Where Did our Members
Membership and finance challenges in
association management in Nigeria
President, International Association of Business Communicators, Nigeria
Two inter-related challenges confront voluntary membership associations of
professionals. They are retaining and growing membership as well as
generating funding to run programmes.
The challenge of member retention has been exacerbated by technological
improvements that have reduced the appeal of a core appeal of associations
in the past: access to content.
I share here the challenges of two associations with which I have been closely
associated as President in the last five years.
The International Association of Business Communicators is a global body that
brings in persons with interests in the broad field of integrated marketing
IABC members draw from fields as diverse as public relations through
advertising to teaching, journalism and publishing. Everyone in business
Chartered in Nigeria in 2009.
Membership was 120 in 2011.
Bulk of membership drew from Nigeria LNG Limited. It registered 30 persons.
Others registered courtesy of their companies but dropped off if company
changed policy or they left the firm.
The Challenge of Engagement
With IABC Nigeria, there were some challenges.
1. An association of professionals in communication was not communicating to
members or to any one else.
2. We set out to change this beginning 2013.
3. Introduced IABC CEO Breakfast Forum with notable speakers and sponsorship
by corporate bodies.
4. Frequency was supposed to be quarterly but we are now planning for the sixth
edition in three years.
5. Breakfast Forum well received and successful. Average attendance 60 persons
per event. Good media mileage for one month after each event. Interesting
IABC Nigeria & the challenge of
7. Enthusiastic responses.
8. Did not however lead to a growth spurt in membership.
9. Many factors
A. IABC itself had problems with its payment platform meaning that old and new
members had difficulty paying for their subscriptions. Problem only sorted out in
B. Exchange rate differentials have impacted Nigerians negatively. It was N190-$1
in May 2015. Post election, the exchange today is N405-$1. Many members find
the difference too much.
The Challenge of the Internet
The Internet has been a blessing to all professionals.
However, for professional associations, it seems the Internet has been a bane
rather than a boon.
The Internet has removed one of the strong pillars of association membership.
It makes CONTENT readily available so people do not need to come to
meetings to learn the latest development.
Other challenges have worsened situation.
It is so bad that as at January 15, membership had declined to 35. NLNG
stopped enrolling their team en-bloc, as did several other firms.
Yet, we now have presence on the Board and growing membership in Port
Harcourt, Abuja and Yola, home of the American University of Nigeria.
For 2016, our challenge is to grow membership and finance base.
We are seeking solutions.
However, EXCO has identified the need to do the following:
1. Have at least four of the Business Leaders Forum in 2016.
2. Have a major Conference and bring speakers from abroad.
3. Promote the certification scheme of IABC
4. Partner with a University to prepare candidates for the IABC certification
5. Drive aggressively for membership-renewal as well as new signings.
The PRCAN experience
The experience with the Public Relations Consultants Association of Nigeria
(PRCAN) has differed only slightly.
I was President from 2012-2014. Before then I had served as Treasurer and
Vice President over a 10-year period.
PRCAN is the association that aggregates and promotes the interest of public
relations consulting firms. We found that most of our members do Events and
Sponsorship activities along with their work in corporate communication,
media engagement, community relations, CSR, Government relations etc.
What’s the benefit?
Key challenge for PRCAN was establishing benefits for members.
What do I gain by enrolling my firm in this body, many prospects asked.
Another was, curiously for a communication association, very low awareness
We then did major efforts:
Brand building campaign
Interventions in public discourse on issues around Governance and Public
Introduced the Public Relations Gold Medal Lecture
Public Relations Gold Medal Lecture
Our Guest Speaker
was the Governor of
Ekiti State, Dr Kayode
He is now Minister for
Next was Wendy Thlou
of Brand South Africa.
Growth in membership and acceptance
PRCAN has grown membership numbers.
From 2012 to 2014, we grew from 35 to 50. Over the next two years, it has
now grown to 56 members.
More importantly, there is awareness by key stakeholders.
Dues are still a challenge.
What else can we do?
This is the key question for us in the EXCO of IABC. What else can we do?
Where cometh inspiration and guidance to help drive attainment of our