While there may be one or two associations or industry bodies that stand out as the most relevant for you, sometimes choosing the best ones to join can be a gamble. Sometimes, you end up joining so many that your annual membership subscriptions cost you many thousands and you stop and wonder if it’s all worth it.
- Institute of Chartered Accountants
- Institute of Public Accountants
- Australian Certified Practicing Accountants
- Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand
- National Institute of Accountants
- Financial Planning Association of Australia.
These are just a few of the professional associations recognised by the Australian Government’s Tax Practitioners Board. While there may be one or two associations or industry bodies that stand out as the most relevant for you, sometimes choosing the best ones to join can be a gamble. Sometimes, you end up joining so many that your annual membership subscriptions cost you many thousands and you stop and wonder if it’s all worth it.
David Boyer posted a query on this topic recently on LinkedIn and got lots of feedback. The general consensus was that everyone ponders the same question whenever the fees are due, but most people end up paying them each year regardless. David and Paul also looked at the pros and cons of association membership during their in-depth discussion in the From The Trenches episode Should Accountants Renew Their Professional Memberships?
Some of the benefits they came up with included the excellent professional development training opportunities for members and the recognition and respect it gets from clients.
Of course, there are many other benefits that associations can offer, especially the networking and job opportunities they provide along with the vast array of resources and events they offer.
The disadvantages of association membership
The standout factor here is the high cost of joining plus annual subscription fees.
Next on the list is time. If you went to every networking event or every training workshop on offer, you could end up spending more time each week on those activities than actually seeing your clients and building your business.
You might also find yourself wondering if your clients really care if you are a member of an industry association or not. Would they want to work with you anyway? Of course, in some cases, you need to be a member of certain associations in order to gain a licence or qualification to practice in your field of expertise. But, that’s not the case with all associations, so they really need to be dangling some big carrots to entice you to join them.
Another deciding factor that we may not always admit to is FOMO. The fear of missing out on doing what everyone else is doing (even if you don’t think it’s great value) might be enough to get you to sign up and pay your fees. After all, you don’t want to be the only one who can’t go to such and such an event because you’re not a member, do you?
To join or not to join?
The obvious factor to consider is whether signing up will give you a good return on your investment? Will it help you advance your career? Will it help you meet potential mentors or people of influence that you might not otherwise get to meet?
A different perspective that may help you is to consider who’s running the show, what they’re doing, and how they’re doing it? Is their board of directors made up of the diverse range of members they are trying to attract? For example, does it include some millennials and a good mix of people with diverse backgrounds or does it look more like an old-school men’s club?
“With an increasingly informed population and a myriad of ways in which to obtain information and professional development, associations do need to find new ways of engaging their members in a meaningful way … We know that how well an association understands members’ challenges, advocates for the profession or industry, and provides leadership to protect the interests and reputation of members, has a significant impact on member satisfaction, and propensity to renew and recommend membership to others.”
From the MemberBoat report Membership 2018: Australian trends and predictions
You might want to look further and discern whether your talents and philosophies align well with the values and policies of a particular association.
Does that help to narrow down the list for you?
In short, go with the associations that represent true value to you, that provide you with the resources and opportunities that you are looking for and that are changing with the times. The chances are that the ones you pick will be the ones that the colleagues you respect are gravitating toward, too, so, you won’t have to worry about FOMO after all.
Call to action
Many of the themes in this article came from Episode Should Accountants Renew Their Professional Memberships? presented by Paul Meissner and David Boyer. Paul & David are passionate CA's who care deeply about the accounting industry.
Paul quit his accounting day job seven years ago and now owns and runs the Melbourne-based firm, 5ways Group Chartered Accountants, and his online Freedom Accounting System firm which allows him to travel and work from anywhere.
For the last 4 years, David has worked as a Virtual CFO. At the start of 2016 he co-founded the Virtual CFO Association and in December 2016 his company, Sequel VCFO began franchising to mobilise the experienced work force of accountants in industry and bring their expertise to SMEs.
Together with their impressive list of guest presenters, Paul and David are the brave souls needed to fight through the noise and give accountants in practice the support and information they deserve.
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