What is the purpose of a professional organization? I ask this question when I am presented with the opportunity to join one. Early in my career, I joined the Association for Computing Machinery (a misnomer, to say the least, since the organization is for people, not machinery, but I digress). I actually remained a member of ACM for a long time, and I did get a number of benefits - a relatively good monthly journal (that I rarely actually read, but it did seem to have a lot of interesting stuff), membership in special interest groups, reduced rates for conference attendance. These were all good for me, since I needed to learn more about my area (compilers and languages), I went to the conferences, and I networked among the members.
I have also been confronted with other organizations, whose intent is to provide similar benefits - education, networking, reduced conference rates. But what I would be interested in today is a lot different than when I was a graduate student. Here is my list:
As a practitioner, I am looking for information that will help me serve my customers better.
As the sales representative for my firm, I am looking for networking opportunities that will lead to new business.
As a consultant, I am looking for better ways to market my services.
As a community member I am looking for the opportunity to increase the knowledge base of the community.
As a community member, I am looking for ways that elevate my chosen industry.
As a community member, i am looking to ensure the high profile of the work that I do.
OK - now that I have expressed those ideas, I then think: how do my annual dues get allocated to make those things happen? Unfortunately, I suspect that some organizations are not prepared to answer that question.