aLearning Blog

Online Learning for Trade Associations

Power in Numbers?

Posted by Ellen on November 2, 2008

Jeff Cobb’s comment to my previous post raises a great issue: all the work we do as educators within the association world is undervalued. We educate more professionals than corporations and higher education, and — at best — our efforts are ignored.

All the work we do is taken for granted. Yes, it’s what we should be doing in our associations — often we’re fufilling our organization’s mission by providing professional development opportunities.

But it’s not always easy.

With a total of about 360,000 nonprofits across the country, our organizations serve millions of members: doctors and other medical professionals in thousands of specialty areas, lawyers, teachers, officials at all levels of government, and individuals serving in all segments of manufacturing, foodservice, and other professions and vertical markets.

And we do all that with little help: of associations with 3-5 full-time employees, only 13% have a fully-dedicated education specialist on staff; of the larger-staffed organizations, 36% report having a fully-dedicated education specialist.

ASAE notes that the small organizations report their data in proportionately smaller levels, reinforcing the fact that smaller associations have fewer internal resources to commit to ancillary or non-value-add tasks such as completing a survey. So the real numbers of smaller associations without an education specialist on staff are problably much higher than the data has reported.

The fact is that associations will staff finance, office management, membership/recruitment, and meeting planning positions (no, these are not to be confused with education professionals) before bringing aboard an education professional.

Which is all to say that we do a lot with few resources! And we do it so well that — like the elves who visited the shoemaker — our work seems magically done. With our effort so effectively behind the scenes, it’s easy to understand why we’re not recognized for all we do.

It’s time that changed.

Here’s an open call to ASAE and The Center to introduce a Best in Learning Award. Let’s recognize the hard work of our peers who do so much with so little to enhance the expertise of their members.

Recognition of excellence can also go a long way toward supporting our need to justify what we do and how we do it. It could help with funding-raising — grants, sponsorships, advertising — which is always a challenge.

What about it, ASAE?? Are you ready to step up and recognize what a key element of your membership accomplishes every day, day after day, with little support and more than their share of hurdles and challenges?

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