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The top 100: associations of size: who they are and what they are like.

ASSOCIATION MANGEMENT'S Top 100 list is back, and this year we're highlighting associations with the most members, the largest staffs, and the biggest budgets.

Just as nonprofit organizations are important sources of information about particular industries, professions, and areas of interest-associations are second only to the government as providers of statistics of all types-lists such as "The Top 100" provide an important overview of numerous facets of the association community.

But what about the vital statistics of those associations? How many types of associations are there, and which categories tend to be the largest? How does your association compare to other associations of similar membership and staff size? 'The Top 100" invites you to compare and contrast some of the nation's largest associations and explore the diversity of the association community.

Our information comes from the 1991 Encyclopedia of Associations, published by Gale Research Company, Detroit, and is based on data collected between August 1990 and March 1991.

Gale Research employs a broad definition of associations, including national nonprofit membership associations; international associations that are North American in scope or binational, representing a direct link between the United States and another country; local and regional associations with national objectives; nonmembership organizations that provide information to the public as well as the researcher; and for-profit organizations if their names suggest that they are nonprofit organizations. Subsidiaries of associations may also appear in the lists. Only data reported to Gale Research by associations are included in the list, and participation is voluntary.

As in previous editions of "The Top 100" we have attempted to screen out associations categorized as primarily labor, fraternal, or religious organizations, because each of these categories by itself would dominate a top 100 list.

Organizations with religious connections that have primarily social welfare, professional, or consumer purposes are included in Gale's ranking.

American Association of Retired Persons, Washington, D.C.

AARP is a membership organization for people 50 years of age or older that strives to improve every aspect of living for older people. AARP serves the needs and interest of 32 million members through legislative advocacy, research, education, and community services provided by a network of local chapters and volunteers across the United States.

Recruitment rate: AARP membership consists of 52 percent of Americans ages 50 and older. Each day, 6,000-8,000 people join AARP, and the retention rate is approximately 80 percent, depending on the age category. AARP expects its membership to stay constant for the next three to four years, with a change expected in 1996 when the first baby boomer tums 50 and AARP faces the challenge of meeting the changing needs and expectatxons of potentially 76 million additional members.

Best recruitment strategy: Communication. AARP recruits members primarily through direct mail and magazine and television advertising, but word of mouth results in substantial member recruitment as well. According to Horace Deets, executive director of AARP, member referral is an important recruitment strategy because it reflects the level of satisfaction and trust that members have in the organization. AARP also uses a wide range of publications to communicate with members, including Modern Maturity, a bimonthly magazine with the largest circulation in the country, and the AARP News Bulletin, printed 11 times per year.

Meeting the needs of a large membership: "You've got to be as clear as possible in responding to the needs and expectations of your membership," says Deets. "Well-designed surveys by phone or mail are absolutely necessary for assessing the needs of a large membership, but you also have to go to the local level to give the individual member an opportunity to express himself. "AARP sponsors numerous forums around the country where national staff, board members, and chapter leaders establish a dialogue with members at the local level. addressing priority issues such as national health care and worker equity. Encouraging feedback from members at local meeungs enables AARP to respond to specific concerns. "To maintain quality service, it is important to put [an emphasis] on communication, to know the needs of your members," says Deets. "No two members are alike. You have to treat members as individuals and put them together on a common path."

American Automobile Association, Heathrow, Florida

Triple-A is a federation of 145 affiliated auto clubs providing emergency road services, domestic and foreign travel serv|ces, financial services, insurance, mapmaking, and travel book publishing to 31 million members.

Recruitment rate: Triple-A has grown in size at a rate of approximately 1 million members per year since 1980, with a renewal rate of 88 percent in 1991.

Rest recruitment strategy: Quality, personalized service. According to Allan Plank, managing director of Triple-A marketing, Triple-A's 145 auto clubs strive to establish a presence within their communities so that members come to rely on the local Triple-A as a neighborhood organization rather than a large, impersonal business. Marketing is done on a localized basis, with each of the auto clubs handling its own recruiting through direct mail, sales forces, telemarketing, and in-house staff. By making sure members feel at home in their local auto clubs, Triple-A provides dependable, individualized service that Plank cites as a primary vehicle for sustaining such a large membership.

Meeting the needs of a large membership: Tripte-A increases the perceived value of membership by offering numerous benefits and communicating with members regularly through publications. As a service organization, Triple-A recognizes the importance of focusing on member needs and has extended its benefits beyond emergency road service to include extensive travel and financial services. Increased benefits enhance the value of membership and have given Triple-A a reputation for being much more than a traditional auto club, according to Plank. In addition, each of Triple-A's clubs provides monthly, bimonthly, or quarterly magazines or newsletters to members. The club publications keep members informed about automotive, travel, energy, environmental, and legislative topics through information supplied by the national headquarters.

National Geographic Society, Washington, D.C.

The National Geographic Society (NGS) is a membership organization of 10.5 million people interested in the increase and diffusion of geographical knowledge. The society sponsors research and expeditions in the geographic and social sciences throughout the world. Publications include National Geographic, Traveller, and WORLD magazines, nature books, atlases, maps and globes, and childrens' books. NGS also produces television programming and develops teaching materials for classroom use from elementary schools through high school.

Recruitment rate: NGS will attract 1.5 million members during the 1992 membership year, with an 84 percent retention rate.

Best recruitment strategy: According to James V. Bullard, senior assistant director of promotions, NGS relies heavily on three important recruitment strategies. The first is direct mail to noncustomers, which is both necessary and successful because it reaches the greatest number of people at the most efficient cost; the second is mailings to current members encouraging them to give NGS membership to someone else; and the third is newspaper inserts in the Sunday editions of national papers that reach the society's potential primary membership by encouraging readers to become members.

Meeting the needs of a large membership: NGS conducts a tremendous amount of market research. The society mails an average of one survey each week to its members to determine their level of product satisfaction and interest in new ideas. Another line of communication is a widely promoted toll-free telephone number that members may call with questions or concerns. "The key to our success is using market research to determine what our members want most of and providing that to them," says Bullard. "We've been sending out surveys after each magazine for 20-30 years, and the result is a huge understanding of our membership--what they like and what thev don't like. and offering it to them."

International Association for Medical Assistance to Travellers, Lewiston, New York With 9.5 million members, IAMAT is an international organization that provides information and assistance to travelers around the world. IAMAT's goal is to make competent medical care available to travelers by doctors who speak English or French and have had medical training in either Europe or North America. IAMAT also provides up-to-date information about climate, vaccination requirements, and sanitary conditions of local food and water in 1,140 locations around the world.

Recruitment rate: Since its inception in 1960, IAMAT has grown at a rate of 300,000 members per year worldwide in all offices.

Rest recruitment strategy: Publishing articles in newspapers, travel guides, and books. M.A. Uffer-Marcolongo, president of IAMAT, cites publications as the best method of attracting and retaining members. In addition to offering members a list of approved physicians who are on call 24 hours a day, IAMAT also publishes a series of pamphlets that provide information about all aspects of travel, including extensive world climate charts, a world immunization chart that lists required and recommended vaccinations, and the most detailed information available about malaria.

Meeting the needs of a large membership: IAMAT's goal is to make travel safe for visitors all over the world. Membership with IAMAT is free, but donations are accepted and those who contribute receive periodic updates of publications. By providing the most derailed medical information available free of charge and access to quality medical care in many countries, IAMAT consistently addresses the primary needs of its membership.

Salvation Army, Verona, New Jersey

With 38,549 staff, the Salvation Army is an international religious and charitable movement dedicated to meeting the physical, spiritual, and emotional needs of mankind. The Salvation Army's work is carried out through local centers of operation that include adult rehabilitation centers, hospitals, recreation centers, and emergency feeding and shelter stations.

Staff configuration: Salvation Army's staff consists of "commissioned officers" who are ordained ministers, paid staff, and 1,250,000 volunteers who share a tremendous part of the workload. Salvation Army's work is carried out through corps-community centers that, depending on size, are made up of a commissioned officer, paid staff, and volunteers, or for smaller centers, all volunteer staff.

Staff recruitment: Salvation Army has a structured recruitment program for volunteers consisting of outreach to schools, clubs, and churches, direct mail appeals, training programs, and public service announcements. Commissioned officers and staff typically come to Salvation Army as a result of volunteer work, and the national headquarters has an internal structure for hiring that includes recruitment at Christian colleges.

Engaging a largu staff in a unified mission: According to Colonel Leon Ferraez, director of national communications, the Salvation Army national headquarters coordinates and establishes standards for those employed at all levels of the organization. Uniforms, national public service announcements, and promotional kits are consistent throughout the Salvation Army's regional offices and corps-community centers.

Ferraez also cites a philosophical component to staff and volunteer involvement in the Salvation Army that reflects its mission as an international movement, and an evangelical part of the Universal Christian Church, to meet human needs without any sort of discrimination. "Everyone involved is similarly motivated with the same religious or philosophical outlook," said Ferraez. "There's a purpose to what we do, a cohesive force keeping our organization together."

American Red Cross, Washington, D.C.

Operating under congressional charter and fulfilling America's obligations under certain international treaties, the American Red Cross is a humanitarian organization that provides relief to victims of disasters and helps people prevent, prepare for, and respond to emergencies. American Red Cross has 25,394 staff.

Activities include blood services; training of volunteers for chapters, hospitals, and other community agencies; community serv|ces, international activitiesz services for members of the armed forces and veterans and their families; and service opportunities for youth.

Staff configuration: Paid staff of the American Red Cross consist of chapter personnel, blood personnel, and national headquarters staff. American Red Cross also has 1,498,041 volunteers, some of whom hold established positions in the 2,700 chapters, while others volunteer for student credit and to fulfill community service requirements, or come from other community organizations such as boy scouts and church groups.

Staff recruitment: The American Red Cross slogan, "People helping people," articulates the organization's mission, as well as one of the most compelling reasons that staff and volunteers have remained so committed to the American Red Cross over the years. People enjoy the opportunity to contribute to their communities and help others, whether it be through a blood drive, disaster relief. or the many other social programs established by the American Red Cross. "The nature of our work brings in a certain quality of person who is drawn to humanitarian opportunities," says Media Associate Skip Baird. "When we give them an opportunity, we enable them to do what they feel compelled to do. In an emergency, people show up in droves, and many become volunteers from that experience. There is a feeling of ownership in the community when people realize they can make a contribution ."

Engaging a large staff in a unified mission: Extensive training opportunities enable staff and volunteers to accomplish their goals within the organization. "Training is essential in the Red Cross, and that is the key to happiness," says Baird. "Volunteers feel a sense of empowerment at gaining greater abilities." American Red Cross training opportunities range from executive development and leadership training programs geared to senior staff and middle managers to teaching staff and volunteers the skills necessary for disaster assessment, counseling for disaster victims, blood handling and processing, and other social services. "Because we have a certain type of mission and a certain type of people, when we're able to work with them in areas of training, we all work together to focus on one goal," says Baird. "We provide the tools to carry out the mission, and when they see the system work they become more invested in it."

CARE, New York City

With 8,800 staff. CARE is an international organization that asslsts developing countries' efforts to achieve social and economic well-being. CARE operates in 40 countries, including Asia, Africa. and Latin America, providing food, selfhelp development, disaster aid. and health care training in shared-cost, partnership programs with host governments.

Staff configuration: CARE's national headquarters is the operative arm of the organization, supplemented by a government affairs office in Washington, D.C., and six field marketing offices around the United States. It is responsible for the primary staffing of all national and overseas offices, and establishes personnel policy throughout the organization.

CARE has a substantial volunteer base in addition to paid staff.

Staff retention: CARE continually evaluates its hiring practices and employee support systems to reduce turnover. "We try to make sure individuals are in a situation where they have an opportunity to grow," says Dorothy Arnette, vice president of human resources. "We're looking more closely and definitively at the need to hire, and making sure we're hiring just right by looking closely at job descriptions and the staffing and selection process." Arnette cites responsive personnel policies, effective management systems support, and competitive pay practices as part of CARE's comprehensive strategy to motivate and retain employees.

Engaging a large staff in a unified mission: CARE consistently articulates its mission throughout its communication with employees, usmg programs such as performance appraisals and management training as tools to reinforce the values implicit in the mission. "When we make demands-from regional managers to the rank-and-file staff-we make sure that we are being consistent and rewarding or penalizing on the basis of those values," says Arnette. "There is a focus on human resources within CARE. and part of that is finding a way to help employees understand that they are part of a total process and they have a responsibility to contribute. Unless they have a mission to refer to, they can't do that."

YMCA-USA, Chicago

With a membership of nearly 13 million and more than 8,700 staff, YMCA-USA is a volunteer, Christian, health and social service organization designed to meet the developing needs of people of all ages, races, religions, and incomes. Local Y's serve their communities by providing social programs, leadership development, and sports and fitness programs in a caring, family-oriented environment.

Recruitment rate: Because local Y's are largely autonomous organizations, the national headquarters does not supply membership recruitment and retention numbers. Local Ns have individual records of these statistics.

Rest recruitment strategy: Word-ofmouth referrals and one-on-one communication. Candice Ceo, membership director of the YMCA of Cleveland, cites member referral and staff interaction as two of the most important recruitment and retention strategies for local Y's. In addition to mail and telephone surveys, most local Y's have Ambassador Clubs that maintain personal contact with new and current members and solicit renewals from former members. Another strategy used by many |s is member recognition through the Triangle Club, an incentive program through which members who bring in new members are recognized within the organization and receive a nominal gift.

Meeting the needs of a large membership: YMCA uses a number of mechanisms to solicit continual feedback from its membership. According to Ceo, all YMCA branches are encouraged to use membership surveys designed by the national headquarters. In addition, communication is encouraged at all levels through suggestion boxes, open-door policies, one-on-one focus groups, and member newsletters.

Staff configuration: YMCA-USA is the national service system that exists solely to support the 2,069 YMCA units established in communities across the country. Its makeup is 959 corporate Y's and their 1,110 branches. YMCA-USA has 191 employees in its Chicago headquarters, and it staffs the 5 field offices and 14 management resource centers that work with 63 volunteer-run clusters (the regional divisions of corporate Y's) to provide support to local |s upon request. YMCA-USA assists its member units in all aspects of running a Y, including programming, management, training, and insurance. It also directs national and international activities that are too large for single associations to handle or that require uniform leadership across the movement. Local Y's are run by volunteer policymakers serving on Y boards and committees and volunteer program leaders and support people who work with paid, professional staff.

Staff recruitment: Local Y's are largely autonomous organizations that handle their own recruitment and staffing decisions. Each branch does its own employee orientation, which tends to focus on customer service, human awareness, and the philosophical aspects of YMCA's mission. YMCA-USA provides training and development programs as optional resources for the local Y's, where employees may obtain additional education in areas such as management, policymaking, and sales techniques. Some of these are offered for career credit, such as "Programs on Purpose,"a series of training modules focusing on YMCA's mission, management, and membership.

Engaging a large staff in a unified mission: Local Y's are established to serve their communities, and YMCA-USA is there to help. YMCA-USA encourages creativity and autonomy in the local Y's, and has a variety of tools available, including promotional resources, research, information, and training and development to enable local Y's to employ their own innovative approaches to serving local communities. OTHER ORGANIZATION LISTINGS OMITTED
COPYRIGHT 1992 American Society of Association Executives
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:includes related articles
Publication:Association Management
Article Type:Cover Story
Date:May 1, 1992
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