If you thought college or graduate school was the end of your formal education, think again. The highest-performing individuals in any organization are the ones who constantly strive to keep abreast of the latest news in their industry and regularly look for opportunities to sharpen their skills. That’s why people join professional organizations. These regional, national and international associations often offer top-notch networking and educational opportunities. The annual conference is an excellent opportunity for training, as are webinars and regional events, but has your association considered offering accredited association certificate program management?
If your association struggles with how to provide more value to its members, it may be time to consider such a program. This is especially true if your association membership spans multiple generations and if members are at differing stages of their careers. Today the average member of an association faces a number of challenges in the competitive job market. Everyone wants to stand out from the crowd, and a struggling economy and high unemployment only exacerbate workers’ desires to elevate their learning.
A certification program may be the answer to driving membership growth while creating non-dues revenue and strengthening your association’s mission and industry stature. It can also help your organization stand out in a crowded marketplace while providing the tools for members to highlight their expertise to current and potential employers and clients.
Regardless of why an organization might be considering this option, doing so is a significant undertaking and should be investigated thoroughly. It is not an easy endeavor to take on, so before you dive in, make sure you have the resources and ability to launch and manage the initiative.
The process for developing a successful program is labor intensive, but the long term benefits may be significant. So what should you consider?
Gauge Interest. While one or several people may have expressed an interest in certification, is there general interest in the marketplace? Have you surveyed your membership, and even your prospects, to determine their needs and interest? Are there similar programs out there or will yours be the first? What are the advantages and disadvantages in pursuing a certification program? Be objective in your evaluation.
Create an Outline. Consider the potential scope of the accredited association certificate program management you envision and what type of content you will use. This may fall to the person who handles education for the association or you may choose to appoint a committee to handle the project.
Evaluate Funding Options. Does the association have enough money to launch a certification program? If not, look at what avenues it may have available as it seeks to procure those funds. How much will the initial program creation cost and how much will it cost to administer thereafter? It’s expected that an organization will amortize the start-up costs over a period of years, but consider how much you can charge for the program and if it will be enough to help defray the initial investment. As tempting as it may be to charge more money, remember that you can only charge as much as the market will bear. Be conservative with your enrollment projects and course cost. Charging too much for the certification could decrease the number of course registrations, something you want to avoid. You will also want to determine if there will ever be a time when the program will pay for itself.
At some point, after you have collected data and performed your analysis, there will need to be a decision on whether or not to pursue a certification program. Look at the costs, scope and market interest and honestly evaluate if it makes sense to launch accredited association certificate program management.
If you determine that it is wise to proceed, consider the following steps:
Set up Governance. It will be legally necessary to set up certification program governance that is separate from the association management. Appoint public members who have no vested interest in the association. You will need to establish organization bylaws, along with a description and a structure of board members, officers, committees and staff members involved.
Who will design and develop the program? Do you need any specific licensing to begin your certification program? And once the program is created, who will administer it? Make sure you have the necessary staff to handle ongoing management of the program. You can hire an outside expert or use the expertise available from within your organization.
Create requirements. Devise requirements for both the initial certification and subsequent re-certifications. Who will be eligible to register for certification? Consider education, work experience, reference, skills, association membership, participation in educational activities and committees as well as speaking at association events as potential criteria.
Establish a Structure. Will you launch an online course, and if so, how many modules will there be? Will you have quizzes at the end of each module and a final exam at the end or will you use an alternate evaluation system, like interviews or portfolio review?
Determine Evaluation Standards. How will you develop reliable credential criteria and assessments? What are the critical skills you are needed to impart and how will you evaluate the accredited association certificate program management effectively? Will you test participants’ knowledge with quizzes at the end of each module and a final exam at the end or use a different assessment method? Will there be assessments done on-site at the participant’s location or will the materials be sent to a central location? Will you use a multiple choice assessment or another type of performance assessment like essay, portfolio or case study? Whatever you decide will affect the program’s cost.
Develop a Marketing Strategy. What methods will you use to promote the program within the industry? Creating a course for accredited association certificate program management is great, but in order to make it the go-to industry standard and drive association growth, you will need a strategy to spread your message and drive participation. Consider issuing a press release and maybe a video. Attend industry conferences and set up a booth to market your program. Make sure to allocate enough time to execute your marketing and communications strategy or you may struggle to achieve projected enrollment numbers.