CE as a Member Benefit: Professional associations step up to fill a need
The role of professional associations has evolved over the years, along with professions themselves, but the core mission hasn’t changed all that much. Originally founded to further a profession (law, medicine, accounting, banking, etc.) as well as watch out for the public interest, professional associations are non-profit organizations set up to enforce ethics, training standards, and, in most cases, provide continuing education for members.
We see professional associations in action every day. And the organizations we come in contact with take the continuing education aspect of their mission very seriously. In this world of growing and shifting regulation and business practices, many professionals are required to stay current on new laws and industry standards. So much so, that CE may be one of the main reasons why some professionals stay connected to their industry associations.
The majority of professional organizations serve members in a particular state. Since many CE requirements are state requirements it makes sense that the state associations provide CE for members. Recently, I spoke with a customer, a large state bar association, about CE (or CLE, as they refer to it in the legal industry). He confirmed that continuing education is not only an important member benefit, but a critical revenue generator for the association. He told me that serving members is the number one priority for his organization and that the bar members consider continuing education a key benefit of membership. Their members also appreciate the fact that the bar provides very high quality continuing legal education at a reasonable price. This association has been able to keep prices down and convenience high by bringing CLE online--which their members consider a huge benefit. They also communicate with members regularly, to ensure that members are up-to-speed on courses available in their online catalog--another member benefit.
It’s interesting to think of a non-profit as a revenue generating entity, but the fact is that revenue generation enables an association to provide more benefits to members. Continuing education, in particular online CE, can be both the biggest non-dues revenue generator for an association and the biggest benefit an association can provide. If members are required to avail themselves of CE, to maintain certification or standing in their industry, it only makes sense that they would turn to their professional/state association. After all, who would be better prepared to provide it?
This same customer told me that, contrary to what one might expect, the longest standing bar members (seasoned lawyers) are the biggest proponents of online CE through the bar association. They like the fact that the bar provides the training and they love the CE technology, because it saves them time, and time is scarce and valuable. So online CE becomes an even bigger benefit in their eyes.
Online continuing education is something to think about, for any association looking to provide more value to existing members or attract new ones. It not only fills an important need for professionals, but can be a key revenue generator—which translates to even more benefits for members.