The Science behind Goal Setting

Becoming and sustaining a successful chapter requires the flexibility to change goals as circumstances change and experimenting with different solutions to see what will work and what will not. This is where the scientific method steps in: observe, hypothesize, test, adjust, and repeat.

Observe the Current Situation.

Pay attention to what happens in the chapter at present time. Make notes about what works and what doesn’t. Conduct a brief survey to enlist the input of all your members.

Let’s use as example the following hypothetical situation: You observe that less people attend the quarterly chapter events, causing the chapter to lose money. You have a few choices: increase attendance at the events, change venue or time of the event, or cancel the event altogether. The original goal was simply to raise attendance at the events, but that doesn’t seem to be working. In through surveying members (and non-members) leaders can determine what actions will best fulfill the needs of the chapter and achieve the greatest outcome. This might require altering the goal.

Hypothesize Outcomes for Changes.

Speculate possible results once a change is made. Basically, allow the observations to guide you in goal setting (check out our article on setting up new-year resolutions in 3 easy-steps). Venture a guess as to what might happen with each goal, then set a plan for change to achieve the desired outcome.

Based on our example above, let’s look at how hypothesizing might play out:

Choice 1 - increase attendance at the events. Reading through the survey results, you have determined that members feel the content at the event is repetitive to what has previously been offered, which is why they don’t see a need to attend. You hypothesize that if you change up the content, you will increase attendance.

Choice 2 - change venue or time of the event. Based on the survey results, you have determined that the day, time, and the venue where you planned the event just doesn’t work with members and non-members. Attendance dropped during the past year as the events were held too late in the day for people to show up. You hypothesize that if you change the venue or reschedule the events attendance will increase and if you keep the event as is, attendance will drop. Is it necessarily the case or are there other issues affecting their reluctance to attend?

Choice 3 - cancel the event altogether. Based on the survey results, you have determined that members don’t want to miss event as it’s their monthly opportunity to network, they just want greater diversity in their options. You hypothesize that if you cancel the monthly event, you may lose chapter members.

Goal setting. Based on the hypothesis, choice 1, increasing attendance is the best option, thus the stated goal would be: Create a committee to change the content for the monthly events, which will help in increasing attendance and meeting costs. The goal is specific to the content, even if outcomes may involve attendance and costs.

Test Your Hypothesis and Measure Results.

Create the committee. Utilize the different event management tools to easily track attendance levels and revenue. Conduct a survey to gauge attendee response.

Results and Conclusions. You did have an increase in attendance and met the cost output, but found that attendees may not join the next event without better takeaways and post-event access to the materials.

Adjust Your Goal.

Revisit the goal based on the new observations (tracking registrations and revenue) and attendee surveys. Implement a secondary survey to non-attending members to include their feedback (another way to segment attendees is by their status: members and non-members). You learn that others did not attend the event due to the location or time the event was held. However they are willing to pay a small fee to access the post-event materials.

New Hypothesis: If you provide online video and documentation access to non-attendees for a small fee, even long after the event ends, you can collect non dues dollars and increase chapter revenue.

New goal: Create and allow access to online event materials to both increase revenues and improve event attendance next time.

Repeat Until You Find What Works.

Keep working through the steps until you find the balance that fulfills chapter needs, without sacrificing quality of content. This way, you can adjust membership goals and create membership structure, activities, and guidelines around what is best for both the membership and the chapter as a whole.


Being adaptable and accommodating to member interests, opens up opportunities for chapter leaders to experiment with different outcomes. New ideas don’t always work out as planned, but sometimes they will positively change the direction of the chapter. Ultimately, chapter’s success involves a little science along with the art of chapter management.


Start improving your chapter by signing up for our monthly newsletter today! Add your email address to the form to the right and get the latest updates and tips on how to run your chapter.

Return to list



    Leave a Comment

    Users love StarChapter on G2 Crowd

    Read more starchapter reviews


    Join Our Newsletter

    Sign Up Now

    Request a Live Demo and Grow Your Association Chapter Today.

    StarChapter in The Top-20 List - Capterra


    Follow Us