Meet a Chapter that’s Helping its Association Weather the Times

Not one association mentioned an obvious strategy for weathering an economic downturn in V. Dion Haynes article appearing in the Monday, December 15, 2008 Business Section of the Washington Post, Trade Groups Regroup. The article looked at how associations are struggling and referred to strategies like trimming staffs, downsizing shows, webinars, and either slashing dues to save members or raising to replace lost revenue.

What about chapters? What about a strategy that leverages chapters to deliver more affordable education, provide job supports and build strong relationships between members?

The Boston Chapter of the International Facilities Management Association (IFMA) can show you how powerful this strategy can be. Their focus for 2009 as Chapter President Kathryn P. Thibeault, CFM, described it is “helping members stay employed, get employed and stay in business.” This translates to a robust education program – because now is the time to focus on building and sharpening skills – a volunteer strategy program that helps members afford education, and tweaking of the sponsorship program. And, there’s likely to be more for this chapter just created a new Career Preservation Task Force of seasoned members to make sure they stay focused on their goal. Some of their strategies are:

  • Providing volunteer opportunities for unemployed members so they can attend educational sessions for the cost of the food alone. By serving as the on-site event “host” and handling registration, room sets and related details, these volunteers get a free seat. As Kathryn said, helping these members use their idle hours to gain education – and network – is a win-win situation.
  • They also are expanding their educational opportunities to include sessions targeted to new professionals, who are risk for lay-offs, to build key business acumen skills.
  • For their supplier members, the chapter introduced a new, less expensive sponsorship to help these members pinpoint their marketing dollars in a tight economy.

Luckily for this chapter, they have healthy reserves for as Kathryn noted keeping people involved means continuing to operate their programs regardless. They understand though that they might have to pull in and at this point the board is taking a hard look at how they continue the most important benefits for members. They’ve weathered tough times before – just after 9/11 for example – and they are stronger than ever.

IFMA is very supportive of its chapters – check out how they promote them – and as one can see from their Boston chapter it’s looking like a good strategy. 

What role will you help your chapters play in serving, keeping and attracting members in a tight economy?