Make Room for New Members With an Offshoot Association

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recently helped launch a new association, the American Alliance for Healthy Sleep, to bring together members of the professional and patient communities. The collaboration could be a powerful way to boost advocacy and education about sleep disorders.

When is it time to move beyond your traditional membership base and engage new people in your mission? The answer probably starts with a need you think you can fill.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine realized the time was right when it saw patients looking for help and resources related to sleep disorders. For decades, AASM had focused on serving doctors and other healthcare providers, but the association saw an opportunity to expand its constituency and broaden its mission, says President Dr. Ilene M. Rosen. The result: an offshoot association with a different kind of membership community.

“The American Academy of Sleep Medicine established the American Alliance for Healthy Sleep to bring healthcare providers and patients with sleep disorders together to promote healthy sleep for all,” she says.

Patti Van Landingham is the recently appointed chair of the American Alliance for Healthy Sleep (AAHS) and one of the millions of Americans with a sleep disorder. Starting this year, the two associations will begin to partner on advocacy, events, and educational opportunities.

“We want to work alongside other associations that share a common interest,” Van Landingham says. “Collaboration between our members will be the real key moving us forward.”

Over the past year, Van Landingham has been working with AASM to establish bylaws and directives that ensure the organizations work together as trusted partners. That mindset is being reinforced by a shared office space at AASM’s headquarters in Darien, Illinois.

Of course, two associations living under one roof can have its challenges. For starters, the similar-sounding names might result in name or acronym confusion. It’s one of the reasons why AAHS adopted branding that includes the tagline “Sleep Allies” to distinguish it from the professional association.

Another key to success is ensuring the right balance between organizational independence and AASM control. According to the AAHS bylaws [PDF], AASM appointed two initial directors and will approve all candidates to the AAHS board. Meanwhile, AASM’s board of directors also has the right to approve or deny any changes to the AAHS bylaws.

But AAHS has autonomy to host meetings, raise funds, and collect dues. One early recruitment strategy, so far, has been to the set the dues rate low—just $25 for two years—to bring in as many members as possible. That’s also helping to draw in a few AAHS-AASM dual members.

“You have to lose the thought that you’re in direct competition with each other,” Van Landingham says. “We recognize that we are two separate organizations, and we may work together on certain projects, but we want to work with any group supporting physicians or patients to have a platform and shared voice.”

Right now, with about 100 members, AAHS is in growth mode. And AAHS has plans to host a summit coinciding with SLEEP, a joint annual meeting hosted by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society.

The event will be a chance to introduce attendees of the large professional conference to the benefits of AAHS membership, Van Landingham says.

“We’re inviting all the other organizations to come to a summit where we can hear from them and they can hear from us,” she says. “Together, we feel that we can fill a gap and be stronger together than we were before, because our members share so many common goals and interests.”

(BrianAJackson/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Tim Ebner

By Tim Ebner

Tim Ebner is a senior editor for Associations Now. He covers membership, leadership, and governance issues. Email him with story ideas or news tips. MORE

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