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Getting the Most From Your Trade Association

Getting the Most From Your Trade Association

July/August 2023

To get the most out of your trade association, pay your dues on time. That’s important. Seriously, though, the professionals who run these organizations have advice about how you can help yourself by helping them.

The value of belonging to an organization that can speak for your profession or industry lies in their ability to find common ground among a disparate membership. So they want to know your own company’s perspective on the many issues that come before them. “Get to know the association staff and share your perspectives on the important issues facing the industry,” says ASAE’s Senior Vice President of Public Policy Mary Kate Cunningham. “The people who work at these organizations do so in part because they enjoy finding consensus and helping their members locate these areas of agreement.”

The National Association of Manufacturers’ Executive Vice President Erin Streeter builds on that idea. “The staff needs to know about your company and what is important to it,” she says. “The more we know about your positions, the better able we will be to keep them in mind as we work out the compromises that enable us to be effective in our advocacy.” John Jennings, director of government and political affairs at the Insured Retirement Institute, agrees: “We need to know what members are thinking so we can develop the blueprint for new policy ideas. We assemble these ideas and circulate them among the membership, building policy objectives based on the consensus of our membership. We cannot do that unless our members actively participate in the process.”

That means serving on policy committees and taking leadership posts in the association, according to Edison Electric Institute’s Chief Strategy Officer and Executive Vice President of Public Policy and External Affairs Brian Wolff. “Take advantage of these opportunities,” he says. “Don’t take your membership for granted. A bonus that comes with involvement at this level is learning the best practices of other members. There will be differences of opinion in any organization, but they can be worked through — and must be — for all to succeed.”

“Remember this,” Scott Whitaker, president and CEO of AdvaMed, says. “We’re all on the same team.”

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