Best Practices for Managing a Successful NEMBA Chapter

Below are some ways that chapter leaders can help make sure that their NEMBA chapter is productive and can develop new volunteers and future leadership. This article supplements the information regarding “Developing an Effective NEMBA Chapter” found in our Chapter Handbook.

Meetings

  • Hold regularly scheduled meetings that are publicized to your chapter’s membership. Monthly meetings are ideal, though some chapters take off a month or two during the dog days of summer or over the winter.  Having a regular schedule (such as the first Monday of the month) allows active chapter leaders to better plan to attend, and it also provides opportunities for members to get involved with the chapter. Note: When chapter leadership changes it's critical to let the NEMBA BOD or Phiip Keyes.
  • Some chapters hold their meetings at the same place while other rotate them around different venues, such as their member bike shops.
  • When possible, it’s good to offer a MTB ride before the meeting.
  • Since meetings generally take place in the evening, many chapters offer pizza and beverages to those that attend.
  • Bars or restaurants generally make poor meeting locations since it’s difficult to hear and conduct business in a noisy environment.
  • Posting an agenda (and sticking to it) makes the meetings much more productive and less open-ended. Obviously, there should be flexibility.
  • If there are new attendees at the meeting, make them feel at home. Always do a round of introductions so everyone know each other’s names.

Chapter Decision-Making

  • Each chapter has a set of officers (president, vice-president, treasurer, secretary) as well as a group of board members. These people are entrusted to further NEMBA’s mission statement and to use the chapter’s financial and human resources in ways consistent with NEMBA’s mission. It is this group that organizes chapter events, programming and advocacy initiatives.
  • While each chapter has its own style of leadership and decision-making, most all decisions are discussed and voted on by the chapter leadership, generally following Robert’s Rules of Order. Rarely are decisions contentious and most votes are unanimous. However, it is important to give everyone the opportunity to express their opinions.
  • Most chapter maintain a special “closed” email list through googlegroups or yahoogroups for chapter leadership communications. Both of these platforms also allow files to be shared and stored. Googledocs also allows collaborative environments for creating documents, speadsheets, forms, and slides.

Chapter Events

  Rides:

  • Holding regular chapter rides is a key way for your members to meet the current chapter leaders, learn what’s going on, and get more involved in the chapter. By holding fun events, like rides, chapters can then convert that member into a true volunteer asset. We recommend that chapters use the start of the ride to give a quick update on what’s going on in the chapter, such as when is the next trail care day or chapter meeting, as well as to request that regular attendees on the ride join the chapter and support the chapter with their membership.
  • Chapter rides should be published on nemba.org, as well as promoted on the chapter’s communication channels. Please note that it is NEMBA policy for all chapter events to be listed on NEMBA.org.
  • Please refer to NEMBA’s Ride Leader Guidelines for best practices about leading group rides.

Trail Care Events:

  • Trail building and trail maintenance is one of the most important things NEMBA does to help improve our sport and give back to the trails we love.
  • Read our article about Organizing a Successful Volunteer Event.
  • We recommend that trail work days be well planned so that they are productive. Each day should have a project leader who oversees one or more trail crew leaders who, in turn, might manage small sets of volunteers. Having a small crew of volunteers managed by a trail crew leader ensures that the quality of the work is good and that the work environment is safe.
  • The most productive trail days only run for half a day in the morning and do not overwork the volunteers. We want volunteers to come back and get even more involved. Trail days should be educational and fun, and if they end with a mountain bike ride in the afternoon, so much the better.

Chapter Communications

 Communicating to your chapter membership is important in order to get them engaged and active in your chapter. This has gotten easier (but also more complex!) due the numerous social media outlets.

  • SingleTracks Chapter News – This is an excellent place to document the successes and activities of the chapter, as well as to announce major upcoming events.
  • Facebook Pages & Groups.  Facebook has become a key tool for communicating to both the membership as well as the broader riding community. Having a Chapter Facebook Page is a good way for the chapter to represent itself, publicize upcoming events, and educate riders about the issues facing the chapter. Facebook groups, on the other hand, allow for riders to communicate with one another and develop a sense of camaraderie. While this is a positive feature, it can lead to flame wars and heated debates that need to be monitored. Some chapters require that an admin review posts before they’re made public.
  • Chapter Email Newsletters. Some chapters use free or paid versions of MailChimp to produce weekly or monthly newsletters for its members. This can be a good way to keep your membership engaged, but it does require a volunteer to create and update the content of the newsletter
  • NEMBA Events Email.  All of your chapter rides, volunteer events and meetings should be listed on NEMBA’s website. This will also allow them to be included in NEMBA weekly events email that goes out to about 10K riders.
  • Membership Database.If you wish to send out announcements directly to your current members, you can do so by sending the text of what you wish transmitted to Philip Keyes. He will use the database to make sure that everyone receives your update. This is especially valuable for meeting announcements, fundraisers, or other chapter-wide events.
  • Chapter Web Page. Each chapter has its own chapter web page on nemba.org which lists all the latest chapter news, rides and events. Someone in your chapter leadership should be dedicated to reviewing this content and making sure that all chapter events are posted on nemba.org. If your chapter needs assistance creating content for the website, they can contact pk@nemba.org or nembabill@yahoo.com. The chapter web page also lists the main riding areas for each chapter.
  • Chapter websites. Some chapters also maintain their own individual websites. While this can be a benefit to the chapter, it’s critical to have an active webmaster volunteer to make sure that content is up to date. Some chapters have folded their websites into NEMBA’s Chapter page since it requires much less work to maintain.

Chapter Finances

  • All NEMBA chapters share the same federal 501 (c) 3 tax ID and we are required by law to file annual tax reports. This means that it is critical that each chapter’s treasurer keep meticulous records of the chapter’s finances.
  • Regional NEMBA recommends that only the chapter treasurer have direct access to the bank account in order to streamline record keeping and maintain fiscal controls.
  • Creating an annual chapter budget can help assure that chapter funds are being put to good use. Part of the responsibility of chapter leadership is to make sure that the funding it receives is used to promote mountain biking and more mountain biking opportunities. Some chapters will dedicate a certain about of their budget to different types of programming, such as trail care, ride guides, special events. Other chapters also make sure that the key parks in their territory receive a certain level of earmarked funding.
  •  It can be a good use of chapter funds to provide food at Trail Care days and meetings.