A succeed or fail factor for parent/component relationships is the way parent associations and components view their roles and resources.
For many, it’s all about 'family' funds. The component view of the parent association is often one of parent-with-deep pockets. As 'part of the family', components believe that the parent has an obligation to support them financially. Conversely, from the parent association’s perspective it has its own resource challenges and sees its role as providing guidance and some level of information/tools assistance which enables the component to be self-supporting.
Roles are another area of diverging parent-component perspective. Parent associations often view their components as little more than a delivery pipeline for parent-produced services and programs. Where that's the case, components usually appreciate having the goods to sell, but believe they get the short end of the stick in terms of financial gain. Components often see the parent’s programs, for which they receive only some revenue, as competition with the component’s own where they can keep all the profits. And in associations where the component is a delivery pipeline for parent-produced programs and services, components expect preferential pricing, exclusivity and first-choice calendar options over other delivery providers. Acceding to those expectations limits parent association options. Revenue sharing, program and service competition, roles and responsibilities for sales and support are often bones of contention.
There are increasing efforts to separate parent-produced and component-produced programs and services. The idea is to ensure that they are complimentary rather than competitive, and that risk and gain are shared in fair proportion for collaborative program delivery. And for parent-produced services delivered by components, associations are redefining roles, risk and revenue sharing schemes. The end-game is a redefinition of the partnership for shared member value and delivery, with redefined ownership of the program/service mix, revised pricing schemes and adjusted delivery modes. And all that needs to happen not to protect the parent, not to protect the component, but to bring value to the members sans bureaucracy, duplication and competition.
It requires sound critical analysis to honestly identify what actually ensures shared member value, to weed out what is counterproductively burdensome, to give up what is duplicative or competitive and to ensure equitably shared risk and gain. That’s a tall order and a daunting task. Volunteer leaders and their support staffs have biases – usually unintended but very real. It takes a lot of honest and candid communication among parent and component players to figure out how much is too much administration/regulation/control and how each can independently but collaboratively guarantee value.
I’ll offer a couple of cautionary alerts, based on observations of associations which have undertaken parent-component relationship, role or programming adjustments.
· It shouldn't be about organizational unit success, though hard working volunteer leaders and staff instinctively engage that way. The general membership doesn't care whose program it is. They don't want, nor should they have to foot the bill for bureaucratic compliance, duplicative programming or intramural competition.
· All parties involved in the exploration of change options will tend to focus on structure and process because it is, frankly, easier. Though it takes more work, all players must make sure that every conversation and every communication in the exploration revolves around a mutually agreed to description of desired or expected member value impacts/outcomes. That must be the start-point, milestone-check and end-test for any discussion or decision on structure, process or programming.
· The parties involved will tend to think of what’s needed/beneficial for now. The long view is the only view that will ensure that changes create a parent-component relationship and interface that future generations will value and support.
· The hardest hurdle is the realization that not all components are equally resourced; their needs and their expectations are divergent. Solutions must be flexible enough to accommodate those differences if all are to succeed.
· When a horse is dead, a smart rider gets off and finds another mode of transport. There will likely be components which can never demonstrate member value, in spite of all their hard work, good intentions and local leader passion. Although emotions will run high, if a component is dead implement the
order. Merge the survivors into another
component or substitute some other entity or mechanism that can deliver value
and channel its leaders’ energy in that new direction.