The Case for Virtual Chapters

A 2017 study from Upwork and Freelancers Union predicted more than half of the workforce will do freelance work in the next decade. Nearly 50% of millennials are freelancing already. A study of 1000 hiring managers also reported they expect up to 38% of full-time staff to be working remotely in the next decade. In an IWG study of more than 18,000 business people across 96 companies, every week 70% of employees are working at least one day a week somewhere other than the office. According to an article from Silicon Republic, remote working will rival fixed office locations by 2025.

Add to all those stats this one: We Work Remotely, touted as the largest community on the web, has over 2.5 million monthly visitors searching and listing remote jobs.

Associations are not immune to this shift. An obvious point when you read through the ASAE Workplace/Workforce Drivers. What about association chapters? It’s only natural for chapters to evolve to embrace the virtual world. It could be a boon for chapters as more and more employees work remotely. These remote staffers might embrace the chapter as a hub. Or, they might gravitate to replicating the remote working scenario to virtual chapters. And yet another option is the expectation that my chapter will provide easy access through virtual offerings making way for hybrid chapters.

So what is a virtual chapter or a hybrid chapter?

Chapters are fundamentally about geography – where we are.The primary delivery channel of traditional chapter programs in in-person.  Virtual chapters are still about geography while recognizing that the traditional chapter may not be able to reach all in an area. Adding a virtual component allows those unable to participate or uninterested in participating in traditional chapter activities to discover, discuss or create areas of shared interest or value with those in their geographic area.

A hybrid chapter offers the best of both worlds – some in-person and some virtual activity. The International Society for Performance Improvement supports its chapters to transition to blended chapters offering face-to-face and streaming. They are also testing a chapter concept that is driven by a multi-year community project conducted largely through remote work with limited on-the-ground activity. There are associations such at NIGP, the Institute for Government Procurement, who have embraced a fully virtual chapter.

But how do we make this work?

What resources are needed? How do we support volunteer leaders? We are gathering a group of association execs in two workshops to explore those questions and design models that will address this increasingly virtual workforce. The workshops are hosted by Mariner and Billhighway on



Should chapters go virtual or become blended?