How Valuable Are Associations?

A Forbes blogger discusses the importance of membership

11 May 2012

How valuable is your IEEE membership? A recent blog post on says that if you belong to a professional association like IEEE, you are part of “the most powerful [content] curation club you could ever imagine and you don’t even know it.” What’s a curation club, you say? Think of it as a group of people who have the expertise in a subject area to highlight relevant content—in IEEE’s case, technical information.

Members of such associations “are a veritable who’s who of thinkers and doers…which puts associations squarely at a powerful crossroads of content and curation,” writes Steven Rosenbaum, an entrepreneur who has started the video curation company In his post, Rosenbaum examines the importance of belonging to a professional association after attending Digital Now 2012. The two-day conference, held 25 to 28 April, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., covered the critical issues facing association leaders in today’s digital age. Among those he spoke with was IEEE Senior Member Matt Loeb, who is also executive director of the IEEE Foundation.

Why is membership to a professional association so important?

“First of all, associations are a veritable content creation machine,” Rosenbaum writes. “These groups of thought leaders are blogging, tweeting, meeting, and plugging in to social media with innovation and enthusiasm that in many ways surpasses many of the media organizations that I know well.”

And despite difficult times, these associations have been doing well, Rosenbaum notes: “While [the] media is suffering from audience erosion, as the Web gives readers and viewers an ever widening array of choices, association membership remains strong and solid. Why? Because professionals need access to high-quality information, professional networking, and professional development resources that a consortium of their fellow members can provide.” Certainly IEEE membership has been holding strong, rising for the past few years and reaching a record 415 989 last year.

But associations like IEEE can’t sit on their laurels as members get overwhelmed by an ever-increasing amount of information online, Rosenbaum argues. “There’s just too much information and too much noise,” he says, adding that’s why professional associations should shift from being content publishers to curators.

However, that would be no easy undertaking—especially for IEEE. “Associations pride themselves in being the trusted publisher of often exclusive information,” Rosenbaum says. “In the case of the IEEE, 30 percent of the worlds technical information is published by them. So thinking about how to share information from other sources, and how to walk the line between making members aware of other voices without necessarily endorsing them is a complex bit of content calculus.”

How valuable do you think belonging to a professional association like IEEE is? Do you agree with Rosenbaum that associations should shift from being content creators to content curators?


Photo: Robert Churchill/iStockphoto

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