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Developing Standards to Unify Affiliate and Member Experience

National Apartment Association (NAA)

Real Estate



Total Membership

Professional Society

Organization Type

Arlington, VA


The National Apartment Association (NAA) partnered with McKinley to establish affiliate standards and develop a program that would allow both NAA and its 158 affiliates to invest in long-term sustainability and success.


With state and local entities operating independently across the U.S., the NAA faced challenges familiar to any association with a federated chapter or affiliate model. Over time, the NAA network had grown and fluctuated to include highly successful – as well as nearly defunct – affiliates. This disparity translated into inconsistent and sometimes even detrimental member experiences. Consolidation in the rental housing market compounded these challenges and exposed the growing risk of not creating a more unified, high-performing network.


Recognizing the urgency, NAA partnered with McKinley on a comprehensive, multi-year effort to guide volunteer leaders and staff in the development of a performance framework. Establishing a task force of volunteer leaders to help champion the initiative helped navigate the sensitive nature of the project with affiliate staff and leadership. Critical to the success of this highly sensitive initiative were many of the fundamentals of change management:

  • Identifying a shared goal among stakeholders.
  • Employing strong evidence/data to gain clarity and drive decision-making.
  • Launching the new program in phases.
  • Cultivating champions to communicate and foster support.
  • Providing open forums for those who are most impacted by the change to voice their concerns and support.
  • Developing tools and resources to ensure everyone has what they need to be successful.

While qualitative and quantitative research revealed the gaps and variances in affiliate performance, benefits and experiences, the research also confirmed one of the project’s guiding assumptions: Affiliates had the greatest positive impact on the overall NAA member experience. Using the knowledge from the internal research, comparative research, meetings and facilitations, McKinley developed core standards that reflected the essential roles and expectations of the affiliates in five key areas:

  • Operations
  • Leadership and strategy
  • Communications
  • Stakeholder experience
  • Advocacy


In a landmark moment for NAA, the affiliate presidents and staff executives, and eventually the NAA Board of Directors, voted to approve the standards. At the national level, NAA is continuing to develop content and tools to assist affiliate organizations in the transition and ensure they have what they need for long-term success. The affiliate chapters now have guidance and structured goals to meet, including ways to self-evaluate and build customized plans to meet the standards.

The expertise that McKinley brought to the table was so beneficial to this project. In addition to their research, their experience with other clients provided a background to our affiliate leaders and stakeholders.

Kevin Watkins, MBA, CAE

Senior Vice President, Affiliate & Member Engagement, National Apartment Association

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