Membership Organizations Need to Step up Their Game
I have long advocated active membership in professional organizations. We need a strong unified voice to represent us, whether we are educating the public or speaking to a legislator. I also firmly believe that sitting back and expecting "others" to do the heavy lifting is both unrealistic and selfish.
Ok, now that I have said that (again!) I must take membership organizations to task as well. They need to step up to the plate in terms of recruitment, acting as a powerful advocate for members, forming liaisons with key stakeholders and decision makers; and, frankly, providing more value to members.
I am sitting here renewing my membership to one organization and suddenly realize that all I have got from them this year is a couple of publications, with very average editorial content. With all the information available on the Internet, through webinars and vendors, I have to think: what unique benefit am I getting for my $90 annual fee? I have paid a total of almost $600 to four organizations for the benefit of saying I am a member in good standing. This is no chump change, especially in difficult economic times.
One lingering suspicion entertained by skeptics is that dues are not very good return on investment. Another is that dues are being squandered on nonessentials. Both are significant concerns that have not been addressed convincingly enough by most organizations.
Organizations cannot conduct business as usual. They can start by looking for operational efficiencies. For example, leadership meetings should be conducted mostly electronically, rather than in person to save the expenses of travel. Some operational functions can be outsourced to a professional management company instead of hiring full time staff. Some organizations are already doing this, but this should be an ongoing process; revisited and adjusted periodically.
Our organizations should speak up more aggressively on a variety of health related issues; not just medical lab science. Whenever appropriate they should join forces with other professions ( e.g. through press releases, white papers, position papers, amicus briefs in lawsuits) so that our organizations gain recognition and credibility. Like other professions we should look for, and take advantage of, mutuality of interests wherever those exist.
Members should be surveyed periodically to get a sense of what they want; versus what they feel they are receiving. I don't recall being polled on this subject by three of my membership organizations anytime in the last five years. They just send reminders of annual dues, a few emails, a publication or two, a couple webinars (mostly costly) and that is the sum total of benefits.
As much as I carp on the benefits of memberships, it is becoming increasingly difficult to justify the WIIFM (what's in it for me) for the average practitioner. I would like to know what readers think. What would you like to see your professional organizations do for you?
In what ways are the organizations not being responsive or proactive? Short of wishing "they" would increase your pay and make your life blissfully happy, what realistically should professional organizations offer in order for you to consider membership a good investment?