By Anna Rivers, Marketing Manager of memcom
Following a few months of web development, we recently relaunched the memcom website and brand identity. We hope you all like the new look and feel and find it easier to navigate around the website and indeed enter the memcom 2018 awards. Launching a new website is a big undertaking, one I’m sure a lot of you can empathise with! We’re proud of the results. More importantly though, copywriting for the new website and reloading the most salient blog articles got us thinking about the pride we have for the professional association sector as a whole. A sector which, unfortunately, can sometimes be undervalued.
With this in mind, we decided to talk to some key players in the sector about how they feel about their jobs. The outcome is a worthy celebration of the work of professional bodies, membership associations and the wider not-for-profit sector. It’s great to reflect on the successes you all achieve and also to highlight why working in the sector is hugely fulfilling and worthwhile – a career plus often associated with working in the charity sector but not as readily credited to our own.
We all know that a key element of career satisfaction is feeling aligned with your company’s ethos and enjoying the tasks you do on a daily basis. But when you combine your professional skills with a cause that you really care about, you can bring that passion to a whole new level. Much like working for a charity, a career within the association sector enables you to support and further social causes that really mean something to you and, unsurprisingly, this was a recurring theme in our interviews.
Jane Hatfield, chief executive of the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH) told us, “I am very proud of helping to raise the status of this area of healthcare as it is so key to the lives of all women and men – having access to effective and safe contraception (and abortion) in particular has transformed our lives but it is easy to take it for granted.”
And Ben Massey, Marketing and Communications Manager, British Pest Control Association (BPCA), and Young Marketing Executive of the Year in the 2017 memcom awards, is just as passionate about the cause he works for: “Working in the association industry gives you a real sense of well-being. Being at the forefront of driving positive change, particularly environmentally and socially, certainly has its rewards.”
Denisa Gregorio-Rey, Member Services and Operations Manager for the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) values the fact that, “Working for the Royal College of GPs means that everything we do contributes to better patient care – it is hugely important to me that my role and my team delivery has wider impact for the society.”
And, in a similar vein, Gary Waltham, Executive Director, Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) told us: “As a user of NHS services, and of course having friends and family who are too, knowing that the organisation I work for and my role has a direct impact on improvements to patient care is very fulfilling.”
Working for a cause you care about can be liberating and it’s clear that people in the sector feel empowered by working based on their convictions. Chris Gush, Executive Director of Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) Knowledge explained, “I am inspired by the impact that the organisation can have on the profession. Helping what is already an excellent profession to continually improve.”
Ben Massey (BPCA) is also inspired by the impact an association can have, “We help people…’ could be said for a number of third sector organisations, and our association is no different. We help people learn about how to resolve their pest problems and, in some circumstances, save lives. The mosquito is the deadliest animal on earth, so we need to educate, support and communicate. We also help people enter the pest control industry, progress professionally and succeed commercially. Helping people to learn or succeed is part and parcel of what associations do, and for me, I wouldn’t want it any other way. I really enjoy the compelling messages we are able to illustrate in print and online…I am working for an organisation with a clear purpose that is shared across all departments.”
So, it’s clear that, in a similar way to working in charities, a life in professional bodies and membership associations brings with it a feeling of personal pride in furthering important social causes. And, perhaps as a result, this extends to a truly strong sense of pride for team achievements too. I’d like to come back to Ben Massey (BPCA) here who sums this up perfectly: “I am fortunate to work with a great team and each day we encounter a new challenge. We get our heads together to overcome that challenge and (we hope) improve a member’s experience, and maybe even make an impact to the big picture stuff in the process, day by day, piece by piece.”
And the sector is certainly not devoid of social merriment (naturally!). The strong sense of team spirit also extends to outside the work remit. Denisa Gregorio-Rey (RCGP) told us, “I also enjoy the social elements of RCGP (typical for the sector), we are always fundraising via fun activities – jumpers for Christmas, Halloween quizzes, baking cakes for Macmillan – the team spirit and atmosphere of being surrounded by like-minded colleagues is equally motivating.”
Whilst interviewing for this piece, the importance of networking and sharing insights with other organisations in the sector also shone bright. After all, it’s a universal truth that, by combining learnings, skills and experiences, organisations can achieve more than if they worked completely in silo. Ben Massey (BPCA) explained how: “I’ve worked in other associations before and I regularly attend knowledge sharing, or rather challenge sharing events. These types of activities are so useful and I have had most of my light-bulb moments surrounded by other associations.”
This ethos is also echoed at chief executive level by Jane Hatfield (FSRH): “Two years ago I set up an ‘action learning group’ with other CEOs in my peer group among the medical Colleges. We meet every couple of months and work through issues that are relevant to us all. We have a lot in common! It’s great to be able to tackle issues together and recognise that the issues are normal – particularly in membership bodies. There is always a danger that you can be a bit isolated as a CEO (perhaps less so in a membership body!) and I really value hearing from others about their experiences of managing in this sector.”
The importance of collaboration and knowledge sharing was brilliantly summarised by Denisa Gregorio-Rey (RCGP) : “knowing there is always someone you can turn to for advice in a similar role/organisation is like having a comfort blanket.”
As member expectations increase, we all know that increasing member engagement is a key priority and it’s clear that membership organisations and associations are increasingly focused on a ‘member first’ approach. What’s equally clear, is how inspiring interactions with members can be. This genuine dedication and loyalty shown to members was illuminated by Denisa Gregorio-Rey (RCGP): “I find all aspects of member contact and interactions hugely worthwhile – there is nothing more rewarding that a successful recruitment or retention campaign: persuading someone to join and support your organisation, engaging with members and, in particular, seeing the impact your work and organisation has on the career, well-being and social life of your members and their patients.”
Likewise, Ben Massey (BPCA) articulated: “If I were to throw in the towel tomorrow on my association professional career, I would most certainly miss it. No members to go and help, no forums to move policy forward and no compelling member stories to present. Bad times. But, I do think more and more the ‘commercial’ world is using the membership structure to engage their key stakeholders and customer groups. So, in a roundabout way, once the association way is in your blood, there is certain methodology to your madness. If the worst was ever to happen, non-association employer X may well be getting a membership structure whether they liked it or not!”
Never a dull moment, the word ‘variety’ came up a lot during our interviews for this article. And this variety is clearly having a positive impact on motivation and job satisfaction. Caz Dunn, Corporate Events Manager at the Royal College of Occupational Therapists (RCOT) and winner of Outstanding Achiever in a Membership Team in the 2017 memcom awards, loves the variety in her role: “From ordering branded pens, to writing speech notes for our Chairman and Chief Executive, designing and producing presentation slides, to being one step ahead (literally) of our Patron, HRH The Princess Royal at visits she undertakes on our behalf…I love the incredible variety in what I do each day and not knowing exactly which direction my day will take – despite my “absolutely, definitely, must deal with today” To Do list!”
The importance of variety was also highlighted by Denisa Gregorio-Rey (RCGP) – “The variety a membership role presents adds to the buzz of the job – not a day is the same and there are lots of balls to juggle, but the work is incredibly rewarding and never boring! The membership sector allows you to gain a wide range of skills and experience; you need to be able to use CRM and databases, run projects and events, have great customer service, people and communication skills and deal with various financial transactions amongst others. Although ‘membership’ for many will stick to the veins, for those that decide to leave the sector, many doors are open. Our team members who spread their wings ended up in research and marketing, project management, recruitment agencies and IT.”
So there we have it. A sector to be proud of. When people talk about making a difference to a profession and society at large, they beam with pride. Their whole face lights up, they smile. When you’re proud of the impact your work has on others, and enjoy this as a team and a wider sector, you experience more satisfaction along the way. And that’s why we believe that professional bodies and membership associations should stand up and be proud of what they do. Let’s all inject more pride into our normal humble rhetoric and shout about the valuable contributions the sector makes to society as a whole.
As a final point (and shameless hint!) don’t forget to celebrate your organisation’s success and reward those hard-working people within it. We loved Caz Dunn’s (RCOT) words: “My biggest achievement is winning the Outstanding Achiever in a Membership Team award at the memcom 2017 Membership Excellence Awards. A total surprise as have always just got on with it and done my best! It felt amazing to receive recognition for my hard work, dedication and the pride I take in my work.”
A huge thanks goes to all the interviewees who contributed to this article:
Jane Hatfield, chief executive of the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH)
Ben Massey, Marketing and Communications Manager, British Pest Control Association (BPCA)
Denisa Gregorio-Rey, Member Services and Operations Manager for the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP)
Gary Waltham, Executive Director, Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG)
Chris Gush, Executive Director of Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS)
Caz Dunn, Corporate Events Manager at the Royal College of Occupational Therapists (RCOT)