Originally posted to Dear Ulla column in IMPACT on September 23, 2008
“In my workplace, participation in professional associations has not been a tradition. What are the strongest arguments in selling the idea that such participation is not only for personal professional benefit but also for the benefit of the organization?”
Talk about hitting close to home! In recent years I have been hearing that it is becoming more common for SLA members to foot their own memberships – a pity, but a testament to the members’ dedication. Do be prepared to pay out of your own pocket if the following four key arguments won’t convince the employer (I’m using SLA as an example but other associations may indeed be relevant for you as well):
- In today’s environment of rapid change, it is essential to stay on top of all the new tools and practices. Membership in SLA enables me to obtain access to a wealth of learning and access to a vast network of colleagues who stand ready to support my development so that I may increase my value to the organization: Here, give a bullet list of members-only benefits such as the management library, the innovation lab, the division-specific offerings, and so on – stating concretely how each benefits the organization because you expand your professional capabilities. At the end of the bullet list, indicate “all for only $xx per year – a fraction of the cost of [some other corporate service taken for granted].
- SLA’s annual conference gives me the opportunity to attend dozens of sessions with practical application to my work in supporting the organization (and whose equivalent cost in individual courses would be extremely expensive). Per session I can logistically attend – about 5 per day – the conference fee of X and travel cost of Y work out to a mere $Z – a very low investment given the return in terms of my ability to take new skills and insights back to the job.
- Membership allows me to participate – on my own time of course – in myriad activities at the local and national level, each serving to build my management and team leadership skills at no additional cost.
- Your support of my involvement with the premier professional association, at an annual cost of $X for membership and $y for conference attendance, is a concrete proof that you support the ongoing development and professional growth of staff at ABC Enterprise, and I pledge to deliver to ABC everything possible from that investment.
Finally, you could add a testimonial from a colleague in a relevant other organization (say, a competitor or organization your employer considers admirable). “As a result of my membership in SLA and my attendance at the conference, I have been able to ‘x’ so that DEF Enterprise gained ‘y’.”
Should the employer grant the budget, consider providing a brief “Value Report” after the conference and at a minimum every year at evaluation time to state clearly the benefits you have brought back to ABC Enterprise from the investment (“here’s how I applied ‘x’ to enhance our contribution to ‘y’”). Such a report may reassure the employer about the investment and should in addition serve to show that you as an individual are a professional who goes the extra mile for your employer.
Ulla de Stricker