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6 Best Professional Development Resources for Association Pros

May 17, 2022

6 Best Professional Development Resources for Association Pros

Professional development is a reality of life in almost every industry, but especially for association professionals. Not only is it vital for helping you excel in your career, but for those with a CAE certification, it’s a requirement. 

Because our Sidecar members are so focused on their professional growth, they often ask “who else does a great job creating association-specific training?” So, we made a post that includes some cool resources we enjoy along with some insight on why ongoing education is critical for association professionals. 

Why Invest in Professional Development?

Before we dive into where to find your training, let’s first focus on the why. 

While we all know that professional development can help advance your career, there are other reasons to spend the time. For starters, adding skills to your repertoire can help you contribute more to your organization. In the association and non-profit sector, where staff sizes may be on the smaller side, having the ability to wear multiple hats and contribute to all facets of operations can help move your organization forward. 

Similarly, professional development can help you access topics and skillsets you may be interested in but are not necessarily able to explore in your day-to-day life. This can be things like new and emerging technologies – think artificial intelligence or cryptocurrency – or even skills required for a different role.

Of course, if you’re a CAE-certified association professional, you need at least 40 CAE credits to renew your certification every three years. And diversifying your resources can make getting those credits a lot easier! 

6 Education Resources for Association Professionals 

Half the battle of choosing the right professional development program is knowing where to go. Some of the best resources we’ve found for association professionals include: 

1. ASAE Learning Center

Founded in 1920, ASAE represents one of the biggest chunks of the association industry, with over 48,000 association executive members and over 7,000 organizations. Today, they are also one of the biggest professional development providers – both in-person and online. 

In terms of professional development, they have an Online Course Collection, which includes training on some of the essential skills for association professionals, including: 

  • Leading Your Association
  • Volunteer Management
  • Developing a Digital-First Business Model

2. Non Dues-a-Palooza

While your member dues account for a big chunk of your organization’s revenue, creating non-dues revenue sources will likely be a top priority in your career – especially if you’re in a leadership role. 

Non Dues-a-Palooza was founded in 2020 to help associations looking for innovative ideas during the pandemic. Their goal: “learning from the successes of others, exploring what new products and services could fit for the next member benefit, and maybe even commiserating a little too.” 

Today, they host multiple virtual events, have an entire video archive with past event replays and are planning an in-person version of Non Dues-a-Palooza in September 2022. 

3. American Management Association

Stepping into a leadership role at any organization can be challenging. Not only are you now responsible for a team – of varying sizes – but you’re also looked to for innovation and strategy. One place where you can learn all the intangibles to be a great leader is the American Management Association

Founded officially in 1923, AMA has been dedicated to providing professionals and organizations with “knowledge, skills, and tools to achieve performance excellence, adapt to changing realities, and prosper in a complex and competitive world.” 

They are a CAE approved provider and have a range of resources, including: 

  • Essential skills for leading teams
  • Strategies for Developing Effective Presentation Skills
  • Fundamentals of Human Resources Management

4. Association Forum Online Learning

Created as a hub for Chicagoland associations, Association Forum now represents more than 1,600 Chicago organizations. Its mission is to advance the professional practice of association management and offer various helpful tools, groups and courses to accomplish this goal. 

They have a membership program that gives you access to learning resources, podcasts, shared interest groups and networking opportunities. In terms of association-specific training, their groups and committees allow professionals to gain experience outside of a traditional course. 

And for CAE professionals, they now have courses that specifically satisfy the new ASAE ethics requirement for your renewal. 

5. .org Source

Founded over 15 years ago, .org Source is focused on “helping associations improve operational efficiencies and create growth strategies.” They do this by leaning on countless interviews and first-hand accounts of association professionals who have experimented and succeeded in their organizations. 

For professional development, they offer:

  • Tons of downloadable resources and guides
  • Strategic programs ranging from data analysis to website marketing and content strategy
  • Virtual and in-person events
  • Community resources including forums and leadership circles

6. Association Chat

If you’re an association newcomer and want to get some insights into the industry, Association Chat will likely become your go-to resource. This online community, anchored by their podcast, Association Chat, hosted by Kiki L’Italien, is a vibrant community for association professionals. 

Their news covers the latest happening in the industry, with columns answering big questions and sharing insights from other association professionals. You can also visit their knowledge hub for downloadable content to help you tackle your organizational needs. 

Create a Culture of Learning

Of course, professional development should not only fall on the individual. According to LinkedIn’s 2018 Workplace Learning Report, 94% of employees said they would stay with a company longer if it invested in their career – and those numbers have likely increased since the pandemic. 

Related: Combatting the Great Resignation: Why Investing in Employee Training is a Must
Learn More >

Not only does it help you empower your staff, but by investing in training, you’re also helping your organization shore up any skill gaps that affect your ability to serve members. Also, diversifying training and interests can help ensure your association is at the forefront of any innovations or changes in your industry. 

Challenge Yourself with Professional Development

For many association professionals, time is already a luxury you rarely have. However, professional development benefits greatly outweigh the challenge of time allocation. From career advancement to new strategies you can implement in your organization, learning is a much-needed component of your personal and professional development. 

Many of the resources we’ve outlined above are CAE-approved providers, which means it’s easy to get your credits, and best of all, it isn’t something you need to do on your own. Many of these programs use group learning and personalized coaching that makes it easier to learn, apply and strategize with a network of fellow association professionals. 

We’re also here to help! Be sure to visit our events page for the latest webinars and bootcamps or join us at one of our upcoming events, SURGE and digitalNow

Jose Triana joined the Sidecar team as the Content Manager in 2021. He is a writer and creative focused on helping purpose-driven organizations learn and find value online. When he isn't working on content, you can catch him going for a run or resting with a good book.

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