Associations and Member Benefits
Professional associations act as a valuable resource for their members. Some associations are strictly voluntary (Chamber of Commerce), while others are mandatory for those in certain professions (doctors).
Regardless, associations must show value for their clients. The voluntary groups need to attract and retain members, while mandatory groups are always under pressure to give advice and benefits that satisfy the membership.
Some benefits are clear and have defined monetary value. One example is the group health insurance plans offered through Chambers of Commerce. A small business would be hard pressed to get the same package on their own at the same price. Many people belong to their Chamber for this one benefit.
Other benefits need more educational support and advocacy within the association. Data privacy and compliance falls into this category. The requirement for businesses and professionals to protect clients and employees data is relatively new, and is not something that most business owners and professionals have given much thought. In my conversations, very few have an incident response plan. Basically, this involves what you need to do when a data breach occurs.
One owner described data privacy like having a small toothache: it bothers him on occasion, but inventory, staffing, payroll, marketing and a myriad of other issues are more urgent matters that must be dealt with, usually with tight timelines. Professionals, meanwhile, are very good in their chosen field, but generally count on other people to look after the daily needs of their operations. Either way, privacy and data protection laws are forced to take a back seat.
In both cases, associations and their staff are in a position to do the research and advise members on what can be done to adhere to relevant privacy laws and help their members protect the privacy of their customers and employees.
Each business or professional has unique needs, but there will also be a lot of commonality. Education is a big part of establishing data privacy and compliance, and the association executive-director or general manager can be the clearinghouse to ensure members get the information and options best suited for their operation.
Both consumers and employees are increasingly more aware of data privacy, and studies show that more and more people actively seek out businesses that take steps to protect their personal information. It’s understandable that both business owners and professionals procrastinate when it comes to data privacy and compliance. A forward thinking association can get ahead of this and provide a valuable service to its members.
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