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Professional Development and its Role in the Association Management World

Posted By Murphy Pickett, Thursday, April 27, 2017
Updated: Thursday, April 27, 2017

Professional Development and its Role in the Association Management World
Joe Flannigan; Director of Professional Development Technology

When considering the role of professional development in the association management world, it’s important to look at it from three perspectives: From the association management company (AMC), from the association or volunteer’s perspective, and finally — and most importantly — from the association member.

Through the Lens of an AMC

An association management company plays the role of the logistical facilitator. It is not the subject matter expert of the content that an association tries to provide for its members, but it is the expert in terms of technical and logistical support. Associations would be wise to embrace that expertise. Doing so can open up a lot of flexibility in providing the education to its members. AMCs can leverage better deals with venues, freeing up valuable budget room for other projects; provide insight into new or different ideas for education approaches or methods, such as online learning, blended training programs, and certification. 

An AMC must focus a significant amount of resources on helping associations manage the development of the association’s members. One of the cornerstone reasons members join associations is to develop their own careers; they do that through education and networking — two things an association is keenly suited to provide.

An Association’s Perspective

An association’s mission often includes the goal to provide its members with ample opportunities to learn, grow, and share information to advance the industry for which the association was created. This is so common because it really defines why many associations exist.
From that perspective, associations serve to facilitate those efforts. Their volunteers and board members spend their time to make that happen. Leaders’ expertise resides in their knowledge of the subjects that will interest members. After all, they are members, too. 
It’s up to volunteers to bridge the gap between content and logistics. They are the key to making the association successful. Staff who work for AMCs should always be mindful of that fact.

Professional Development for Members

When you boil it down, the ultimate reasons for associations to exist and for members to belong to those associations are one and the same: to grow within the industry. Associations look to grow their membership to be able to do more and offer more to their members. Members are looking for ways to learn more about their industry — to grow professionally.

Members seek out opportunities to gain knowledge. Associations are there to provide those opportunities. Those can manifest in many different ways: Conferences, networking, newsletter articles, and more.

Association management companies must work on ways to facilitate those options.

The relationship among these three perspectives is symbiotic in nature. Members are looking for a way to grow, and find that with associations, which essentially pool their own resources to improve the opportunities for professional development that they offer. These offerings are made better through the use of the AMC, who has its own set of resources to amplify the bottom-line offerings.

Volunteers sit between the member and the AMC. They need members the same way that AMCs do: to be a part of the organization. Without members, associations cannot function. They won’t have volunteers to join committees, plan meetings or events, or provide ideas. If there are no members, there is no association. If there’s no association, there’s obviously no association management.

You can look at the AMC’s role in this relationship from two perspectives. First, the success of an association makes economic sense. Successful and happy organizations keep the lights on and the coffee brewing. Second, fostering the relationship through creative and effective leadership improves outcomes for everyone. 

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