Unions came into power over 100 years ago to defend the rights of the employee against big business tycoons who were not as concerned about the worker as they were about their profits. Even before their legalization in 1842, unions have been organizing strikes to protect the welfare of their workers. Professional associations were built in the shadows of these unions, striving to help given professions and those within the professions succeed.
The associations of today are similar to the union model. Members pay dues to the state and national affiliates in return for benefits. Some even have local chapters representing them. In this tough economy, why do people still join these associations? It is not for the monthly newsletter, the annual convention or the monthly seminars to achieve their continuing education credits. Individuals may join associations for many reasons:
• Need to know information
• Support of their profession and institution
• Fear that they are missing vital information
• Support materials
• Legal resource
• Legislative information
• Reimbursement issues
• Human resource needs
• It is the right thing to do
I am sure you can assemble items to add to this list, but what I have seen over my 25 plus years of managing and consulting for associations in the health care industry is a conglomeration of all of the reasons above. In addition, there is one more element that I think is relevant and worth writing about: a need for their association to help them unravel the many complex financial and legal issues they are faced with on a regular basis within their own business or practice.
As an association administrator, I am asked to solve problems for our membership regularly. If your members could do it themselves, they would not need your professional association. As board members, we are the problem solvers for many diverse issues.
I often receive calls from non-members and have made it my practice to gently let them know that without membership in their profession's organization, I cannot offer them the information they need to address the immediate problem. Association members are all doing their parts to make the profession we serve that much better, and it does not make sense that someone who is not a member would reap the benefits of an answer. An association executive is the answer person. You and your staff are contacted by members and non-members because they need what you have. They do not want to call you but they do, most of the time, because it is a last resort before calling their lawyer or financial consultant. I always find it interesting that the non-member knows how to find their association's number when they have a problem, but cannot be bothered to join the association to reap the other benefits. This would be like Joe the Cyclist calling up Lance Armstrong and expecting him to divulge all his training secrets.
So, the next time you receive a call from a non-member, be courteous and friendly - you may be obtaining a new member -- but also be firm and honest that what they want from you cannot be provided without membership because what they need is the support of their professional organization. This organization will act as a support group full of people who will have the answers to the questions that they have now, or will have in the future.
In 2003, Mr. Veno was recognized and awarded Teacher of the Year for his role in leading his graduate class students in helping a local business revamp their business plan. Most recently Mr. Veno was voted the "Person of the Year" by Dynamic Chiropractic, a national Chiropractic publication that recognizes individuals who provide outstanding service to the profession. Veno is also the recipient of the ACA Legal Service Award and many other state national awards being recognized for his support of the Chiropractic profession.
Gene Veno & Associates provides expert instruction and consultation for CEOs and Boards of Directors that want to bring new skills and leadership to their business.
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