Here at Morgan Hollingworth, our expertise lies in managing all aspects of trade and professional associations.  It is our job to create value for our client organizations and deliver exceptional service to their leaders, members and other stakeholders – but it wasn’t until recently, when I joined a professional association for myself, that I fully understood the value of membership in an organization such as those that we manage on a daily basis.  Below, I have outlined some of the benefits of joining a professional or trade association and I ask that you take a moment, read them over, and then do a little research for yourself to find an organization that will benefit you!

• Networking opportunities. It never hurts to talk with others in your line of work and when you join a professional organization, you will be provided with ample opportunities to deepen existing business relationships and make new contacts.  No matter the level of your involvement – whether it’s attending monthly luncheons, volunteering on a committee, or joining the discussion in an online forum – your membership will allow you to establish ongoing relationships with others who have common professional interests and similar business concerns. These relationships will inevitably serve as a rich source for ideas, inspiration, advice and friendship.

• Continuing Education. As the saying goes, “knowledge is power,” and many professional and trade associations offer their members the opportunity to update their knowledge or acquire new job skills through luncheons, workshops, conferences, publications, webinars and other online courses .

• Exclusive Online Resources. Most professional organizations have a “members-only” section on their website, which provides access to exclusive content such as best practices, white papers, job listings, webcasts, podcasts, message boards and listservs.

• Leadership Opportunities. Whether it’s for local chapter meetings or an annual international conference, the possibilities are nearly limitless in terms of levels of participation with a professional or trade association.  Build your leadership skills by serving on a board, chairing a committee, or leading a research group within the organization.

• Discounts. In most cases, professional associations will offer their members discounted registration for monthly events, annual conferences and other workshops.  Your membership may also provide access to discounts on goods and services offered by affiliate organizations.  Furthermore, membership in many groups includes free subscriptions to the organization’s newsletters, magazines and/or journals.

Ok, now that you know the benefits of membership in a professional or trade association, start looking for the one that best suits you! These organizations are easy to find if you know where to look. One resource you may want to consult first is the National Trade & Professional Associations Directory (published by Columbia Books). The latest 2010 edition presents detailed contact and background information on over 7,800 trade associations, professional societies, technical organizations, and labor unions in the United States.