Membership

Membership Hack: Virtual Chapters

By / May 17, 2019 (portishead1/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Chapters don’t always have to be about serving members in the same local community or state. At NIGP, the Institute for Public Procurement, virtual chapters connect members with similar interests from thousands of miles away.

How to hack it? If you have chapters spread across the country or around the world, it’s not easy to go the distance and get members engaged. That’s why NIGP, the Institute for Public Procurement, set up a virtual chapter to connect members far away from each other in Alaska and Hawaii.

In a recent Billhighway article, Jeff Dansdill, past president of the Alaska-Hawaii Governmental Procurement Association (AHGPA), explains how the two states came together three years ago to form one virtual chapter.

“I talked with a couple of people from Alaska and found out they had many of the same issues we experienced in Hawaii. We’re both separated from the United States mainland, so we have the same shipping issues, the same transportation issues,” he said. “For Hawaii, it’s island to island. In Alaska, towns are separated geographically—there are no roads between Juneau and Anchorage, a couple of the largest cities.”

AHGPA has 77 members. It uses an online community presence, as well as virtual conferencing tools and social media platforms, to conduct meetings, events, and educational programming online.

Why does it work? Thanks to online collaboration tools and other technologies, virtual chapters can replicate local chapter experiences for members that live in far-off places, where there may not be enough members to support an on-the-ground presence.

What’s the bonus? AHGPA’s success has led NIGP to consider adding more virtual chapters. Montana may be next.

Tim Ebner

Tim Ebner is a senior editor for Associations Now. He covers membership, leadership, and governance issues. Email him with story ideas or news tips. More »

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