Associations are shifting their emphasis from "traditional functions" such as setting industry standards toward government relations programs, a newly relased survey by the National Association of Manufacturers Associations Council has found.
Some of the other trends recognized by the council in its 1985 survey, titled "The Changing Focus and Management of Trade Associations," include a steady rise in the use of in-house computers and a 20 percent increase in manufacturing trade association budgets and incomes over the past two years.
Of the 130 associations that make up NAM's Associations Council membership, 66 responded to the 1985 questionnaire. The council is composed of manufacturing trade groups such as the American Petroleum Institute and the American Gear Manufacturing Association, whose president, Richard Norment, was chief editor of the council survey. Norment served as the executive director of the Associations Council in 1984, when the survey was compiled.
Programs offered by associations shift in response to the needs of their members, Norment noted. Twenty years ago, companies needed associations to perform functions such as setting industry standards, gathering statistics and research and development, he said. Today, manufacturing trade associations are being asked to concentrate on the government -- including working for their members as lobbyists, monitoring activities on Capitol Hill and participating in grass-roots politics.
"Manufacturing trade associations are getting involved in government because government has become more involved in business," Norment said. In 1983, 67 percent of associations surveyed had a representative on Capitol Hill. In 1985, almost 86 percent had hired Hill representatives. Congressional activities, government affairs committees, conferences on government activities and legislative response networks all showed increases between 1983 and 1985. Political action committees and political education committees were the only trade group areas that decreased over the two-year period.
Meanwhile, the amount of time associations spent on other functions declined. In 1980, 59 percent of the associations surveyed were responsible for setting industry standards, while in 1985, 47 percent were doing so. Setting standards include such things as deciding standard sizes for light bulb sockets. Research and development moved from 69 percent in 1980 to 41 percent in 1985.
The greatest decrease was shown in the number of consumer programs administered by the trade groups surveyed. Between 1980 and 1983 there was a 50 percent drop in consumer action work such as answering questions about product safety and conducting safety research. In 1985, this area showed a slight rise, from 12 to 14 percent.
One interesting statistic was that the 20 percent of associations that purchased computers over the last two years increased their staff sizes by 4 percent over those that did not. This goes against the general notion that computers decrease the number of personnel needed in the workplace, the report said.
Another trend indicated by the survey was that the title of the chief paid association executive has changed. In the past, associations were headed by a paid executive called "secretary," and the voluntary board of directors made most of the decisions. According to the survey, the title of "secretary" has been replaced with president or executive vice president. This title change reflects a shift in the decision-making process away from the voluntary board of directors to the paid head of the association, said Norment. TRADE
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