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Confessions from an ‘Association Man’

banking01-070616Part  One

WHILE many people know what associations are, many are also unfamiliar with the inner workings of associations: how they are governed and managed, and what they contribute to society.

In the United States and Europe, there is such a profession as an “association executive.” No such profession exists in the Philippines, at least neither a recognized one nor called as such. Parents, for instance, will not tell their children to be an association executive someday nor would children know that there is such a career as a professional association manager.

Most associations and membership organizations in the Philippines are both governed and managed by elected volunteers that constitute a Board of Trustees. Quite different in the western world, associations are governed and managed like corporations; there is a volunteer board that governs (i.e., sets strategic directions, formulates policies and provides oversight) and a separate management team led by a salaried chief executive that manages the day-to-day operations of the association.

I know this situation quite well, having been an association executive myself for the past 25 years (and counting). Like many of those working in associations today, one is either there by “accident” or as a “retirement job.” I belong to the former.

I took up a mechanical engineering course in college, then a post-graduate management course; worked as a lending officer in a state-owned development bank for 15 years; and was suddenly “thrust” to manage an association of development banks in Asia and the Pacific where I am currently the chief executive, heading 12 staff.

Clueless as to how to manage an association, my first instinct was to search for training programs and publications on association management. Having found none, I joined the Washington, D.C.-based American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), which opened my mind and heart into the world of professional association governance and management. The 90-year-old ASAE currently has more than 21,000 members in over 50 countries, with a certified association executive program, among others.

In the US, certified association professionals get compensation that is 30-percent more than their noncertified counterparts, while a chief executive can earn six-figure annual salaries working for multimillion-dollar
budgeted associations.

With this in mind and equipped with the knowledge I have acquired over many years of association management experience, plus being exposed to a global network of association contacts, I pursued my long-time dream and advocacy to further professionalize association governance and management in our country.

In November 2013, with the support of the Tourism Promotions Board (TPB), the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) and my organization, the Association of Development Financing Institutions in Asia and the Pacific (ADFIAP), a few friends and I founded and launched the Philippine Council of Associations and Association Executives (PCAAE).

PCAAE’s mission is to advance and sustain the work and advocacies of associations and other membership organizations (e.g., chambers, societies, cooperatives, unions, clubs) in building human-resource capacities through practical educational programs and knowledge resources not available in schools and elsewhere. It also aims to set industry standards and policy guidelines for associations, and serve their members and constituencies to further professionalize their ranks, among other contributions to society.

As I write this very first column, I am involved in at least four associations, both local and international, including the recently launched Asia-Pacific Federation of Association Organizations. This is the reason my wife affectionately calls me the ‘Association Man’ (inspired by Marvel’s Ant Man).

As experience tells me, being a professional association manager is, after all, exciting, fulfilling, globe-trotting, and makes for good living! Thanks to the BusinessMirror, the story of associations, and insights into their fascinating world, will now reach the consciousness of the public.

The writer, Octavio ‘Bobby’ Peralta, is pleased to provide more details on PCAAE and on association governance and
management at
[email protected]

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