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Newsletter Article [Chapter Challenges] [09/01/11]
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Chapter Challenges

Martha Bryson, SPHR - Secretary

Chapter Challenge


As you may have noticed, last month’s s-Source issue featured this new column for the specific purpose of sharing chapter best practices and success stories.  This column will feature information from a District Director, Chapter President, or a guest columnist all for the benefit of helping to make your chapter more effective and efficient.  We bet that your chapter has a great story to share and we’re anxious to hear it!  Send your contribution to:

This month we showcase the Sarasota-Manatee HR Association and their strategy for dues and non-dues revenue.  Now, on with the show!

SHRA Chapter – 2011 Challenges and Strategies

When the 2011 Board of the Sarasota-Manatee HR Association (SHRA) took office, we were confronted by an immediate challenge involving the status of our financial resources. Our available funds had fallen almost 63% from those available in January 2010.  We realized that much of this loss had to do with the economy and the number of free or low cost services we provided in 2010 to our members who were struggling during these economic times. 

Nevertheless, we knew immediately that we had to find ways to increase both dues and non-dues revenue in order to rebuild our financial strength, and provide the level and quality of services our members expected from a professional HR association.

We took some key steps:

1.    At our January membership meeting, our president set her three top priorities for 2011 which included:  
  a.    Deliver high quality services and a strong value proposition to members 
  b. Leverage technology for increased quality and efficiency 
  c. Provide leadership and a focus on fiscal responsibility to our membership 

We were honest with our members that we needed to focus on rebuilding SHRA’s fiscal strength in order to be prepared for any future economic challenges.


During our Board’s strategic planning session in late January, we asked each participant to identify areas under their responsibility that were critical and those that could be either discontinued or postponed. Two of the factors they needed to consider were cost (ROI) and value.  Our focus was on increasing the ‘value’ of what SHRA provides to its members, while strategically targeting which areas we had the funds to support.

We took the suggestions and results from the strategic planning session and had the Board members further narrow down those activities they felt were the most important to continue while keeping cost in consideration.  We also examined where we might be able to increase revenue flow.

3.  We decided that ongoing data analysis was critical to our decision-making process.  Some areas that we analyzed were:  
   a. Increasing costs to non-members.  We wanted to provide a stimulus for HR professionals to join SHRA, and we wanted to more effectively show the value of membership. 

We analyzed the monthly meeting fees for members versus non-members. It was apparent that the difference was not great enough to stimulate membership.  We announced a 40% increase to the monthly non-member meeting fee effective in March 2011, and plan to increase the member meeting fee 25% in 2012. 

     ii. An analysis of the costs associated with our PHR/SPHR Certification classes showed little to no variation in the costs for members versus non-members. The 2010 classes were offered for free to members and non-members and participants were able to purchase the SHRM Learning System at SHRA’s cost.  This was established because the times were tough, and the classes were conducted as study groups and not formal classes. It was also thought that the no/low fees would incent participants to join SHRA.
In fact because our classes were no cost, members of other chapters registered for our classes to avoid paying fees for their own chapter’s classes.  The percent of 2010 class attendees who actually joined SHRA was only 14 -18% - very low even though the classes were offered for no cost.

Of the total number who had registered in 2010, only 56% actually stuck with the classes. We felt that if they had had to invest some money, they might have been more committed to following through.

We implemented class fees for 2011 with a $100 differential for members versus non-members. However, Members-in-Transition could register for a fee of $50.  We charged a higher fee to non-members to purchase the SHRM Learning System, but it was still well-below the SHRM price.  Since we had upgraded the program – from study groups to actual formal classes – we felt confident that we were offering a higher value proposition to both members and non-members, and that the price differential we implemented for members versus non-members would incent more to join SHRA.

The results have supported our decisions.  93% of participants in our 2011 spring class attended almost all classes, and the feedback we received on the class design and instruction has been excellent. 27% joined SHRA as a result of taking the classes. We have not been able to analyze which participants joined SHRA just prior to registering for the classes so they could get SHRA member rates. Of those who have taken the exam to date, 85.7% have passed. And SHRA earned enough revenue with the fees to pay for instruction materials and compensate our instructor with some money held over to use for the 2011 fall class.

There was some pushback from individual Board members regarding the increase in PHR/SPHR certification class costs. However the president sent a personal email to the Board asking for their support, and addressed any individual concerns on a one-on-one basis.


Analysis of monthly program attendance.


We undertook an analysis of our monthly program attendance to see if we had more attendees at breakfast versus lunch meetings. There was no significant difference – although it seemed that different people attended depending on the time of day. However we did not allow for the variable of program content which may explain the difference in attendees.


We have currently undertaken a project to track and analyze the percent of attendees who are guests versus members, and who are walk-ins versus registered attendees. We believe this will allow us to make better decisions regarding program advertising and planning, and reduce program costs associated with people who register but who do not attend.


Membership focused analysis

     i. We are currently analyzing our membership numbers for overall accuracy and to obtain a more accurate picture of the percent who are SHRM members.

We are examining our roster for membership renewals and returned emails. We have followed up on all returned emails and also implemented a personalized letter from our Membership Director regarding membership renewals.

     iii.  We now verify email addresses for all guests and include all previous guests on our eBlasts announcing upcoming programs, conferences and other relevant information.
   d.  Financial analysis 
     i. We are working to establish a financial reporting process that allows us to consistently and accurately compare financial detail from one year to the next.

We implemented revised forms for reporting and reimbursement of chapter related costs and expenditures.


We focus on making decisions using data analysis but also on providing a strong value proposition to SHRA members. 


All programs and our conference are evaluated on the basis of general versus strategic credits with the goal of providing as many strategic credits as possible.


We shortened the survey we provide to members after each meeting in order to facilitate a higher response rate.


We moved from a newsletter format to eBlasts that contain informative and practical information that is easily and quickly read with links to additional information for those members who want or have time to read more.

We faced a financial challenge at the beginning of 2011, but have already recouped 21.9% of the funds that were available at the beginning of 2010.  Our goal is to leave enough funding for 2012 to cover any costs associated through the first quarter of that year so that the new Board is confident of their ability to fund initiatives.

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