Making the case for chapters

We know that chapters are often in the position to pivot more readily than national when the need arises. We’ve seen it happen over and over again especially in 2020. So now the question is how can we harness that agility with the right support and permissions, and perhaps financial resources, on a larger scale?

We explored this question on February 24 in 3 Ways to Tap Chapter Relevance in 2021, focusing on ways we can tap into our chapters’ successes thus making them a part of our overall membership strategy. We shared several success stories where chapter-generated programs became role-models for their associations and how we can make the case for chapters to our bosses. Below is a snapshot of what we discussed. Be sure to listen to the full webinar here.

Tip: Think about “local presence” as opposed to chapters.


Three ways to tap chapter relevance:

Geography Driven Issues. Local remains critical, especially around advocacy and public policy. Chapters can better focus on these geography-dependent issues and topics as well as foster relationships tied to these geographic identities. Chapters can also act as conduits for hybrid and smaller in-person meetings/events. Tap into those chapters that have found ways to connect members on local issues like AGC chapters that sourced PPE for members and NACE Maine Chapter that launched #postponedontcancel, an information campaign for the industry.*

Extended bandwidth. (“Trickle-up” vs. “trickle-down”) Chapters are able to pilot programs on a smaller scale allowing associations to assess the success of a program (also see above), then tweak as needed before rolling out to other chapters. This also allows members to get access to affordable education and events and keeps them connected across chapter lines (learn more on this here). For example, the Toronto Chapter of NAIOP introduced a Mentoring Program creating mentoring software that matches mentors with mentees resulting in 14 chapters piloted, replicated, and launched their own mentoring program. Other projects that were expanded include Project Management Institute, Tampa Florida chapter that began “Operation: Qualify for Hire” aimed at military veterans, active military and/or their families qualify for project management certifications and secure employment; and Educational Theatre Association, Texas that launched Disaster Relief Matchmaking Program matching schools who say they need help with schools who say they want to help.*



DEI conversations. These conversations occur naturally at the local level. Chapters can deliver more relevant and timely content, which in turn can engage the younger and more diverse members. Look to chapters as a channel for taking these conversations up to the national/global level. Take PRSA Maryland who began the DEI conversation in 2017. The Chapter was still deciding on a path forward when the 2020 BLM protests occurred so when the BOD didn’t find guidance from National, they took the conversation to their own membership and community leading to a series of DEI programs, the chapter’s first DEI committee and the most diverse chapter board in its history.*

Tip: Here are a few ways you help guide your chapters in the DEI conversation:

  • Giving chapters a seat at the table. Tap strengths/personalities of individual chapters in developing national initiatives,
  • Assisting chapters with their messaging and initiatives. Offer a statement of intent adaptable/for use locally. Share demographic data,
  • Recognizing that there is no one size fits all,
  • Adding content and training to chapter leadership. Build those skills around being a leader who embraces diversity.


*You can hear more success stories on the full webinar.

So what can you do with all this? Here are some next steps to consider in 2021:

  • Ramp up leadership development. Give leaders information to sharpen skills and prompt them to think differently.
  • Build chapter into the organizations’ education strategy. Minimize competition; maximize collaboration.
  • Ramp up tech/admin support. Offer how-to aid to create engaging meetings.
  • Highlight chapter activities through videos, awards, shoutouts & more.
  • Listen & identify support. Listen to chapter leaders, understand their strengths and weaknesses, and identify ways to support them.


Finally, if you’re still struggling to make the case for chapters, here are a few things that can help you gain support:

  • Pull your numbers together, i.e., member engagement, event/services, advocacy wins, retention.
  • Capture the intangibles, i.e., insight gained & progress on critical issues.
  • Tell the chapter value story.


Continue the conversation on guiding your chapters on March 24 as we dive deeper into the future of in-person chapter events in 2021 and how we can help chapter leaders decide whether to host an in-person, hybrid or virtual event. Register for Chapter Events and earn one CAE unit.

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