ASAE Chief Reflects on Growth of Associations This Century

Article excerpt

Not to be outdone by media and entertainment millennial lists, festivities and retrospectives, associations presented their century in review last week.

Mike Olson, president and chief executive officer of the American Society of Association Executives, spoke on "the state of associations" to an audience of nonprofit and press representatives.

Mr. Olson discussed the history of nonprofit organizations, citing the creation of Benjamin Franklin's American Philosophical Society in 1743. He said that at the turn of the century, there were just over 100 trade associations. After World War I, the Department of Commerce estimated there were 2,000.

Associations are often thought of as special interest groups that spend all their time lobbying - a false image, Mr. Olson said. He highlighted strong areas of activity besides lobbying, such as public education and professional development.

He also urged listeners to continue to support their organizations, including the National Press Club where he gave the speech Wednesday.

"Continue your investment in this wonderful organization that generations of respected journalists, newsmakers, and knowledge-seekers have called their own for nearly 100 years," he said.

This is the one and only "state of the associations" speech Mr. Olson will make, but it's part of a continuing effort to increase organizations' visibility.

"We're trying to get out a message to the consumer and business media as well as the policy-makers regarding the increasing significance that associations play in the socioeconomic structure of our country," he said later.

He said the Internal Revenue Service recently informed ASAE, whose 25,000 members represent 11,000 associations, that 12 percent of the country's gross domestic product is derived from nonprofit organizations. …