By Ken Harrington, Chairman, Chapter Relations Committee
We found out in October what happens when you throw 100 ASHI members together in the same room for two days of “Think Tank” meetings and education events: you get a lot of good ideas, opinions, suggestions and how to’s that chapters can utilize to promote and build their membership base. We concluded that chapters face a lot of the same challenges nationwide, and we identified 17 common threads that every chapter listed as a concern. The first 9 were discussed in length with our panel of senior leadership. Three of the 8 challenges that were identified but were not discussed due to time constraints we want to discuss today.
Competition. Competition makes us better, so embrace it. Keep in mind, it is not the size of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight in the dog! When engaging competition, you need to know your best players or best assets, and our organization has plenty. ASHI is the oldest and most highly regarded inspection organization in the industry. ASHI set the standard of practice for most competing organizations and continues to raise the bar of professionalism amongst the membership. ASHI is the ONLY inspection organization to gain certification by an independent third party. ASHI has website links for the membership, free education modules for chapter usage and an inspection agreement that can be used by the membership, just to name a few.
Chapter-perceived value. Ever attend a sporting event where you feel the electricity in the air, the arena filled with excitement and the fans on their feet rooting for the home team? A chapter that shows recognition for member achievements, creativity in their education programs, members taking part in the proceedings and having a sense of belonging will project that same air of excitement. Everyone wants to be part of a winning team and will equate strong leadership and exciting programs with quality and value for their membership.
How to keep the chapters profitable. Membership dues and attendance at education events comprise most our income for chapters. If your chapter has not budgeted and planned for the next three-to-five years, you should do so. Some have joined forces with other organizations to increase attendance for education sessions to lower the per person costs, while others have marketed to inspectors who have no specific affiliation, or may belong to National and not to a local chapter, to increase membership. Other ideas we discovered at LTC were that some chapters offer substantial savings if members sign up for a two-or-three year membership instead of annually, or they offer a discount on membership dues when someone brings in a new member. Know what an education event is going to cost and decide what profit your chapter needs to make before setting the price of admission, and here is a tidbit on how to save money: Once you get the speakers fees, room rates, food and facility costs, negotiate! Call each entity and advise that you really want their service, but it is just outside of your budget and would they consider giving a discount to fall within your budgeted guidelines, or meet you in the middle? It works! Another good resource is to look inside your membership for someone who could do a quality presentation as most members would do it for free.
Remember, WE ARE THE STRONGEST LINK!