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Communications In A Multi-Chapter Environment (guest post by @WildApricot)

Lori Halley provided this guest post.  She is the Blog Writer (Engaging Apricot) at Wild Apricot, cloud software for small associations, non-profits and clubs. With a background in associations and non-profits, Lori tries to offer tips and information to help the staff and volunteers of small organizations with day-to-day challenges.  We thought this was an interesting perspective on multi-chapter associations and their communications.

What are the key communications and outreach challenges for multi-chapter organizations? 

We all know that communications are critical to any relationship. And our recent Multi-Chapter Benchmarking Survey findings suggest that multi-chapter relationships are no exception. Survey respondents identified communications – both with members and their Central Organization (or HQ) – was one of the key challenges their organizations face.

While communicating with members is always the top priority for any membership organization, we recognize that those with multiple chapters have additional layers or levels of relationships to manage and maintain.

While our full Multi-Chapter Benchmarking Survey Report offers detailed insight, we thought we’d share some of the highlights of our findings on multi-chapter communications and website administration in this post and through our new infographic.

Communicating with members in multi-chapter organizations 

Our survey data indicates that more than 60% (64.3%) of respondents reported that their chapters work together with the central organization to communicate with members, with slightly less than a quarter (24.5%) of participants reporting that chapters are solely responsible for communications.

With the shared communications roles across chapters and HQ, we wondered who was responsible for which member communications and what methods were used.  This visual from our infographic illustrates the top four communications methods.

You'll note that email is the top communications channel for both chapters and central organizations. However, the chapter understandably plays the key role in terms of face-to-face meetings (81.6%). Both organizations offer newsletters and are involved with managing social media.

Website Branding and Development:

Websites are the primary online identity for membership organizations. Your website is where you engage with and inform your members, supporters and prospects. It’s where folks manage their membership profile, sign up for events, and generally, find out what’s going on at your organization. But our Multi-Chapter Benchmarking Survey identified some key challenges involved with developing and maintaining chapter websites. Some of the specific hurdles that central organizations identified included:
  • Getting the local chapters to find and develop web experts to manage their local pages
  • Trying to get standard look across website platforms
  • Keeping consistent with website and processes
  • Technology – knowledge of and ability to use tools as well as consistency around website process and updating 
On the flip-side of the chapter-central organization relationship, it was also interesting to note that when we asked what additional resources they’d like to receive from their HQ, chapter respondents noted they’d like to see central organizations providing website templates, design standards and technical support to chapters.

Here are some of the survey highlights around website management at multi-chapter organizations:
  • 62.7% of respondents reported that chapters are solely responsible for developing their own websites
  • Just 12.7% of chapters receive technical support and guidance from their central organization
  • In addition, close 77.8% of respondents indicated that there are no standard website templates or brand standards available to chapters
  • 8.8% of chapters do not have their own website, however some respondents noted having pages on the state or national organization’s website

Who manages chapter website content?

More than 80% of respondents noted that chapters manage their own web content; while fewer than 10% of sites are managed by the central organization.
  • 84.8% - said that each chapter has its own webmaster
  • 8.7% - reported that the central organization manages all chapter websites
  • 6.5% - noted other website content arrangements

Want more details on our Multi-Chapter Benchmarking Survey? 

This was just a snapshot of the insight we've gathered about communications and website management at multi-chapter organizations. If you’d like more detailed survey findings on these and other topics, you can register to receive the full survey report here.