By Sarah Bays
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2010 the IRS recognized 92,331 trade and professional associations and 1,280,739 charitable and philanthropic organizations. With so many active associations within the U.S. alone, it is not surprising that you may have recently been solicited to join an association that aligns with your profession, trade or outside interest.
Associations offer a wide range of benefits for both individuals and companies providing an avenue for professional growth and brand recognition. Here are 7 benefits, in no particular order, which associations provide:
- Information exchange. Associations offer you the opportunity to raise your level of awareness and gain valuable knowledge from other’s experiences. As a member you are at the forefront of information. Whether it is the newest trend, cutting edge product/service or a tried and true practice, this shared information is an invaluable resource.
- Access to certification programs. Many associations provide industry specific certification to separate yourself from your competitors. By becoming certified in your field of expertise and continuing your education year after year you show your employer and customers that you have met standards established by a reputable program, and you are committed to quality work and growing your expertise.
- Network for problem solving. Having access to a network of trusted peers is important. As a business, it is essential to align yourself with like-minded professionals and build relationships in which you can learn from, seek advice from and bounce ideas around with one another.
- Educational and training opportunities. One of the best resources an association can provide is a venue for education and training for its members. “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest,” said Benjamin Franklin. Having access to educational programs also lends itself to retaining and attracting employees because it shows that you are willing to invest in their professional growth.
- Strengthen your competitive advantage. Take advantage of member resources including educational and networking opportunities to build a greater understanding of customer needs, gain referrals and brand recognition. By investing in an association you are investing in your company and this inevitably sets you above non-member competitors.
6. Boost your network. When you join an association, you instantly gain a network of business associates that have similar goals and accomplishments. However, it is important to be an active member as this will significantly increase membership benefits. When available, make sure you attend association events, join committees and seek leadership roles. Associations provide you the ability to voice your opinions and share your knowledge and expertise; so make sure you don’t squander this opportunity.
- Gain elevated recognition and visibility within your industry. Associations exist to promote their members and the livelihood of the represented trade, profession or group interest. Assimilating with an association lends credibility to employees and the company, and contributes to your competitive edge over non-members.
Associations pride themselves on the ability to bring like-minded individuals together for the greater good. By aligning yourself and company with a reputable association, you are not only contributing your knowledge and expertise but gaining valuable connections, access to resources and experience of peer companies.
Sarah Bays is the membership & website coordinator for FCICA.