Thursday, September 13, 2012
Are Associations About Professions or About Needs?
So, Joe Rominiecki wrote a terrific post on Acronym called Big and Niche. I think we should all read that one again and the additional posts he linked to by Maggie McGary and Joshua Paul.
I've been thinking along similar lines recently especially in light of a new organization I just became aware of called the Young Entrepreneur Council. I thought this was a great post on the Personal Branding Blog about the YEC and a new partnership they are offering in conjunction with Citi called My Start Up Lab.
Membership in the YEC is by referral. It does have a GuideStar record but no 990 yet, so I can't actually tell if it's a 501(c)(6) or a 501(c)(3). Regardless, it is a membership based community formed around the concept of helping Gen Y reach their career goals and accelerate the development of their business acumen.
What I find so cool about this is it is a membership organization built around an idea, not a profession. I am sure this concept isn't new and there must be membership organizations built around specific ideas intended to support a broad segment of the population. However, nine times out of ten when I run across an association it's entire mission is based around a particular industry or profession, or perhaps a hobby or activity. Most associations that we are familiar with are dedicated to supporting specific skills people need to succeed in a particular job as opposed to gaining basic job skills and resources that could be useful in the economy at large.
I am very intrigued with this concept and wondering what other possibilities there are. I know people are struggling with Gen X and Gen Y membership. I just conducted a board retreat on that topic this weekend and we had a blast doing it. But maybe the question is bigger than how do we create value for our younger members. Maybe this laser focus on "creating membership value" within our own industry segments is clouding the bigger question.
Is it possible that associations need to be going big and niche at the same time? In other words, what if this isn't an either/or question but an if/and question? The need for young people to hone their business skills around entrepreneurship is something we may build a 100 programs for in a 100 different associations. What if there is one program that gets it done and appeals to a wide audience at the same time? What if associations collaborated to create such a thing and then directed members to established associations to get more specific when/if the time came for that sort of interaction?
That could be a game changer. Are we ready?
(I picked this weeks video clip because I was trying to remember what it was like to be exuberant and young like the members who are joining the Young Entrepreneur Council. Not sure I got the perfect clip but it's a hoot anyway - M M M M My Sharona! I was in sixth grade when that song came out. One of my cousins threatened me with certain death after I played that 45 about twenty-six times in a row one afternoon. :D)