Relevance is a challenge facing associations everywhere. How do you deliver value that keeps current members engaged while also drawing in new faces? There is a seemingly never-ending search for alternate sources of non-dues revenue and new programs to attract the younger demographic. With shrinking budgets, reduced resources and volunteers who have day jobs to focus on, however, staying relevant can seem like an impossible task. It can make associations wonder if there are any feasible opportunities for growth.
One type of program that continues to grow in popularity with associations is certification. More associations are seeing a gap they can fill between formal education and professional development to help drive workforce development. Before an association can make the decision to adopt a certification program, it is important to understand what it is and how it differs from a certificate program.
A certification, as defined by ICE, the Institute for Credentialing Excellence, is:
“A certification program is designed to test the knowledge, skills, and abilities required to perform a particular job, and, upon successfully passing a certification exam, to represent a declaration of a particular individual’s professional competence.”
A certificate program, as defined by ICE:
“…is an educational or training program that is used to teach learning objectives and assess whether those objectives were achieved by the student.”
Make sense? Okay, now that we have the definitions out of the way, let’s discuss Why certification is the best choice for your association.
A certification program offers numerous long-term benefits for an association. In most cases, a certification is earned in return for meeting a minimum standard of experience and/or education and passing an examination. Once certified, the individual in question typically will have to maintain his/her designation by earning Continuing Education Units (CEUs) and paying a yearly fee.
The Big Picture—Why certification?
A certification program often serves as an opportunity to raise the standards of practice for an industry. In developing a common body of knowledge and providing a third-party verification of an individual’s skills and knowledge, an industry consequently begins to raise its profile, public trust and standards of practice. These types of programs are typically administered by a semi-autonomous board or committee within the parent organization, thus ensuring the program is free to make tough decisions about the program’s standards.
So, you might be wondering: what is the benefit of certification for my association? The answer is, there are several. First, you have a program that defines your association as a leader in workforce development in your industry. In addition, such a program provides a new revenue stream for your association, thanks to registration and exam fees, re-certification fees, and a captive audience to participate in other education programs offered by your association.
How do you start?
As with any major program development, prior to implementing a certification you should do an environmental scan to understand if there are competitors in your space. Start with your body of knowledge, assuming you have one built from years of experience and educational products your association has developed. You may find that there is another association with a similar certification. Even so, you should investigate further to assess how your body of knowledge aligns with theirs. You might discover that you’re addressing a specific need that your competitors are not.
Scan complete, you have the green light to move forward. Begin by considering the future goals of your organization. Becoming accredited is always a valuable way to build a reputation as a fair and defensible program. Look to build your program around the standards developed by the Institute of Credentialing Excellence (ICE) and their National Commission for Certifying Agencies, or the American National Standards Institute. Doing this will give you a roadmap for creating a program that meets the highest of standards.
As you put your program together, be ready to engage professionals to guide you through some of the finer processes in certification and examinations. For example, having a psychometrician to support your development of a Job Task Analysis, build your question bank, perform cut scores and analyze results is extremely important. These are important functions that are the bedrock to a solid exam and certification, so hire a professional to ensure they are done right to keep your exam fair and defensible.
During the program-building process, keep an open mind about some of the other details of your examination. Will it be available via computer-based testing? How often will the exam be given? These questions and others are essential as you establish the policies and procedures that will ensure a successful program.
Is it for you?
As mentioned, certification offers numerous rewards for associations and is steadily gaining value, as it helps improve workforce development within different industries. Associations who make the jump into certification are also ensuring the future viability, relevance and success of their organizations by creating new revenue streams. If your organization is looking to build or maintain its status as an industry leader that provides sought after quality and rewards to its members, establishing a certification program could be that one investment that makes all the difference. Are you game?
TMG Certification Management
TMG can provide consulting and full-service management for certification programs, including start-up and program development. Through our Certification Work Group, TMG has a specialized team that focuses on the unique needs of association certification programs. From item bank management to form development and exam delivery, TMG can handle it. In addition, TMG has experience in obtaining and maintaining third-party accreditation through the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Personnel Certification Agencies Standard 17024.
In need of support for your certification program? Contact us to get started.