Building a Successful Chapter

What makes a successful chapter? It really comes down to just four things: a passionate group of leaders, engaged members, a couple of right-on programs or activities held during the year, and an administrative hub that allows you to keep in touch with members, keep a tab on members, keep your money and resources straight and archive the history.

There really is no minimum or maximum size for it depends on the size and scope. As a chapter gets larger, it needs more structure, more resources and likely to be incorporated. Success depends on a solid foundation built with these cornerstones.

  • Core group of active, dedicated volunteers — Is there a magic number? There’s a reason many national associations require a group of 10 as a starting point. Good volunteers are active people with many interests and many demands on their time. A group of 10 assures you have available hands to get the job done.
  • Vision & Mission Statement — Active volunteers are people with a passion. Your vision and mission statement:
    • Puts words to the organization’s passion to attract people;
    • Puts shape to an issue so people excite others;
    • Focuses the organization.
  • Leadership Team — Every organization needs a leadership Team to think long term; emphasize vision and values; reach and influence constituents; and marshal change. Generally there is a primary person, but more often in chapters, you need a team to keep the energy strong and to weather the ups and downs of volunteer’s schedules.
  • Administrator — Every successful chapter has someone “minding the store.” This person keeps the calendar, keeps the records, and serves as the communication conduit. He may not write the newsletter, for example, but he makes sure the newsletter gets done on time, on budget.
  • Start-up money; revenue resource — Money is a reality a chapter cannot ignore. Developing a community requires communications and tangible services.
  • Identity that conveys the Mission; Vision —Your name, logo, corporate statement, and address establish you as an entity and provide credibility.
  • A Member Service — Chapters think they need to offer many programs. Having one powerful program or service along with a network will build a stronger organization than several weak ones. More is NOT necessarily better.
  • Communication Vehicle — Build community through two-way communication. Choose free e-groups like Yahoo Groups, social media sites like Collective X or Facebook or newsletters that offer feedback options. Success relies on access, relevance and frequency, not format.
  • Work with your national organization — It can be your best resource. For more tips, review out “Working with Your National Office.”

Check out our library for more information on these important elements:

Note: We are using Chapter as a generic term to refer to groups that have a relationship with a parent or umbrella organization. In some associations, they are referred to as affiliated groups. Groups may be legally bound together as in a federation, while others are affiliated but legally separate.