Help Your Chapters Avoid These 8 Bad Habits

Chapters are the heart and soul of our associations. And nothing is more important than incorporating good habits to help nurture both. Cultivating good habits in our chapter systems has also been a theme in our webinars this year so when we came across AARP’s 10 Worst Habits for Your Heart, we could relate. Taking notes from that list, we created our own list of eight bad habits chapters should avoid if they want to succeed. We included links to webinars, resources and posts so you can dig deeper into ways you can help your chapters be the best they can be.

Check out the list and let us know if you have any to add.

1. Opting for unhealthy habits: Chapters most often get in trouble in two areas: strategic and tactical. From no effective volunteer development or leadership succession planning to weak financial and/or IT practices to poor record keeping, the lack of the right support can lead to disastrous results. You can mitigate these issues by helping your components avoid (or handle) a crisis.

2. Staying on the sidelines: We all have that chapter that is just waiting for something to happen wondering why its members aren’t engaged. Members join a local chapter looking for a thriving community closer to home, and events are a large part of that equation. However, a lackluster event calendar can be a dealbreaker. Here are some tips you can pass on to your chapters so they can begin to create great events that increase member engagement.

3. Waiting to lose dead weight programming: Another event issue is doing the same thing over and over. After all, it’s easy to make decisions based on last year’s calendar because “that’s what we’ve always done” and “we’re selling seats.” But if the data says that most of those seats are repeats and a huge percentage of members are on the sidelines, then it’s not serving the chapter anymore, and we may need to step in. Help your chapters go beyond established best practices and plan programs that truly resonate with their members.

4. Skimping on technology: There’s new technology being developed every day that can help your chapters with a range of tasks. But are your chapters embracing, scared of, or even aware of what’s out there? AI can be particularly anxiety-producing, yet the advantages can be a boon for chapter. Be sure to incorporate tech skills into your volunteer training. For more on how tech can boost your chapters efficiency, check out this post and this post on how AI is the next best, albeit scariest, thing.

5. Being disconnected from your volunteers: A recent ASAE Research Foundation report found a disconnect between how volunteers are viewed by association staff and how volunteers view themselves. Compounded by a lack of clear goals for volunteers and precise ways to measure their effectiveness, it’s no wonder most volunteer systems are dysfunctional. Taking a more holistic approach to your volunteer system can help you find that connection with your volunteers leading to a more mutually beneficial relationship.

6. Minimizing the needs of volunteers: Another mistake we make is not recognizing the volunteer’s motivations/aspirations for volunteering in the first place. We assume they are here for us, not the other way around. When we shift from a “here’s what we need from you” attitude to “what do you need from us” approach we can better align our training to the volunteer’s motivations and aspirations. And we can do this through volunteer journey mapping.

7. Neglecting the data: There’s that data again. As revealed in the 2022 Association Chapter Benchmarking report, fragmented and disconnected data continues to deliver fractured views of how chapter systems deliver value to the members and serve the mission. Enter the future-focused dashboard, a practical approach to help you evaluate a chapter’s health and pinpoint ways to strengthen it. The dashboard can also show the impact of chapters in totality with a picture available for each chapter and, better yet, spark strategic conversations with the chapter leaders and the c-suite.

8. Giving up too soon: Are chapters worth the effort? Of course, we believe they are! But chapters often get caught up in outdated and ineffective systems that stifle their growth, leading to frustration for both you and your struggling chapters. Instead of letting them just throw in the towel (or throwing it for them), find ways to support your chapters by helping them develop habits that can make all the difference. Here are 6 good habits for you and your chapters to embrace.

Bonus: Check out The 5 Most Important Metrics for Your Components where we discuss important metrics and trends you need to watch to stay ahead of the game and uncover some bad habits that stand in the way of it all.