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The Power of Evolving an Association’s Value Proposition
The value proposition an association offers to its key constituencies is certainly central to its success and sustainability. And when marketplace trends and developments rapidly change member needs and desires, associations must evolve — and sometimes even reinvent themselves. Taking such action requires hard work and strong thinking from boards and staff. But, as seen in the case histories below, the rewards include both new growth opportunities and renewed relevance.

Expanding Reach

In 1975, the Alliance for Continuing Medical Education was founded in order to serve professionals who specialized in the delivery of continuing medical education (CME) programs to physicians.

Physicians are required to earn CME credits and meet state licensure requirements. “But over the years, continuing education requirements for licensure and quality patient care has continued to expand across the healthcare professional spectrum,” said Bob Addleton, the association’s president. Beyond physicians, there are nurses, pharmacists, allied health professionals, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, optometrists and a range of clinical specialists who require continuing education to meet state licensing requirements. In addition, educational information and programs had become available from a growing array of sources, including associations, specialty groups, medical societies and many for-profit enterprises.

“The association used to focus on only what the physician needed, so the looming challenge we knew we had to confront was: Could we continue to enable our members to educate physicians, but also extend our scope to other disciplines?” Addleton said. “Doing so would put our members in a position to capitalize on the opportunity to expand their careers beyond just providing CME programs to physicians and, for our benefit, would keep them from turning elsewhere for these services.”

Addleton noted that this was a huge cultural shift. But the association realized it had an opportunity — and perhaps even an obligation — to expand and also lead the discussion around setting professional continuing education standards in this fragmented marketplace. In December 2011, the board underwent a strategic planning process, taking a critical look at its mission, vision and identity. As a result, the organization re-launched itself as The Alliance for Continuing Education in the Health Professions (Alliance). In 2015, the board again examined its mission and vision from a strategic standpoint. This refinement supported the development of a three-year strategic plan (2016 — 2018) to guide its transformative initiatives.

The Alliance’s resources and benefits have been realigned to reflect the new direction. The Alliance Learning Center is a new suite of resources for a broad range of continuing medical education professionals. It includes topic-specific webinars and conference recordings, as well as a Competency Assessment & Lifelong Learning Series — a set of online learning tracks focused on professional development strategies based on a member’s number of years in practice. In addition, the Alliance’s National Learning Competencies, a comprehensive compendium of continuing education practitioner abilities in eight competency areas, ensures proficiency and expertise in the field.

The Alliance has three premier events each year. Recently renamed and reformatted to appeal to a wider audience, the Quality and Innovation Summit is designed for healthcare professionals interested in advancing quality and innovation across all areas of the healthcare industry, including continuing education. The Annual Conference and Alliance Industry Summit are also reflecting the updated focus of the association.

Perhaps the most significant development currently underway is that the Alliance is now the home for the Certified Healthcare Professional (CHCP) certification. “This is a tremendous undertaking that has involved extensive work to define core competencies, as well as develop the variety of new curriculums we will unveil over several years,” Addleton said.

Progress was not without growing pains. “We did lose members at first,” said Immediate Past President Ed Dellert. “We had to be vigilant in our communications with members in order to reassure them that we were not abandoning our roots, but diversifying and expanding.”

Addleton and Dellert are excited about the future of the Alliance. “We’ve begun to see an increase in membership already as former members return to us and new groups of professionals realize the work, resources and benefits we are providing to serve their needs.”

Advocacy for a New Era

For more than 30 years, COMPTEL was an organization (known from 1981 to 1985 as ALTEL) comprised mainly of local and regional suppliers — or value-added resellers — of telephone services to businesses of all sizes. Many were struggling to stay in business before they banded together as COMPTEL and fought for deregulation policies that changed the industry.

“We have a long history of advocating for a competitive marketplace,” said the group’s Chief Executive Officer Chip Pickering, also a former member of the United States House of Representatives from 1997 through 2009.

“But as telecom and cable evolved to include data and Wi-Fi, COMPTEL recognized that the same issues and concerns that have applied to members over the years hold equally compelling weight for companies like Amazon, Google, Hulu, Netflix and others,” Pickering said. The sector also includes many kinds of technology and communications providers, and myriad suppliers and vendors in the voice, data and Internet Protocol (IP) space. Their success — as well as their ability to ensure consumer access at competitive prices — is ultimately based on a sound and stable Internet infrastructure unfettered by monopolistic influences.

“When markets change as quickly as they did in the digital world, we realized our brand had to shift as well,” Pickering said. “We needed an identity that would appeal to all the players in the emerging digital economy, while also maintaining the equity we’ve established over the years with Capitol Hill, state legislatures and international courts.”

Following extensive research, COMPTEL designed a new name and brand, and, at its October 2015 industry conference, re-launched itself as INCOMPAS. There is strong significance in every element of the name: “IN” signifies inclusivity, while “COMP” was retained to represent the founding principle of competition. The “AS” evokes a sense of action and urgency. The organization also introduced a new tagline — THE FUTURE OF COMPETITION — and themes of advocacy, innovation and leadership became the focus of its member communications and events.

“Technology has changed, but what we stand for hasn’t,” Pickering said. With more than 150 member companies, INCOMPAS is now the leading trade association for communications and technology companies and competitive networks, but it continues to primarily advocate for laws and policies that promote competition, innovation and economic development.

“INCOMPAS members take great pride in their profession and in their industry,” Pickering said. “Our identity as INCOMPAS now supports the role we play in preserving a competitive marketplace, which is at the heart of our promise to members. That promise is the North Star for everything we do.”
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MAY 2016 EDITION
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Board Forward is published 10 times a year by SmithBucklin, the association management and services company more organizations turn to than any other. SmithBucklin has served volunteer board members for more than 60 years.

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