An association credential can be a career booster for the professional who holds it, conveying prestige and signaling the holder's knowledge and expertise. But administering a credentialing program is no easy task for the association that runs it.
Even so, for many organizations it's a worthwhile investment of time, money and other resources, according to new research from the ASAE Foundation and North Carolina State University's Institute for Nonprofits.
"The main research question that we were trying to answer was, ‘Are these types of programs of value to associations?' The answer clearly was ‘yes,'" says Mary Tschirhart, Ph.D., the institute's [former] director. "These programs are serving a wide range of stakeholders with a wide range of benefits."
The research showed that the benefits - including increased prestige, a competitive advantage for credential holders, promotion of ethical conduct and safeguarding the public, among others - can vary depending on the industry and the design of the credentialing program. Tschirhart says that's no surprise.
"Managers of credentialing programs are not trying to go after all the possible benefits. They're choosing which benefits they believe matter most to their members and then matching the design and delivery of the program to those interests," she says.
The research found that, for many associations, there is a clear business case for involvement in credentialing.
Of the 228 association leaders and credentialing representatives who responded to the survey, roughly 95 percent said the credential provides some benefit to the organization when it comes to reinforcing its values. More than 80 percent said that credentialed members are more likely to stay with the association, and more than 70 percent said the credential helps with member recruitment.
Credentialing also enhances engagement. "Members who have the credential tend to be much more active in the association," Tschirhart says. "They are more likely to hold leadership positions in the association, be leaders in their profession or industry, participate in association activities and be retained as members."
Tschirhart hopes to capture the perspective of the credential holder in future iterations of the study.
"It'd be interesting to see if the same sets of benefits that association leaders and credential managers identify are the ones that the credential seekers and holders see," she says.
Reprinted with permission. Copyright, ASAE: The Center for Association Leadership, August 2013, Washington, DC. Visit the Institute for Nonprofits website for more information about the ASAE Foundation Datasets for Nonprofit Research.
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