And the national organization needs to ok with this, and poised to facilitate when life is found.
Can you let your chapter regenerate?Photo credit: Wikia (Phoenix Summon)