Richard W. Hurd
Professor of Labor Studies
Prepared for the AFL-CIO Department for Professional Employees Conference,
“Organizing Professionals in the 21st Century”
In the broad context of their decline in the private sector, unions must address a number of specific challenges if they are to retain their role as influential economic institutions. Perhaps the most important is to determine how to extend membership and influence in labor markets for professional and technical workers. It is unlikely that demand for union representation among these workers will increase without some affirmative action on the part of labor organizations to reconfigure themselves, either by offering a substantially altered set of services or by adopting a markedly different strategic approach. Simply appealing to latent demand for traditional union representation is extraordinarily unlikely to produce a groundswell of interest. In this context, unions stand to benefit from an appreciation of the strategies and practice of successful professional associations. The traditional role of professional associations is to adopt a code of ethics and establish minimal educational standards for membership. Based on these standards, they promote licensing requirements typically through state or national legislation. Practitioners belong to professional associations for both collective and individual reasons. They seek certification and status, and support their association’s efforts to enhance the image of the profession with the public and through political action. They appreciate opportunities to network and to engage in substantive discussions with other members of the occupation who have similar training and interests. In essence, association membership satisfies an implicit desire for solidarity with peers. At the same time, these professionals want access to specialized benefits, and often to labor market and career services. Similarly, members are attracted to events and publications that enhance their own knowledge and earning power by offering access to state-of-the-art information, and often to continuing education credits necessary to meet ongoing licensing requirements.
Association recruitment and retention strategies are developed within the framework of the organization’s role within the profession. They are tied to meeting members’ needs for information and continuing education, and their desire for networking opportunities. Because all associations operate in what is comparable to what unions consider an “open shop” environment, they develop elaborate systems to connect with members and potential recruits. They track members of the profession, communicate with them regularly, survey them regarding occupational needs, and engage them in the association’s activities. Most associations develop a network of chapters at the state and local level, and engage the chapters directly in recruitment and retention activities.
Many associations have active university based initiatives to reach out to students pursuing degrees required for entry into the profession. Some associations even engage in programs to attract young people to the profession at the high school level, especially for occupations experiencing labor market shortages. With the rapid progress of globalization, international membership recruitment is rapidly becoming the norm in some fields (this is most evident in business and engineering professions).
In terms of specific practices and tactics, elaborate systems of membership tracking are developed. Associations utilize direct mail, telemarketing, and on-line outreach programs both to recruit new members and to encourage lapsed members to renew. These approaches are combined with chapter outreach activities, “member-get-a-member” campaigns, and various incentive programs.
Ultimately, membership growth is built on a sound foundation of comprehensive attention to detail, but depends on the association’s commitment to membership programs at the strategic level. Highlights of recent trends are noted below. Then the report describes the practices of four particularly successful professional associations. They represent a range of strategic approaches that match the different circumstances faced by the particular professions. After sketching out the recent experience of these four associations, the basis for the success of new associations is assessed.
SELECTED TRENDS IN ASSOCIATION
MEMBERSHIP PROGRAMS (1)
- Stability/stagnation in many established general membership associations
- Specialization has spawned growth in more narrowly focused associations
- Segmentation allows associations to respond to specialized needs, and to tailor recruitment to stages of the professional career
- Increased attention to diverse membership
- Some associations have succeeded by aligning themselves as advocates for a cause (e.g., American Occupational Therapy Association campaign regarding backpacks in schools)
- Increased attention to distance education, e-learning
- International marketplace has huge potential for U.S. based associations
AMERICAN INSTITUTE OF ARCHITECTS (2)
- Five years ago membership stagnant
- Increased attention to membership at strategic level
- Need satisfaction surveys
- Segmented message to members
- New architects, new firms—business education
- Established firms—continuing professional education
- Strengthened chapters to connect with members
- Renewed growth (28.6% in five years)
AMERICAN SOCIETY OF RADIOLOGIC TECHNOLOGISTS (3)
- Close affiliation with national certifying body (American Registry of Radiologic Technologists–ARRT)
- Rapid growth tied to ARRT mandate for continuing education to retain certification
- ASRT delivers education, tracks credits of individuals, and automatically informs ARRT
- National level political program to set minim um federal standards for certification
- Wage and salary surveys inform members regarding what they should expect
- Job Satisfaction surveys
- Increased attention to specialized, limited function Xray technicians
- Active recruitment for the profession
INSTITUTE OF INTERNAL AUDITORS (4)
- Rapid growth in wake of corporate scandals (WorldCom, Enron)—45.5% in four years
- Long-term expansion tied to international membership
- Initiative to enhance global leadership in the profession
- Customer (i.e., member) needs surveys
- Enhanced capability to profile members, identified specific needs/interests
- Improved electronic communication program
- On-going, formal, comprehensive, strategic planning process
NATIONAL NOTARY ASSOCIATION (5)
- Entrepreneurial venture started in 1957
- Publisher of reference books and state guidebooks for notaries
- Publisher of notary magazines and bulletins regarding latest laws, best practices
- Education drives membership growth
- Correspondence courses have transitioned to internet-based format
- Purveyor of notary supplies, insurance
- Specialty sections (e.g., real estate closing agents)
- Nascent chapter structure
EMERGING PROFESSIONAL ASSOCIATIONS (6)
- American College of Forensic Examiners—entrepreneurial; sells credentials, described as “diploma mill” by American Bar Association and Wall Street Journal
- Association of Internet Professionals—on-line training for web professionals
- HTML Writers Guild—on-line training for web professionals; entrepreneurial
- International Association of Healthcare Professionals—entrepreneurial; listed on quackwatch.com
- International Association of Physicians in AIDS Care—legitimate professional association with specialty focus
- National Association of Certified Valuation Analysts—entrepreneurial; sells credentials
- National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals—legitimate association for targeted group of professionals
1994 1999 2004
Aerobics and Fitness Association of America 30,000 125,000 155,000
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association 67,000 91,500 115,0002
MENC: The National Association of Music Education 62,000 70,000 90,000
Professional Association of Driving Instructors 40,000 60,000 100,000
World Congress of Teachers of Dancing 6,333 45,000 87,648
American Academy of Family Physicians 75,0001 81,000 93,500
American Academy of Pediatrics 43,000 51,000 55,000
American College of Surgeons 52,000 55,600 63,400
American Physical Therapy Association 53,456 72,000 68,000
American Psychological Association 70,000 151,000 154,000
American Society for Clinical Pathology 50,000 65,000 150,000
American Society of Radiologic Technologists 18,000 67,000 116,0003
American Veterinary Medical Association 52,000 52,000 67,000
American Institute of Architects 57,000 56,000 72,0004
American Society for Quality 68,500 133,000 121,000
Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers 274,000 274,000 366,000
SAE International 60,000 74,000 80,000
American Institute of Certified Public Accountants 280,000 316,800 330,000
Association for Investment Management and Research 22,500 n.a. 68,500
Institute of Internal Auditors 47,700 51,000 85,000 (7)
Project Management Institute 8,000 25,000 100,000
Society for Human Resource Management 50,000 63,000 63,000
National Notary Association 81,000 150,000 230,0006
2data provided by ASHA
3data provided by ASRT
4data provided by AIA
5data provided by IIA
6data provided by NNA
Data source: Encyclopedia of Associations (Detroit, MI: Gale Research Co.), annual.
SELECTED PROFESSIONAL ASSOCIATIONS
1994 2004 Growth (%)
American Institute of Architects 57,000 72,000 26.3%
American Society of Radiologic Technologists 18,000 116,000 544.4%
Institute of Internal Auditors 48,000 101,000 110.4%
National Notary Association 81,000 230,000 184.0%
Data source: Encyclopedia of Associations (Detroit, MI: Gale Research Co.), annual.
NEW PROFESSIONAL ASSOCIATIONS
Association/founding year 1999 2004
American College of Forensic Examiners (1992) 10,000 14,000
Association of Internet Professionals (1997) n.a. 8,625
HTML Writers Guild/International Webmasters (1994) n.a. 123,000
International Association of Healthcare Professionals (1996) n.a. 50,000
International Association of Physicians in AIDS Care (1995) 7,500 12,000
National Association of Certified Valuation Analysts (1991) 3,500 5,500
National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (1999) n.a. 5,201
Data Source: Encyclopedia of Associations (Detroit, MI: Gale Research Co.), annual.
(1) Based primarily on interviews with Carylann Pishner, American Society of Association Executives, Director of Member Relations, and Christy Jones, American Association of University Women, Director of Membership.
(2) Based on interview with Carol Madden, AIA Managing Director of Member Services, and material available at aia.org.
(3) Based on interviews with DuVonne Campbell, ASRT Vice President for Member Services, and Dick Harris, ASRT Director of Research, and on material available at www.asrt.org.
(4) Based on interview with Jo-el Laborde, IIA Assistant Vice President Membership.
(5) Based on interview with Tom Reiniger, NNA Executive Director, and material available atwww.nationalnotary.org.
(6) Based on information from multiple websites; complete list of sources available from R. Hurd.