By Scott Abel, The Content Wrangler
Each year about this time, many knowledge workers are asked to decide which membership organizations they want to join. Knowledge workers are often required to submit membership requests to management, usually accompanied by a written statement that outlines the benefits of the membership being considered (the value of membership to the organization). For those of us who are self-employed, we may use a similar, albeit less formal, approach. In both scenarios, the decision to pay membership fees relies on the cost of membership, its perceived value, and the likelihood that the member will utilize the benefits offered.
This is true in all types of member organizations. For instance, I’m a member of US-based AAA, a membership organization that provides emergency road service to motorists. While there are many benefits provided to AAA members, I join each year because I value the emergency road service coverage, which covers me in any car I am driving —mine, a borrowed vehicle, a leased car, or any car needing service in which I am a passenger (except for vehicles for hire, i.e., taxi or limousines). I don’t often have the need to use the emergency road service, but it gives me piece of mind to know that if I needed such service, it’s available to me. The $72 annual membership fee is worth the benefits the organization provides me. So, I continue to be a member each year.
I am also a member of the Society for Technical Communication (STC) because I find one of their two print magazines to be a great business resource, and I find several of the listserv email discussion groups of value. I usually extend my membership by paying a few extra bucks to join STC special interest groups (SIGs), usually those related to topics I’m researching or interested in. I don’t find much else of value in the organization for me personally, but there are plenty of benefits other members undoubtedly value (e.g. telephone seminars, leadership community, career center, salary database, conferences, educational sessions). Even though I only value two of the primary benefits offered by the organization to its members, I think the cost (this year $265) is worth what I get in return.
I am also a member of Information Architecture Institute (IAI) because I find the website a useful resource, especially the Networking Guide and the newsletter. I also benefit from the listserv discussions. I don’t use the other benefits the organization offers its members, but at $40US a year, IAI membership is a bargain!
I don’t feel the same way about Content Management Professionals (CM Pros). Today, membership is not worth the cost—even at the respectable price of $100US a year. This proclamation may seem strange to many of our readers who know I am one of the founding members of the organization and a big supporter of the overarching mission of the group, so let me explain. Aside from benefits you can receive from others without joining CM Pros (like free access to the Aberdeen Group research library, which subscribers of The Content Wrangler email newsletter can receive without paying any membership fees), CM Pros doesn’t really offer any benefits worth $100 (things you can’t get elsewhere for free). They have a periodic newsletter (not of much value) and they offer a few discounts on upcoming conferences (that you can find elsewhere with a quick search of Google). They also offer a discussion listserv and a press release announcements list. But, there’s seldom any meaningful discussion or announcements on those lists—and when there is, it is limited to the same dozen folks or so. For me, unlike membership in AAA, STC or IAI, the cost of joining CM Pros is not worth the membership fees the organization charges.
So, this year, as you consider where to spend your membership dollars, consider joining an organization that offers something of value that you just can’t get any where else. I know, I will.
Disclosure: I recently resigned as executive director of CM Pros. I believe in the purpose of the organization and support those who want to lead the organization into the future. I do not support the current board. I am not disgruntled. I left on my own accord. The primary reason for my departure was my frustration with the board of directors. As individuals, they’re a fine bunch of humans. But, as a group, they are wildly dysfunctional, ill-prepared to lead, and unable to work as a team (note: Barry Schaeffer, who recently joined the board to fill an empty seat left behind after Joan Lasselle resigned from the board, was never part of the problem). If current members of CM Pros could hear the way their elected representatives behave (how about a board meeting podcast?—now there’s a great idea!), they would toss them out of office. The organization had to seek help from a professional facilitator from the United Way who specializes in helping boards find ways to work together as a team. Within a hour or so of the United Way training, the fighting resumed. I knew then it was time for me to find another organization to help. The time and money we invested was wasted. Nothing significant came about. I resigned to spend time working on tasks that provide value to those I serve.