It is that time of year: the association membership renewal season. A time where every state and national association you have ever been a member of reaches out to you to ask, encourage and, sometimes, even bribe you to join or rejoin.
In 2019, I have belonged to no fewer than seven state and national associations in the audiology/otolaryngology spaces. These costs run, each year, around $1500 total in dues and memberships alone. In the past, I have joined these entities in order to support them and their cause, mission or movement. Like many of you, I joined because I thought I should. In 2019 though I have done a bit of soul and my hope is that my journey will help my colleagues also reconsider their choices in 2020.
First, let’s start at the state level. In my opinion, state audiology associations are the best value, and undeniably, the most important membership to have and maintain. Why you may ask? First, a state license is the only requirement to practice audiology in the United States. Period. ASHA and/or AAA certification, while possibly being required by a smattering of employers, is not a requirement to be an audiologist and is redundant to licensure. State audiology associations and their volunteers help seat licensure boards, create and shepherd licensure act and rules changes, and respond to legislative, regulatory, and managed care threats and opportunities. In other words, it is these folks that help protect our day to day right to practice and landscape in which we work. Secondly, they offer affordable and easy access to continuing education opportunities. Finally, they are a wonderful place to network with your “neighbors”. Unfortunately, state audiology associations are underrepresented in almost every state. The membership numbers just do not reflect the acknowledgment of the invaluable role they play in our practices. Audiologists want folks to protect their scope of practice but do not realize that it takes membership, convention attendance and fundraising dollars to make that happen! A lobbyist, which is required at the state level, costs an association between $20,000 and $50,000 every year! If there is one membership I will NEVER give up, it is my membership in my state association, which, in my case, is the Illinois Academy of Audiology. It is the best $115 can ever spend!
Now, national audiology associations offer a tougher decision because there are so many options. Did you know that audiology, despite is rather small size, is represented by no fewer than ten stakeholder groups and more than one “parent” group, who each purport to represent the profession? These parent groups can say they are the main representation because many of us belong to both groups. As a result, they each get to count us as one of them. This fragmentation could be part of our demise. We need to decide who we want to represent us and our profession and end the days of being part of so many groups. I know this is hard; I too need and will be making this decision for 2020. Here are the things I am considering in making my decision:
· Whose organizational mission, and accompanying actions, best represent my vision for the future of the profession?
· Which organization do I trust to protect the profession of audiology over it is own association interests?
· Which organization is honest and transparent in their dealings with members and colleagues?
· Which organization has the human and financial resources to move the profession of audiology forward?
· Which organization offers valuable member benefits, journals, and training opportunities?
· Which organization responds in a timely, honest manner to member inquiries and concerns?
· Which organization has the best vision and plan for audiology’s legislative and regulatory future?
· Which organization has a “hill they are willing to die on” where they put the well-being of the profession ahead of the survival of the association?
· Which organization is the most inclusive?
· Which organization provides the best value of the member dollars I paid?
I am going to decide, in 2020, between the American Academy of Audiology (AAA) and the American Speech Language Hearing Association (ASHA) memberships once and for all in 2020. I encourage many of my colleagues to consider doing the same so both organizations cannot say they represent each of us. We need a true, singular professional leader and membership (like voting) is the only way our voices can be heard and that our message can be clear and consistent.
Despite the fact that I feel as though I should support and be represented by one of the two larger audiology associations, for me, the Academy of Doctors of Audiology is my professional home because my professional value and priorities best mesh with theirs. While I would LOVE to see it as the primary audiology association (because they have and continue to do so much for all of the profession given their limited size), I am not sure that is realistic. Each of you may also have another professional association that is not AAA or ASHA and better serves your professional needs. If so, great! But, again, I encourage all of us to support AAA OR ASHA as well as these other valuable associations. I, for example, will remain an ADA member and a member of ASHA or AAA. These decisions will also reduce my costs and give me dollars to donate to advocacy or awareness initiatives.
Finally, I have been a member of the Academy of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery for at least two decades. I find their clinical guidelines and resources to be stellar, as well as the access to a plethora of excellent journals. In 2020, I have to decide if continuing this membership is in the best interest of me, my clients, and the profession.
Think about it, if each of us dropped association memberships that are not valuable to us, our daily practice, our patients, or our profession and moved even a portion of those monies into supporting our state audiology associations or funding political action or awareness or audiology, where we could be. Washington DC lobbyists are $150,000+ per year. If every audiologist did not renew at least one national membership next year and spent at least one-third of those dues on joining their state association and at least one-third on a political action committee, advocacy or awareness donation, you could save approximately $100 for your family, raise approximately $5000 - $10000 for every state association and raise approximately $900,000 for the future of our profession.
Audiology has limited numbers and even more limited human and financial resources. We have to make sure that we are using our resources wisely and that we have a singular voice representing us. We face many professional challenges in the coming years and it is VITAL that we have an entity representing and protecting us, as well as making the hard choices need to advance our profession.