Turn Your Components into Your Golden Goose

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If the pandemic this past year taught us one thing, it is that local chapters are definitely still relevant. Chapters have been essential contributors to our association’s bottom line by delivering member value through education, volunteering, and networking. As our capacity for in-person engagement at the national level has been stifled, this collaboration has never been more important.

Heading into 2021 and beyond, the question is how can we better mobilize our chapters to serve members and advance the mission while creating a win/win for everyone? The answer may be in real-time data.

But don’t we already get data? Yes, we get it in monthly/quarterly/annual reports. Here’s the problem: by the time we see the data – be it member engagement, performance or financial – a chapter may already be in trouble.

Think about member retention. Retention data is knowledge gained after the fact – once membership has dropped, it’s too late to act. But if you had data in real-time via registration and membership trends across your chapter network, you could identify lackluster chapters and intercede before it’s too late. Likewise, you could identify thriving chapters and use that data to help others. You’d have the chance to influence the future now instead of playing catch-up later.

In our December webinar with Billhighway, we explored the power of real-time data. Listen to the full webinar here. We covered three key types of data:

Member and Non-member Engagement Data: Associations often capture member engagement data at the national level, but not at the chapter level giving you a one-sided view of a member. Retention is a lagging indicator while the level of involvement is predictive of renewal. Being able to track engagement via real-time data at the chapter level gives you a picture of how members are engaging and recognize where troublesome trends are occurring in programming and involvement thus helping you manage and reverse those trends.

Need to convince your C-suite? With the help of chapter member engagement data, you can make the business case for more HQ attention and investment in chapters. Engagement data shows the positive impact of chapters on association revenue when they’re empowered to better serve members.

Component/Chapter Performance Data: Engagement happens when chapters are offering opportunities. Having a clear idea of what chapters are doing – in terms of programming, communications and marketing, other member engagement efforts, and non-member activities – provides insight on what could be driving engagement. It also allows you to correlate this data across your chapters and identify high-performing vs low-performing chapters. This will help you allocate the time and resources where and when they are needed. Plus, you will be able to model the successes of your high-performing chapters to help those that are struggling.

Component Financial Data: Most associations don’t have a full picture of their chapters’ finances be it because of chapters’ reluctance to share financial data with national or simply poor practices at the chapter level. Access to the right financial data on a regular basis allows you to readily identify chapters that are struggling financially or mismanaging their finances (i.e., overspending/underspending) and step in as needed. Plus, with the right tools, you can also alleviate the financial and administrative burdens on your volunteer leaders so they can spend more time on where they should be focused – their members.

Having new insight and visibility starts changing the conversation with your chapters. One way to crack this data challenge is looking to software like Billhighway which allows an association to see chapter performance data in real-time. However you approach this, making data-driven decisions in real-time enables us to optimize membership.

Mariner Management & Marketing provides association management, volunteer coordinator and leadership development information for associations and non-profit organizations.