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National Association of Associations

Greetings from our nation’s capital, home to over 2,000 of our nation’s 7,600 trade associations. No surprise, as one of the main functions of a trade association is to influence public policy. Add to that hefty number all our regional and state sub-associations, and the legions of lobbyists and industrial relations consultants and… well, you get the picture of a vast and very lucrative Beltway Business Model.

I always advocate active membership in trade associations for my clients. It’s the fastest way to align with influential partners, become a thought leader, and expand globally. While always worth the dues, they can be a time trap for small and midsized businesses. A smart CEO of a growing company will insulate his team from association committee work and regional meetings, which tend to become glad-handing boondoggles. They’re the perfect chance for big fish in small ponds to show off! Instead, the CEO should encourage his team to pursue continuing education and certification programs they offer, and his marketing and sales teams should be leading sponsors at trade shows and in co-marketing campaigns.

This morning, I walked past the National Rural Letter Carriers Association head office, in a very new, un-rural office complex, and I wondered just how many NRLCA members there are. Could they all perhaps fit in the lobby? Next door is a two-building, multi-story complex of offices for the Society of Human Resources Management. Really glad to know that the Soap and Detergent Association and the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals are also nearby… doing their best to keep national politics squeaky clean!

I think I’ll start up a National Association of Associations… though it appears that the American Society of Associations beat me to it.


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Avatar photo Bill Brantley

“Only those associations that are formed in civil life without reference to political objects are here referred to. The political associations that exist in the United States are only a single feature in the midst of the immense assemblage of associations in that country. Americans of all ages, all conditions, and all dispositions constantly form associations. They have not only commercial and manufacturing companies, in which all take part, but associations of a thousand other kinds, religious, moral, serious, futile, general or restricted, enormous or diminutive. The Americans make associations to give entertainments, to found seminaries, to build inns, to construct churches, to diffuse books, to send missionaries to the antipodes; in this manner they found hospitals, prisons, and schools. If it is proposed to inculcate some truth or to foster some feeling by the encouragement of a great example, they form a society. Wherever at the head of some new undertaking you see the government in France, or a man of rank in England, in the United States you will be sure to find an association.”

Democracy in America
by Alexis de Tocqueville
Chapter 5, Volume I