What you Give


Consider each of these benefits before joining an association. If education and training is the most important part of your membership, as it seems to be with most, find out which organizations offer training and what the cost is. Is it more or less expensive to obtain continuing education credits as a member or non-member? Also, ask current members why they joined a particular association and whether they are satisfied with the benfits. If they have the same goals as you and are getting what they need, great. Otherwise, you should look elsewhere for help.

The most obvious contribution you make to these organizations is the price of joining, which ranges from $50 to $750 per year). Be aware that some associations prorate the cost depending on what time of the year you join, while others do not. If the association doesn’t prorate, it makes more sense to join at the beginning of the year. Also keep in mind that many “benefits” of membership have additional fees. Associations may offer a discount for books, conferences or certifications, but is that discount worth the price of membership?

In addition to paying dues, there are rules and codes that members must follow to maintain membership. Most associations have a code of ethics that is similar to the code of the International Spa Association (ISPA) in Lexington, Ky. It reads, “As a member: I will be guided in all activities by truth, accuracy, fairness and integrity. I pledge loyalty to the association and agree to pursue and support its objectives…. I will utilize every opportunity to enhance the public image of the spa industry.” IHRSA’s Membership Pledge is a bit more specific. It states that, as a member, the club will, “[Refuse] to sell prepaid lifetime memberships; Not [guarantee] membership or renewal fees beyond a three-year period…; [and refuse] to engage in deceptive, high-pressure sales tactics,” among others.

You may also give your time, your opinion and your ideas to an association, but these are optional. If you decide to truly become a part of an association and attend meetings and regional events, you will probably be giving more than most people who are members, but then again, you will also probably be getting more out of your membership.

What they sell

In addition to selling memberships, most industry associations sell products and services to members, often at a discount, and often using a “preferred vendor.” The National Health Club Association (NHCA) in Denver, Colo., sells insurance to health clubs through American Service Finance. IDEA has an alliance with GreenTree.com, a supplement retailer, to develop incentive programs and promote the use of supplements among trainers and their clients. California Clubs of Distinction (CCD), a regional association in El Sobrante, Calif., sells janitorial items through its Waxie program, and it also sells insurance. Its Website states that although “CCD cannot guarantee the amount of savings you will experience … history has proven that every member club has saved more than their CCD dues just by participating in the worker’s compensation program.” Most associations that sell products and services make such claims, and they may or may not be true. Before joining any of these associations, consider why are you joining and whether that reason is worth the price. Maybe you can get insurance or supplies on your own at a better, or at least the same, rate.

Another service that associations sell is their mailing list. Associate members of AWHP, for example, receive a 10 percent discount on AWHP-member mailing lists.

Many other organizations also sell their lists, although some, such as NIRSA, restrict the use of their mailing lists to research, job listings and other non-product-related announcements. Napolitano warns about associations that are too anxious to sell you products and services in addition to the membership fee.

“The more [they] start selling things, the less it’s an association, and the more it’s a business.” If you disagree with the sales tactic, or have a problem with one of the products, services or companies that an association has an alliance with, you may not want to become a member. Find out everything you can about an organization before you join.

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