Chapters live and die by their educational events. Most of their revenue comes from event registrations, sponsorships, and exhibition fees. Even membership dues rely upon events since members join their chapter to meet fellow professionals and get access to local education.
Chapters are also gateways to your target audience. They can help build awareness and expand the audience for your online learning programs. But what’s in it for them? After all, your educational programs compete with theirs. A dollar spent with the national association is one less dollar spent with the chapter.
This competition is one of the reasons many associations and their chapters have strained relationships—your educational programs go after the same members and sponsors. It takes a lot to rebuild trust and relationships, but you can start by building true educational partnerships with chapters.
8 ways to build educational partnerships with chapters
Education is empowering—to the member and the chapter. You can use your LMS to provide resources that strengthen your chapters. Most chapters are run by a small staff or volunteer leaders. They don’t have the time, expertise, or capacity to develop all the programs needed by members and leaders, but you do.
#1: Chapter leader training and networking
Chapter leaders are not association management professionals. Many of them aren’t even leaders or managers in their day job. Yet, they’re expected to handle membership, marketing, finances, legal, and event planning responsibilities in addition to providing strategic leadership to their chapter. What kind of training do they get for these leadership roles?
Ensure all chapter leaders have the skills and knowledge they need by using your LMS for officer and board training. You can create learning pathways for each position, tracking their progress as they go and stepping in to provide counsel when necessary.
Your LMS can host a library of chapter leader resources. Provide an online community where leaders can connect with their peers across the nation, seek advice, and share success stories.
#2: New member onboarding
Standardize chapter member onboarding so you know all new members are getting the same orientation experience. Invite new members to explore association pathways (online courses) made up of microlearning units that introduce them to membership benefits. But, more importantly, use self-assessments, polls, and surveys to better understand members and their needs and interests.
If a member doesn’t complete online onboarding, you can target them for special handling since they are more likely to be at-risk for not renewing.
#3: Leadership development
Help chapters build their leadership pipeline (and yours too) by offering online leadership development training. Award digital badges to members who have successfully completed specific leadership pathways. You could even collaborate with employers when developing leadership training so members can apply what they’re learning both at the chapter and at work.
#4: Training for special chapter roles
Your LMS can help chapters with special training. For example, you could host exclusive programs for new vendor members so they learn best practices for developing relationships with prospective member customers. This training can introduce marketing opportunities, temper overly optimistic expectations, and help new members understand the benefits of a long-term relationship-based approach instead of pushing their business card at everyone they meet.
You could also provide training for member recruiters, new member ambassadors, and mentors.
#5: Discounted online learning programs
When members join their chapter and national association at once, they don’t always pay as much attention to national programs. They might have heard of your annual trade show and conference, but don’t know anything about your online learning programs.
Many associations encourage chapters to promote their online learning program by providing a promo code so their members get a discount when registering. Others give chapters a commission when their members register.
You could also give chapter members a taste of what they’re missing by hosting special chapter member viewings of conference keynotes and popular sessions.
#6: Early career programs
Young members are more likely to participate in less expensive chapter events than in the more expensive national events. To ensure they connect with your association, provide industry-specific online learning programs aimed at early career professionals. For example, offer training in:
• Soft/human skills in demand by employers
• Job-seeking skills, such as writing a cover letter, creating a resume, and preparing for an interview
#7: Credentialing programs
Digital credentialing programs train professionals in the skills needed by industry employers. Award digital badges to learners who successfully complete a learning pathway and/or credentialing program so employers can identify qualified professionals.
Help chapters use your LMS to organize credential study groups in their state. Study groups could be a blended learning experience (in-person and online) or online only. Participants could purchase and access study materials on the LMS, such as publications, study guides, and practice quizzes.
#8: Chapter advisory board
A chapter advisory board can keep you in touch with the training needs of members and member employers. They can also act as champions for your online learning programs, encouraging fellow chapter staff and leaders to learn more about and support your programs.