It is sad that there is an association for everything—every industry, profession, charity, social group and sports organization! Did you know there is an “association for associations?” Well there is, and here in the Midwest it is the Midwest Society of Association Executives (MSAE). MSAE’s mission is simple: to advance and serve associations in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota. MSAE is the resource for association management professionals providing professional development, continuing education, career growth, and a robust network of other association professionals. MSAE is a community of more than 1,100 association members from nearly 350 Midwest associations.
Whether well-known associations like the American Medical Association or American Dental Association or a smaller association specific to a local community such as the Grand Avenue Business Association (specific to Grand Avenue in St. Paul), all associations have a mission to serve its members. MSAE helps those of us in the association management profession advance not only our careers, but most importantly to advance the industries we serve.
When I first became a member of MSAE, it was the Minnesota Society of Association Executives. As the need for the benefits provided by the association became apparent in other regions of the Midwest such as North Dakota and South Dakota, the association expanded to become the Midwest Society of Association Executives. Today, MSAE now has members throughout Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, broadening its reach and bringing resources throughout the region.
In the early 2000s, I was honored to serve on the Board of Directors for MSAE. During this period, MSAE launched its first member website and implemented a new association management system to more effectively automate its database and add functionality to its systems. We also adopted the Carver Model for Governance, which helped to focus the board on the outcomes of MSAE’s activities rather than getting “in the weeds.” MSAE’s governance now guides the strategic direction of the association while MSAE President Kathy Johnson and staff advance the strategic goals with tactical execution. It serves as a model for many associations.
As it was when I originally joined and as it continues to be today, the resources, education and networking opportunities that MSAE offers bring the utmost value to association professionals. In 2008, I took a new position as an executive director for an association headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska. I was surprised to learn that the benefits I had with MSAE did not exist in Omaha and I can honestly say that I missed it! When I returned to Minnesota in early 2009, MSAE became my “go to” professional association once again.
So as MSAE celebrates its 60th anniversary, what will the future bring? I don’t know that I can answer that question for certain, but what I do know is that its resources will be needed more than ever. Regardless of whether an association is a charitable or trade organization, we all struggle with many of the same things: membership, nondues revenue, competition from for-profit entities and a change in the demographics of our volunteers. Associations will continue to face increased pressure to continually utilize new technologies, to embrace social media platforms, to reach new generations of members and communicate with our constituents when and where they desire. All of this has to be done with limited resources.
The legislative and regulatory landscape that impacts many of the industries we represent, as well as our own profession, continues to evolve and in many cases will increase. The need for associations to be advocates for their members will be more important than ever. MSAE is our advocate. I am watching the next generation of emerging association leaders (including my son, who is now an association executive) and I know the things they will need are going to change as they advance in their careers, but one thing will remain consistent: the need to develop a professional network and resources they can rely on. MSAE will be there for them, evolving as needed, leading as expected. Want to learn more about MSAE?
MSAE’s 60th Celebration
Date: THURSDAY, AUG. 4
Location: ARIA MINNEAPOLIS
Time: 6:30–11 P.M.
MSAE is celebrating 60 years of community, conversation and camaraderie. An evening of reflecting, honoring and surprises—it will be the best experience of the year.