Many nationals associations have main headquarters focused on federal-level advocacy and work closely with different state and local chapters dispersed around the country. This “business model” is an effective way to spread your association’s messages from coast-to-coast. Many of today’s largest associations are structured this way. If your association maintains a national headquarters and extends its mission through state-level chapters, here are 3 tips to best manage your affiliate organizations:
Create and Communicate a Common Message
While there is a certain level of autonomy granted to each local or state chapter, you need to be sure that every decision made by an individual chapter is in line with the brand of your association, and the message you are trying to share. Every association has (or should have) a mission statement. The message that you send should be along the same lines of the mission statement. Think of it this way: your mission statement is the outward image that you portray, and the message is one that you send internally. Communication of the message is key. It is important to make sure that the message isn’t just consistent, but also that it is consistently being sent to all chapters.
Example: Say that there was an association whose mission was to ensure that certain animal rights were being met in zoos across the country. Say they had one chapter in each state. Achieving this mission looks different for each of the 50 state chapters. That is why it is imperative that the national chapter constantly communicates its message to the state chapters so that each of them can make their respective decisions correctly and aligning with the overall mission.
As the national chapter, is important to always be in tune with problems that arise from the individual chapters, and be available to help solve them any way you can. However, a well-run association is able to notice when a similar problem arises across multiple of its local or state chapters. The ability to not only recognize a common problem, but then come up with a way to systematically solve it, is a trait that is invaluable for success.
Create a Position for Chapter Relations
Within the office of a national association headquarters, it may be tempting to delegate the task of managing state chapters to current employees. However, this approach presents the risk of chapter management falling to a second priority behind the main job requirements of each employee. Therefore, creating an entirely new position dedicated to working with local or state chapters is a great way to ensure that state chapters are a priority within the national association’s operations. This position can help avoid problems that come with multiple people managing different chapters, including inconsistencies in problem solving, communication of the message, and general protocol. Additionally, the person in this position can be the recognizable face for all chapters, and can dedicate time in their day to come up with new and innovative ideas to make managing chapters more efficient.