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Why Choose a Career in the Peak Body, Membership and Associations Sector?

Why Choose a Career in the Peak Body, Membership and Associations Sector?

Exploring a career in peak bodies, membership, and associations uncovers an environment rich in connectivity, advocacy, and impactful change. But what does it really mean to be a part of such influential organisations? How do individuals navigate the range of challenges and rewards found in this space? And importantly, what impact can we anticipate making in such a pivotal role?

In this article we sought to unpack these questions through conversations with three seasoned professionals in the sector. Our aim? To unearth the lived experiences, navigate through their challenges, and shine a light on the unique rewards they encounter on their respective career paths. Whether it’s crafting practical resources for immediate industry use, developing strategies to secure the long-term future of an association, or planning professional development conferences, each person has navigated their own path, offering rich insights and nuanced reflections along the way.

So why are we exploring this topic? Because careers in peak bodies and associations are not just jobs. They’re platforms for change, arenas for innovation, and most notably, they’re spaces where a single initiative can cast ripples across an entire industry or community. By peering into the professional lives of Donna, Toni, and Dan, we aim to provide you a comprehensive, ground-level view of a sector that silently shapes industries and societies alike. So, if you’ve been considering a role in the space, here’s everything you need to know.

Navigating the Synergy of Industry and Associations with Donna South

Why do peak bodies and associations play a crucial role in society and industries?

Peak bodies, membership and associations are the connective tissue of industries and society. I truly believe that every industry can achieve anything with a cohesive, collective idea and a strong peak body.

Can you share an impactful experience from your work?

In a previous role I had the privilege of collaborating with a cohort of members, diving deep into a common industry pain point. We gathered insights from members through surveys, workshops, and interviews, and turned the findings into a highly valuable, very practical resource that could be used in the ‘real world’ immediately. It felt great knowing the amazing work of our members was making a genuine, practical difference. 

What are your predictions for the future of the field?

Why Choose a Career in the Peak Body Membership and Associations SectorThe future is exciting! I think we’ll see more associations embrace (not just tinker around the edges of) their role as leaders in their industry or profession’s approach to driving inclusivity and diversity.

If you were to give advice to someone contemplating a career in this sector, what would it be and why?

Embrace lifelong learning and networking. Succeeding in associations, and particularly in membership driven associations and roles, is all about building relationships and being open to new ideas and points of view. I have such a diverse network because of the time I’ve spent in associations, and I love it. I’m always learning! 

How do you envision the relationship between peak bodies and their members evolving in the next decade?

In the next decade, I hope to see associations become highly adaptable, data-driven, thriving ecosystems where communities of members play an active role in shaping priorities and direction. 

What’s one change or innovation you’d like to see in the sector to better serve its mission and stakeholders?

I’m looking forward to seeing developments in personalisation of experiences and tailored services for individual members, while still maintaining a sense of community. I’m excited by the incredible opportunities presented by emerging technologies, so long as they’re used to enhance or optimise member experiences rather than just replicate or replace processes and people.

It’s clear when reflecting on our chat with Donna that it’s not just the depth of experience she brings to the table, but that genuine spark when talking about the real, hands-on impact of associations and peak bodies in the thick of industry. Her story of converting member insights into something tangibly useful right in the moment speaks volumes about what can happen when people rally around a shared hiccup in the system. It also kind of nudges toward an underrated power: collective push toward making stuff work better for everyone involved. Donna’s looking forward to a future where associations aren’t just shuffling along but actively spearheading inclusivity and diversity in their industries – and it’s an infectious enthusiasm. There’s an undercurrent of something a bit more, though, a call to arm for us all to not just navigate but actively shape our paths, ensuring that as we move toward the future, we’re not just witnesses but active participants in the change.

Toni Hardman Unpacks the Rewarding Challenges within Membership Associations

What do you consider the most rewarding aspect of your career in the sector?

Why Choose a Career in the Peak Body Membership and Associations SectorFor me, the most rewarding aspect undoubtedly lies in meeting and working with the stellar individuals in the industry. Many who become members of associations are leaders in their field and generously share their time and expertise.

Are there unique challenges in this sector that you believe have strengthened your professional skills?

The unique challenge with the sector is that your members are customers of the various products and services you provide, but at the same time they have a vested interest in the organisation through their membership. Keeping this in mind helped me hone my communication skills and the way I approached my role by continually asking myself if what I was doing was in the best interests of our members.

How do you perceive the evolution of the field in the past 5-10 years? Are there any trends or shifts you’ve noticed that excite you?

I think the next big trend in the sector is going digital and investing in the right technology to improve efficiency and the quality of services provided. This is highly beneficial for both staff and members.

For those considering a career in this field, what skills or attributes do you believe are crucial for success?

Great customer service skills and enjoying working with people are essential for success in membership associations. Being flexible and working as part of a team are also important for developing a career in this field.

How do you handle the balance between serving your members’ immediate needs and planning for the long-term future of the association?

Good forward planning of your goals and how you aim to get there is essential, as is communicating this to members so they are on the journey with you. This helps when you need to balance immediate responses with long term plans and make those tough decisions.

Can you share an example of a project or initiative in this field that you’re particularly proud of?

I’m really proud of the membership packages I have developed with my team, that enhance member benefits and grow the association membership. The package holders get value for money and are much more likely to use all the benefits on offer which builds loyalty with the association.

Diving into Toni’s insights, there’s a heap to mull over about the realities of navigating membership associations. Toni’s experiences show the harmony of managing immediate member needs while keeping an eye fixed on future planning. That balance, as delicate as it is crucial, demands a tricky juggling act. Toni presents her skill for moulding membership packages that don’t just exist but genuinely enhance member benefits and build a sort of steadfast loyalty. Toni’s leaning into the digital wind, seeing the rise of tech and efficiency as more than a trend, but a tangible tide that lifts everyone in the sector. And from this we can all learn a lesson: the balance between serving present needs and crafting a future that’s not just sustainable but always moving forward.

Dan Condon on Merging Profit and Purpose in the Association Space

What initially drew you to the peak bodies, memberships, and associations field?

My path toward working for an association wasn’t entirely deliberate. After study, I spent some time working within an internal learning and development team for a large corporation.  After finishing up this role, I thought I would try my hand at events, working in a community-based events role for a non-for-profit. I enjoyed each of these roles and on my next job hunt, I came across a training coordinator role for a small member-based association that seemed to utilise each of these previous skill sets perfectly. This role set me on course for a long career within the association space.

Can you share a pivotal moment or experience in your career that solidified your decision to remain in this sector?

Why Choose a Career in the Peak Body Membership and Associations SectorCertainly, there have been many moments, but orchestrating my first multi-day professional development conference stands out. The sense of accomplishment derived from curating a program, securing speakers, managing relationships, and witnessing the event unfold successfully is undoubtedly a career highlight.

How do you believe this field differs from other sectors in terms of impact and reach?

I believe this industry is unique in the model of ‘profit for a purpose’ – while we apply commercial principles to the way we work, we’re always conscious of the fact that we are building revenue to invest back into the membership, ultimately for the betterment of the industry we’re working in. I believe this creates a purposeful work environment.

In what ways has working in this field influenced your personal growth and worldview?

Working within the association space has helped inform my views in many areas, from workplace culture to industrial issues to the Australian political landscape in general, particularly within my roles at organisations who are heavily involved in government advocacy. I feel this exposure to the development of policy and the associated services related to it has greatly increased my understanding of some of the wider challenges we face as a country, and some of the actions being undertaken to tackle them.

How does the mission and ethos of peak bodies and associations resonate with your personal values or beliefs?

I have found traditionally that membership bodies tend to put great emphasis on a ‘people first’ mentality. I believe there is a common understanding within the association space that an organisation is only as strong as the people working for it, and that support for your staff’s wellbeing and development, both personally and professionally, is paramount. This is an ideology that is closely aligned with my own personal values.

Were there any mentors or figures in the sector that inspired your journey?

I have been very lucky to have worked with many inspirational leaders over the span of my career. All have played a part in the development of my own professional growth, and I believe this luck may be contributed to the ‘people first’ approach that the association industry tends to attract candidates to.

Dan’s career journey illuminates the special blend of profit and purpose in the association space. Initially falling into the field, Dan found a sense of achievement in blending commercial strategies with meaningful impact, particularly through organising large-scale professional events. The standout notion from his experience is the ‘profit for a purpose’ model, where revenue isn’t the end goal but a means to reinvest in the membership and broader industry. Navigating through policy development and government advocacy roles, he also gained a richer understanding of Australia’s broader socio-political challenges. A nod to the ‘people-first’ mindset, which Dan aligns closely with, showcases associations as not just industry drivers but as entities valuing individual growth and well-being. His journey, while underlined with personal development, highlights a sector that is as much about fostering individual growth as it is about advancing industries.

From the stories shared by Donna, Toni, and Dan, we get a vivid, hands-on view of the world of peak bodies, memberships, and associations. It’s a space buzzing with energy, where hurdles become stepping stones and every project aims for industry betterment. Curious about carving your own path in this sector? Let’s chat more. Reach out to me at

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