Count What Counts

Ask yourself a question: When measuring your chapters’ performance, do you count things that reflect meaningful “effectiveness”?

Think about it this way. Chapters may do a lot of things, but you need to ask …

  1. Are they making a difference?
  2. Does what they are doing help the member and, most importantly, move the mission?
  3. Are we measuring the right things?


This was just one of the questions Peter Houstle asked us to consider during the webinar Drive Chapter Behavior with Targeted Benchmarking. To illustrate his point, Peter shared the story of one association that hasn’t quite gotten the message.

Association HQ has a lengthy operations manual with a typical laundry list of goals chapters need to accomplish to stay in compliance, with little on how these goals drive the mission. Ok, we get it … record-keeping is important, but this is where it gets kooky.

Chapter A: When the pandemic hit, Chapter A totally shut down offering no events or training for its members. It did, however, manage to complete the minimum requirements (i.e., reporting, chapter board meetings) to stay in compliance so from HQ’s perspective it was all good at year’s end.

Chapter B: When faced with the pandemic, Chapter B quickly pivoted to address the angst of its members who were struggling with the uncertainty surrounding restrictions to their work environments. Chapter B hosted a series of virtual town halls where members could get answers from experts and share challenges and/or solutions with their colleagues. The chapter posted resources on its website to help members navigate the sometimes-confusing restrictions occurring in their industry. Despite the concerted effort to support its members during a time of need, Chapter B was notified at the end of the year that it was in danger of losing its dues rebate because it did not hold the required number of chapter “business” meetings.

Yes, you heard right … the chapter that worked hard to serve its members during a pandemic was reprimanded for not completing a task list that had little to do with the member or the mission, while the chapter that shut down was rewarded for doing the bare minimum. Association HQ failed to focus on what made the difference.

Peter also shared the story of The Maryland Recycling Network, an organization that decided to focus on mission metrics before organizational metrics. Read more about what MRN did and how it continues to move its mission forward.

There is so much more — too much to be added to this post — so be sure to listen to the full webinar where Peter will take us through what benchmarking is and how we can drive the right behavior through effective chapter benchmarking.

We’ll also leave you with this: Members join an organization because they care about the mission. Volunteers get involved because they want to move the mission forward. When you tie what you measure back to the “why” of your organization, you will drive chapter behavior in the right direction.

p.s. Here are some more resources on why chapter benchmarking is important as well as the story of a chapter benchmarking project already in progress:


*This webinar is part of our ongoing series with Billhighway.