Remember the old Sprint commercial “Can you hear me now?” It’s a great question – a garbled message is never a good thing – and one that we tackled in the July 27th webinar, Can you hear me? Effective practices in communicating with chapter leaders, where we were joined by three great CRP communicators who shared advice and examples on creating effective chapter communication practices.  Listen in here and read some brief notes of what they said below:

We spend 70-80% of our waking hours in some forms of communication … 45% is in listening yet that is the one area we are really bad at.

Webinar highlights:

Background: Communication is one of the critical success factors for any organization. However, managing communications with your chapters involves many aspects and audiences that may become overwhelming. Throw in the challenge of virtual and sometimes it seems that we’re talking to an empty room. Yet according to membership research, our members want what we have to share.

Forms of communication: Surprisingly (or maybe not) emails still rank at the top and for almost every generation (check out this post)! However, only about a 1/3 of emails are actually opened. Why? Well, recipients say is that only about 38% of the average inbox contains emails that are relevant or important (more on this later).

p.s. The phone is the most popular tool (i.e., length matter!) with 75% of millennials preferring text due to time constraints. Social media remains an effective means of communication, that is once we’ve created a successful relationship.

People want to have that conversation. One way to be sure they are listening is to check these five boxes. Make it …

  1. Relevant – give them what they need to know or act on right in the moment (remember that stat above?)
  2. Receiver focused (what’s in it for them) –  think “you do this & you’ll get x” vs. “we want you to do this.”
  3. Timely – send when people are most likely to open.
  4. Personal – address their individual needs.
  5. Two-way – invite them to the conversation.


Pros share their tips: We then heard from 3 successful communicators on tips to up your communications.

Michele Champion, CAE (CAMFT) Goal: Build rapport & trust

  • Make emails succinct, but informative (no long paragraphs, use bullets and highlights; keep attention on what’s important).
  • Use items in different ways (tip of the month can address deadlines & reminders but also concerns addressed during the past month)
  • Be responsive but set boundaries (respond immediately if possible but only during office hours).
  • Save important communications and keep records for future use.
  • Team-up with an expert (find resources that can be helpful).


Wesley Carr (American Inns of Court) Goal: Make sure everyone hears the same message

  • Clearly articulate how their contributions affect the organization and its mission. Volunteers want to know that what they’re doing will have a direct impact on that mission. Share stories, data, etc. to make them feel good about what they are doing and how they are moving the needle.
  • Encourage volunteer to volunteer communications (use volunteer voices to tell volunteer stories).
  • Build off the facts to create trust through small interactions. (Check out microexpressions in this post.)


Jennifer Steffan (NIGP): Check out the webinar examples of Jennifer’s communications plans

  • Track all communications. Be aware of frequency, amount, and type of content. Make it relevant (there it is again!)
  • Be consistent with response time (be aware that their time is valuable and limited)
  • Be consistent with communications methods/timing.
  • Have one–on-one conversations (pick up the phone, send personal emails).


Finally, some tips on subject lines to get them to open those emails:

  • Keep it short/simple
  • Don’t make everything urgent
  • Use [Action requested]
  • Make it focused – keep email and subject line focused
  • Make it fun! *Check out Beth Z newsletter for humorous subject lines

Other Resources:

Communicating With Volunteers: Emails They’ll Want to Open 

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

*Be sure to mark your calendar for these upcoming events!

  • 20 Things You Can Do for Chapters in 2023, September 28 @ 12p ET. Details to come.
  • In-person Workshop: Deep dive on chapter performance + Topical Topics solution rounds! Two date: October 11 in DC & October 13 in Chicago. Details to come.