Peer-to-Peer: How do I set up a professional association?

Written by ProfitGuide Staff


“Healthcare managers are fleeing the Canadian healthcare system at an unprecedented rate. Problems range from alcoholism to violence and physical or mental breakdowns, directly attributed to lack of support from employers. Some managers have suggested that a healthcare managers’ professional association be formed to investigate the claims and assist with support (rather than the coffeepot discussions that usually end up as gossip). How do we go about setting such an association up? Who should we target: should we invite other people who share some of the same problems but who already have their own associations — for example, registered nurses?”

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Reader responses

Theresa Beenken, National Speakers Bureau

For PROFITeer reader Kerry Nobbs on looking for help in getting an association going. She may wish to contact the Canadian Society of Association Executives (http://www.csae.com), an umbrella association helping other associations in Canada. Considered by many as Canada’s “association of associations,” CSAE is the professional organization of the men and women who manage many of this country’s most progressive associations, as well as those who supply the sector with essential products and services. They have a wide range of helpful materials and are a good resource for the association community in Canada.

Name withheld by request

My friend, remember what it is that you set out to do. Don’t let anything take “the joy” from your mission.

David Petrie

Before you do anything, it helps to think of the potential association as a business — what is your desired outcome in starting it? What do you hope to accomplish? You should be able to state this briefly and clearly.

Knowing what the association will do will help you decide who might be a suitable “audience”. For instance, if you decide to be a voice for managers in grievance resolution, then you will focus on managers. This would leave out the vast majority of doctors and nurses. On the other hand, if you aim to improve working conditions for health care professionals in general, it would make more sense to include doctors and nurses.

Once you know what you’ll do, and for whom, consider whether anyone else is already in the same market. Associations exist based on membership dues and, in some instances, through the sale of products or services. However, for most, dues are the initial, largest and often only source of revenue. If there are a dozen groups offering the same service as your association, it will be much more difficult to get members.

If the marketplace appears uncrowded, you need to verify that there is a need for the association. Get out and talk to potential members, find out what their interest in the association is, what they expect from it, what would entice them to join it, and what they would be willing to pay. Then, you need to make decisions on what you can offer, what it will cost you, what you will charge, and whether the whole thing is viable. Finally, if everything else is go, prepare a business plan and seek incorporation (generally by letters patent).

Having had experience with associations, both as a general member, Board member, and a manager, the best advice I can offer is always think of it as a business — you offer a product or service to others, and it must generate a surplus, or you will be unable to continue to grow.

Best of luck.

Denise Faguy, VentureLabour.com Inc.

The Canadian Society of Association Executives (http://www.csae.com) is an Association for Associations. It can provide you with a number of resources on setting up an association, and provide information on different association models. Michael Anderson is the CSAE president.

You will still need to determine a couple of things before you start: Will these people want to join your association? What benefits are you going to offer them? How will you fund it? etc.

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Originally appeared on PROFITguide.com