Top 6 Benefits Of Membership Organizations: Are They Still Relevant To eLearning?
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Membership Organizations: Advantages And Considerations

Twenty years ago, membership organizations were a crucial aspect of a professional's career. They opened up opportunities for networking and professional development that simply weren't matched by other sources.

However, in this age of social media whereby a world of peers is only a tweet away, the benefits of joining a membership organization is rightly being questioned. So are they still relevant? I say yes.

Even in today's hyper-connected global society, I recognize the following 6 benefits of membership organizations for eLearning professionals.

6 Benefits Of Membership Organizations

1. Professionalism.

I'll get this one out of the way first. It might be the most cynical of reasons to join, but there's no doubt that membership of a respected organization is seen as a plus by prospective employers. Your association with the brand sends the message that you are serious about your profession, and you are willing to put your money where your mouth is.

2. Education.

A membership organization typically runs professional development events such as workshops and webinars, and perhaps publishes a periodical, all of which are designed to raise awareness of important issues facing its target audience. Personally I don’t find everything the organization offers informative –sometimes it's pitched at the wrong level, or I'm a few steps ahead already–, but every now and then I'll find a gem that makes all the difference.

3. Perks.

Sometimes the organization's offerings are for members only, or else members are offered a substantial discount. A prime example is the Australian Institute of Training and Development's (AITD) annual conference, for which registration was offered to members last year at a 25% discount, easily covering the cost of membership.

4. Networking.

Social media has injected steroids into the sport of professional networking, but the real power of a membership organization lay in the opportunities it affords for local networking. I follow literally thousands of people around the globe via Twitter, but by attending local events sponsored by my local organization, I meet great people in my hometown whom I wouldn't have met otherwise.

5. Profile.

A membership organization provides you with an avenue to "give something back" to the profession, perhaps by presenting at one of its events or by authoring an article in its magazine. While this in itself is an admirable thing to do, it's a win-win transaction as it also raises your profile in the professional community.

6. Recognition.

Membership organizations also sponsor industry awards. These awards are important because they shine a light on outstanding work that should be showcased but might otherwise have remained undiscovered.

The Strategic Imperatives Of Membership Organizations

Despite the benefits offered by membership organizations, competition for a share of the eLearning professional's wallet is becoming increasingly intense. Not only are the organizations competing among themselves, but prospective members are now presented with a smorgasbord of career-oriented alternatives. Moreover, from MOOCs to meetup.com, high quality and free options for networking and professional development are proliferating. So what is a membership organization to do?

The first strategic imperative of a membership organization is to offer something unique to its members. In my opinion, this means going hyper-local. Sure, I can read the blogs written by rock stars in Europe and North America, and even participate in an online course delivered by the likes of Stanford University, but what these sources can't provide is something specific to my world. What are the environmental conditions in my market? What are the hottest topics in my region? Which laws or regulations should I be mindful of? How much should I charge for my work? What do my peers get paid? Who's leading the way here? The local membership organization should provide answers to questions such as these.

The second strategic imperative of a membership organization is to transform and adapt to continue to remain relevant to its members' needs. Long gone are the days of presentations about 6-week inductions and articles about ice-breakers. The modern eLearning professional expects his or her membership organization to keep abreast of the latest trends and be on the front foot with emerging technologies and pedagogies.

The Future Of Membership Organizations

I predict a viable future for membership organizations that continue to evolve to meet the needs of their members. At the end of the day, it all boils down to return on investment. If each individual member feels that he or she is receiving value for money, then that's what really matters.

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