THE NATIONAL CONFERENCE itself offered the first opportunity for practitioners in the social services to meet together for the professional exchange of experiences. It was not, however, composed exclusively of paid workers, nor did it have vocational criteria for selection of membership. Through the years, due to the expense in time and money involved in attendance upon its sessions, the tendency has been for the Conference membership to consist almost exclusively of paid employees, and only by the most persistent effort has the volunteer or the board member been induced to become affiliated with it. As a result, for nearly a half a century there was no other organization to bring together the employed personnel on a national scale, to consider the vocational questions faced by the employed staff, in contrast with the functional and social questions with which the Conference was concerned.
The first effort to provide an organization for the personnel was furnished on the local level by social workers' clubs. Even here, the distinction was not easy to make between special needs of the personnel and general needs of the community for a forum on social matters. Many cities, as well as states, had local conferences of charities (called "charities and corrections," and, later, "social work") modeled on the National Conference. In such cities a social workers' club might find itself regarded as superfluous. Probably the pioneer in such