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Championing Professional and Trade Associations

chapters drive success

Professional & Trade Associations:  Driving change through your chapters

The IRS defines an association as a “group of people banded together for a purpose.” (They recognized 63,866 trade and professional associations in 2016.). Effecting change is the primary purpose of national professional and trade organizations, whether that change is for their:

  • Members
  • Industry
  • Communities
  • Or a combination

Many changes – impacting policy, improving education of your members and the community at large, increasing the engagement of your members through networking, etc. – happen successfully at the national level, through lobbying, conferences, and webinars. However, there are many changes and improvements that can happen easier and have a greater impact, when they take place at the chapter level.

Why are chapters necessary for change to be successful?

The main reason comes down to a combination of psychology and geography. When people are physically close to each other, change can be more organic, because:

  • People are more apt to take on an active role and organize when they can do it close to where they live, instead of traveling or using technology to make it happen.
  • Individuals want a voice in the decisions affecting their careers and their communities, both business and personal. It’s easier to coordinate and maximize participation when they come together locally.
  • Change often happens incrementally. In some cases, that means that local policies need to change first, before national changes can happen.
  • Local decision-making can be better tailored to and completed by those on the ground who are directly impacted.

Where do chapters help the most?

A local chapter presence increases the number of face-to-face interactions members have and allows for a geographic focus on the issues important to them and to the national organization.  These direct, regular interactions make it easier for associations and trade groups to impact members, communities, and the national conversation in three primary areas:

  • Advocacy:  Many barriers to change are local, and members of a chapter can band together to remove those barriers. Chapters can gain exposure and momentum around an issue by using their websites to post information and/or ask for donations. ere The website for the Georgia Association of Private Investigators shows how one chapter is highlighting their advocacy programs.
  • Education:  According to ASAE,57 million American adults complete work-related courses and trainings each year, and 9.7 million receive that education from a professional association. Local trainings mean members don’t need to pay for travel, so more can attend. In addition, education related to topics specific to a region of the country – i.e. regulations and laws in New York versus North Dakota –is more effective when delivered by local experts who can answer geographically specific questions.
  • Networking:  Networking at the national level is often limited to conferences and technology-driven interactions. Chapter meetings and events give your members many more chances to meet each other and improve their connections, right in their backyards. Chapters also provide more opportunities for members to connect with vendors, as well as others in their industry, to create strong alliances and partnerships, with vendors, as well as those they may consider competitors.

Delivering your mission in the communities you serve, as well as at the national level, requires input and insight from your members, and chapters put power in the hands of the who can make the change happen. Members will contribute more of their time and knowledge when they believe they have an opportunity to impact the outcomes that are important to them.


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