Magazine Online    The Authority On African-American Conventions, Incentives, & Leisure Travel
Issue: May/June 2010
Outside Organization Membership: Yes or No? By Greg Deshields

In today’s business climate, it is important for organizations to engage with key counterparts, trendsetters and future leaders to ensure an internal and external conversation of ideas, opportunities and perspectives. Although organizational membership is not always logistically and financially feasible, it should be a part of your annual strategic plan discussion. The value of organization membership should not be underestimated. While the number of hospitality/tourism-related associations, groups, councils and bureaus may seem endless, it is crucial to evaluate those that can support and assist your organization in achieving its goals.

At Temple University’s School of Tourism and Hospitality Management (STHM), we prioritize interaction with industry, primarily through membership with various organizations. The priceless opportunities that result are unique to each relationship. For example, to fulfill our diversity initiative, which is to enrich the tourism, hospitality, recreation and sport industries by fostering diversity and inclusion, it is crucial that we are involved with organizations such as the Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA), Hispanic Hotel Owners Association (HHOA), National Association of Black Hotel Owners, Operators and Developers (NABHOOD), and National Society of Minorities in Hospitality (NSMH). This participation cultivates mutually beneficial and long-lasting relationships, ultimately enhancing opportunities for the future leaders of the hospitality industry.

According to the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), members join outside organizations for a variety of reasons – networking, camaraderie, volunteerism and continuing education among them – but not everyone values the same things.

Four reasons people join associations:
  1. Specific association services. This can include the production of newsletters and magazines or lobbying or representation.
  2. Professional or business gain. If you're a member of a trade association (an association whose members are companies or institutions), then you'll join because of the marketplace-like environment. If you're in a professional association (an association whose members are individuals and practitioners of a certain profession) then you'll join because of the individual cachet you get, the networking opportunities and the opportunities for career advancement.
  3. The association's image. The association is large, visible and projects quality.
  4. Benefit to the industry or profession. People want to be in a position of influencing the direction of the organization and/or industry
Additionally, when selecting the appropriate organization, you should research their longevity, affiliations, values and mission similarity (to your own organization), as well as cost and ability to collaborate.

At STHM, our memberships are lucrative due to core similarities such as education and professional development. These similarities create relationships that are reciprocal on numerous levels such as managing political, financial and promotional initiatives. But you should be careful of your commitments and realize that not all projects or proposals are for you. Once you determine your reasons for joining, it is important to know the benefits associated with any outside organization validating your membership.

Traditional Member Benefits:
  • Improved relationships with government and public
  • Best practice resources
  • Higher level of respect and credibility as an industry
  • Success in reframing negative perceptions to a positive
  • Greater ability to self-police and self-regulate with peer-to-peer support, mentorship
  • Quick and efficient framework to mobilize business owners around an urgent topic
  • Easier access to government agencies to discuss public policy proposals deemed unreasonable or restrictive
  • Education/professional development
  • Information, research, statistics
  • Standards, codes of ethics, certification
  • A forum to discuss common problems and solutions
  • Opportunities to further a specific mission, including volunteering, community service
  • Providing a community of interest
Organization membership can be an important part of your business strategy and can provide another route to achieve your goals. Knowing the priorities of your organization and the resources of potential partners are keys to making the right choice. Joining an organization requires dedication, but your involvement will help you stay on top of what's happening in the hospitality and tourism industries. It may also help inspire ideas that, in turn, could grow your business.