It is an interesting question to pose and a topic worth exploring. What differentiates a membership organisation from an ordinary commercial organisation?
On their website, the Canberra Raiders say this, “We ask that you stick by us and become a member in 2012. Membership is about belonging to the Club and what we stand for”.
There are many different types of membership organisations such as: sporting, charity, professional associations, industry groups, leisure, political or religious. Whilst each have their own objective, vision or mission they do share a common bond. And it comes down to purpose. Is the purpose of the organisation to make money or serve a nominated community?
Wiki Answers gives a succinct definition: “Membership is when you get special advantages. You get to do things non-members never get to do unless they figure out a cheat”. The intent behind this statement is to reinforce the fact that benefits flow to the member not the organisation.
Most commercial organisations exist to generate a profitable return for their shareholders. Sure, they will also claim to serve the interests of their customers, however this is a supporting principle of the primary goal, which is to make money.
With membership organisations money is also very important, but the order of priorities is reversed. The principal aim of a membership organisation is to serve the interests of the members. Making money to achieve this goal is a secondary goal.
Here are three extracts from different membership organisations, taken from their websites. I think it reinforces the point that membership is about serving a nominated community.
A charity – Australian Diabetic Council
“What is Membership” poses the Australian Diabetic Council on their website, and they go on to explain that “…we understand that people with diabetes want to keep up to date with the latest diabetes news, research, events and advice. Our membership subscription has been designed specifically to meet these needs, and to further our commitment in promoting diabetes awareness, research, education and advocacy for all our members.”
A professional association – CPA
“Our core services to members include education, training, technical support and advocacy. Staff and members work together with local and international bodies to represent the views and concerns of the profession to governments, regulators, industries, academia and the general public. As a member, CPA Australia is continually focused on your professional development. You can consider it your ‘career return on investment’ “.
A professional association – Australian Computer Society
“Being an ACS member implies commitment to professionalism. True professionalism demands continuing knowledge and skills development. This is why the ACS has a highly developed and tailored education program for our members. True professionalism also implies subscription to a moral code. This is why all ACS members subscribe to a Code of Ethics. This Code of Ethics is based on the pursuit of excellence, rigour, integrity and honesty.”
Blog written by Chris Pennington, Consultant to PA. The opinions expressed here are the personal opinions of the writer. Content published here does not necessarily represent the views and opinions of Professional Advantage Pty Ltd.
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