Leadership

Why One Chapter Went Rogue

By / Dec 1, 2014 (Tetra Images/Getty Images)

A lesson in how not to respond to a rogue chapter within your association.

As the president of Mariner Management and Marketing LLC, Peggy Hoffman, CAE, has years of experience working with chapters of national organizations. But when it comes to rogue chapters, one instance stands out for her—as an example of how not to respond to a challenging chapter.

In this situation, a chapter was embezzling, and the national organization concluded that if one chapter was doing it, there might also be others. “So they’ve asked us all to get audits,” Hoffman says. “And with a small budget, the audit will be one of our most expensive budget items. They are enforcing this rule across the board because of one chapter.”

On behalf of the chapter she was working with, Hoffman let the national organization know that the cost of an audit would have a negative impact on the budget. “But now,” she says, “they view us as a rogue chapter because we are questioning their decision.”

She says an alert from the national organization would have been more effective and less costly. Something like, “We just found out that a chapter has embezzled. Here are the signs of embezzlement … .”

Hoffman says such a message would have made other chapters aware of the situation and educated them—a better solution than implementing a harsh policy. “You don’t want to slap a chapter’s hand without explaining what’s wrong,” she says.—M.D.G.K.

Warnings that a chapter has decided to march to the beat of a different drummer are usually obvious.

In some extreme cases, it’s necessary to expel a chapter.

If you’re tuned in to your chapter, you’ll likely be able to address an issue before the organization goes full-blown rogue.

Melanie D.G. Kaplan

Melanie D.G. Kaplan writes regularly for the Washington Post and is a contributing editor at Smart Planet/CBS Interactive. More »

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