Current International Trends

Association Forum Members

By Bonnie Koenig, M.A., President ,Going International




In most of the “list of trends to watch” that one sees in the association world’s journals and presentations, a growing internationalism makes the list. Your association may or may not be currently affected by these trends, but as the world becomes “more global” you may find that your members and others are bringing these issues to you. Thus, there may be some useful lessons in seeing how these international trends are affecting some of your colleague Association Forum members. An informal survey of some Association Forum members regarding the impacts of internationalism on their association showed some of the following trends. You may find some common themes with issues your association is currently facing and strategies to address them, or just some trends you may want to file away for future reference!


Increased involvement of members internationally


The involvement of more members internationally is translating into increased impacts on many associations. All of the associations replying to the survey and indicating that the impact of international trends on their association had increased in recent years, also indicated that more members being involved internationally was helping to drive this increase. As members individually become more active in the profession internationally they may bring these issues to your association, generating an expectation that they will be integrated in some way into the association’s program.

Growing international membership


Many associations are finding that they are being more frequently approached by people in their profession around the world to belong to the association, as members at large or to form a chapter. The strategic association recognizes that this growth will be most effective if managed proactively.


The Turnaround Management Association (TMA) is an international association of professionals dedicated to corporate renewal and turnaround management. It has 6800 members, approximately 12% outside of the U.S. and growing. As Linda Delgadillo of Turnaround Management Association’s staff notes “The global market for our profession is heating up. Interest in forming international chapters comes monthly. In the past, our association was reactive to interest in forming a local chapter, but we have now become proactive by creating a list of the 10 desirable locations (based on local regulations, demographics, language) for international chapters so we know where want to establish toeholds in the future.”




Globalization of the professional environment


For some associations, the motivating factors for focusing more on international trends come from different locations, often externally. The Appraisal Institute is an international membership association of professional real estate appraisers, with more than 18,000 members and 99 chapters throughout the United States and Canada. The organization is currently considering whether to open chapters in other countries. According to Bill Endsley, “We are receiving increased inquires for services and training from overseas clients. Real estate and capital markets are already international and to claim competence, a professional must have some understanding of international markets. When German pension funds are the principal investors in a new development in the U.S. you must have an understanding of what return they are looking for and how they do business.”


Globalization of the trade environment


For some trade associations, this trend of the increasing globalization of the environment it operates in is even more pronounced. These association may best serve their members by actively following these trends and deciding where and how to most effectively be a player in the policy arena.


The Power Transmission Distributors Association (PTD)A is a trade association of 430 distributors and manufacturers of industrial process equipment. It has members headquartered in 17 countries in addition to having a European affiliate organization formed in 1998 to better serve its European based membership. According to Mary Sue Lyon, “Our members are being significantly impacted by the migration of manufacturing offshore and the main impact to the association has been to focus more programmatic attention on both the trends and strategies for addressing it. It is also moving us to become more active in the public policy arena, to reinforce the concept of the value of manufacturing to the health of the overall economy and those factors affecting their ability to remain competitive in a global economy. In addition,

to recognize the global nature of our members’ business was the creation of the European affiliate, and sponsorship of pavilions for members in some international trade shows.”


Strategies that associations are using to address these trends


Strategies that associations are using to address the growing impact of internationalism include management initiatives such as :


1) A new or more active international Committee

2) Giving a staff member a new or enhanced portfolio to deal with issues members are concerned about, or hiring a new staff member to handle an international portfolio.


They also include more intensive programmatic initiatives such as the following:




Covering international issues more in journal or other publications.


After TMA’s International Relations Committee reviewed the changing international nature of the association, it developed various strategies for how to proactively address these. One of its strategies included continuing to enhance the international perspectives and articles in its Journal. One of the ways it did this to be most evident to its membership was to have the president of its Toronto chapter, it’s largest international chapter, be a guest editor for an issue of the Journal.



Working to identify the value of association membership to international members

and provide them with this value. As an association’s international membership grows, the needs and expectations of these members may not be the same as U.S. members or even existing international members.


The Association for Services Management International (AFSMI) is dedicated to furthering the knowledge, understanding and career development of executives, managers and professionals in the high-technology services and support industry. It currently has over 3,000 members representing more than 1,500 organizations around the world. For Michelle Vahlkamp of AFSMI, integrating international members into the association, including identifying benefits that they will find of value is a growing challenge. “To those members in Europe, or Asia, they don’t see the branding, the name recognition, the partnerships being developed. Although networking or being part of a community is important, it is not always sufficient to pay dues. It is important for the international leadership to recognize that there may be a different value to being a member of the association depending on where the member resides, and to generate ideas for providing the international membership with value that will retain them as members. Establishing viable local chapters is one manner of providing value, although there are many other services an association can provide.”


The International Association of Defense Counsel (IADC) is an organization of civil defense litigators coming from 16 countries, with the overwhelming majority currently from the U.S. and Canada. According to Oliver Yandle “As the civil jury systems in different parts of the world vary so greatly, maintaining the association’s relevance among international members is a challenging goal. The European Union is looking into adopting some aspects of the US product liability regime, just as the US is actively working to reform some of its most onerous aspects. That has brought on a heightened need for better understanding and

communication among lawyers from Europe and the US so that Europe can avoid

some of the costly missteps of the US system, while the US can learn from

the more effective aspects of the European approach. This communication is a value added benefit to membership that IADC can work to address.” 


Having more meetings outside of the U.S.


When an association is looking to provide additional opportunities and value to its overseas members, expand the international perspectives of all of its members and/or expand its overseas memberships, it may look to hosting or co-sponsoring some of its meetings outside of the U.S.


The Air Movement and Control Association International represents manufacturers of air system equipment and components. According to Barbara Morrison of AMCA International “We are holding more regional meetings in specific locales. We annually hold a European Region Meeting, a Pacific Rim Region Meeting and a Canadian Region Meeting. In 2003 we also had our annual meeting in Europe and had our first non-North American President.”


IADC is also looking at its meeting locations as a means of further demonstrating its commitment to its international partners, planning to hold its 2005 Annual Meeting in Paris.


Playing a leadership role for the profession worldwide


Sometimes either through the growing involvement of members internationally (as discussed earlier) or by activity that is taking place in the profession external to your own association which will affect your membership, an association can best maintain the interests of its members by deciding to play a leadership role for the profession worldwide.


The American Osteopathic Association (AOA) is the professional society for over 52,000 osteopathic physicians in the U.S. and throughout the world. For the AOA, a growing, international interest on the part of its members over the past 5-7 years has lead to the AOA acting as the catalyst for the creation of an international alliance of osteopathic practitioners around the world. An initial international conference hosted by the AOA to discuss this question resulted in the creation of an international Steering Committee (currently supported by AOA staff) to take these discussions forward.


The American Society of Safety Engineers has more than 30,000 members who manage, supervise and consult on safety, health, and environmental issues in industry, insurance, government and education. It has chapters in the U.S. and some in other countries. According to Fred Fortman of the American Society of Safety Engineers: "The globalization of business and the growth of international standards has led us to formally partner with similar professional societies in a number of lands to give a consistent voice to the profession throughout the world. There is a significant difference between being a US organization with international members and being an international organization. To assure organizational sensitivity to the perspectives of the international community, that community must have a voice and a vote at the highest levels of the organization."

Being alert to a changing environment


You will need to decide if you just want to follow international issues and trends, occasionally identifying some opportunities (or challenges) or be actively involved in international activities. Do you want to import (be the receiver) of this information, export (be the giver of this information to others) or facilitate (be the catalyst) for the sharing of cross-border knowledge? No matter which option you may choose, the more you are aware of the world around your association, the more prepared you will be to take advantage of opportunities, or face challenges to your membership or profession, as they come along.





American Society of Association Executives website Global Opportunities,


Koenig, Bonnie, Going Global for the Greater Good: Succeeding as a Nonprofit in the International Community, Jossey Bass, 2004


Svevo‑Cianci, Kimberly, Associations and the Global Marketplace, Washington, D.C., USA, American Society of Association Executives, 1995





Bonnie Koenig of Going International (, e-mail: , Tel: (773) 233-5755) is a consultant working with associations on developing their strategic thinking and international programs. She is a long time member of the Association Forum and has co-chaired the international SIG.



This article appeared in the Association Forum of Chicago’s FORUM magazine, May 2004