The Job of Membership, In So Many Words

By / Jun 4, 2014 (iStock/Thinkstock)

What is today’s association membership pro asked to do? A lot, if you go by what words turn up most frequently in membership job listings.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, how many words is a membership job listing worth?

A lot of those terms pointed to an overall 30,000-foot look instead of just ‘We’re looking for a person to call people who haven’t renewed.’

How does 279 sound? In 2013, ASAE’s listed 312 job openings for membership positions at associations, and their total word count came to just shy of 87,000. That’s a lot of words. One might wonder: What do all those words say about the state of membership jobs in associations?

OK, maybe you’ve never wondered this. But now you can find out, because I did my own armchar analysis of this mountain of text, and I shared what I found in “Membership Memo: Job Description” in the May/June issue of Associations Now.

The key result? Association membership pros are asked to do a lot of wide-ranging stuff. The top 10 most common words illustrate this nicely:

Membership Jobs Word Cloud

(Note: Sizes reflect total appearances of a word and its variants, such as -s, -ed, -ing, and so on. Excluded from the list were nonsubstantive words like new or key, common words like conjunctions and prepositions, and words clearly skewed by the job-listing context, such as membership, position, and duties.)

To get an even fuller picture, see the list in the box at left of words that appeared at least 100 times across those listings. Words like web, data, chapter, event, campaign, and board only speak further to this variety in job functions within membership.

Laurie Kulikosky, CAE, director of strategic development at the American Society of Transplant Surgeons and chair of ASAE’s 2013–2014 Membership Section Council, says these words capture what a lot of membership professionals have felt and known for a long time. “A lot of those terms pointed to an overall 30,000-foot look instead of just ‘We’re looking for a person to call people who haven’t renewed.'”

You might recall the discussion here last year when I asked if membership experience matters in the association CEO role. Some evidence suggested that not a lot of membership pros move on to become CEOs. The scope of work that these job-listing words points to would suggest, however, that membership work is at least providing a broad foundation of experience in the workings of an association.

“I’m hoping that this means that chief executives of associations are trying to identify more strategic people in this role to advise them because they’re not necessarily coming from that [background],” says Kulikosky, “and that maybe we’ll see a shift, that you will see more people are coming up through membership that are being asked to perform more complex roles, and we’ll see more executives coming out of that role.”

If this is the case, if there’s a potential shift happening that would make membership pros more ripe for top-level executive positions in associations, I suspect a prime source of that would be membership professionals’ role in putting data to work. As associations (and their boards and CEOs) look at data more and more as a crucial to their decision making, who are they turning to? The people overseeing the member database, that’s who.

In my analysis of the membership job listings, I left data and database separate, but if you lumped them together they would have moved up to fifth on the list. In other words, associations are turning to their membership pros to be pros at data management and analysis. Get really good at that and you’ve got a strong selling point to add to your résumé.

If you’re curious and want to take a look at the full list of words from the membership job listings, you can download the Excel file [XLS]. I’d love to hear your observations and thoughts.

To close, I’ll share a list of 18 words that appeared only once among those 312 listings. I have no deep observations about these, other than that I found them interesting. Maybe you will, too.



















Joe Rominiecki

Joe Rominiecki, manager of communications at the Entomological Society of America, is a former senior editor at Associations Now. More »


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