Are associations for sale to the highest bidder? by Jon Hansen

Posted on August 18, 2015


My last post Is The Busch Era Coming To An End . . . Should It Have Started In The First Place?, has generated some interesting feedback.

Here are a few examples:

“This was quality read and you’ve raised some thought provoking questions!” – Government Market Master Group Member

“You really nailed it on Spend Matters and the “Prince”.” – Public Sector Procurement Executive

“Great points Jon, . . .You are probably one of the very few (perhaps the only?) person in the space that has been on all three sides (buyer, entrepreneur, journalist).” – Procurement Solution Service Provider

However, one of the comments opened up an entirely different (and unexpected) path of consideration regarding the question of service provider influence.

In his usual thoughtful and astute manner, IACCM CEO Tim Cummins sent me the following e-mail.

As is my normal practice, I will let you read the e-mail first, and then provide my thoughts relative to the focus of today’s post:


You raise interesting points in your recent blog regarding the independence of advice.

You are of course right about people being increasingly reluctant to pay for content, yet they then complain if content providers are ‘compromised’ by taking funding from elsewhere (such as service providers). So we get into a cycle where they don’t really trust the advice they get because it may well not be objective, yet they aren’t willing to pay for advice that is objective – so over time, there is no objectivity and people really need to do their own research to discover ‘truth’.

On both sides, the problem is being driven by the ease of access to data and the volume of information available. Availability leads consumers to perceiving no value; yet they are then forced to spend ever-increasing amounts of time filtering information and undertaking searches in order to reach any sort of ‘balanced’ view.

I’m sure you are aware that almost all analysts / advisory firms are largely funded by service providers. I’m sure this must influence what they say. But in fairness, an alternative model, where users pay, seems increasingly hard to sustain. We are pretty much managing that at IACCM and maybe it will prove to be a sustainable model, but I suspect it won’t and that we will need to move away from the idea of ‘paid membership’ to more specific added value services.

It’s a good topic. And once again illustrates that ‘you get what you pay for’ – or in this case, don’t pay for!


There are multiple points in which Tim offers what I believe is an important perspective – and no, not just because he generally agrees with me.

As an aside, the service provider to who’s comment I referenced above, also indicated that the Jason Busch’s of the world do provide a needed service from the vantage of not being in procurement – a point with which I have a qualifying belief. But this is a topic of discussion for another day.

Tim’s reference to the fact that IACCM will likely have to “move away from the idea of a paid membership,” and offer specific value added services is what really stood out.

Ironically, the first two thoughts that came to my mind when I read his statement – and this may surprise many – was centered around Rick Grimm and the NIGP.

Specifically, Rick’s post NIGP Forum Tweet about 10% of Forum attendees being under the age of 40 and, the deals made with Periscope relating to both the NIGP Code stewardship and the NIGP consulting business.

NIGP 10 percent under 40

With the former, I am presently doing research on the age demographics of association membership, and what it might mean in terms of the ongoing viability of the present model. Look for a post on the results of my research in the very near future.

Regarding the latter, Tim’s e-mail actually produced a degree of empathy for Grimm, if not in terms of his solutions, at least from the standpoint of his intent.

Bearing in mind the old adage that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, the deals Grimm has made were possibly, at least in part, born out of necessity.  Let’s face it, and has demonstrated by countless media reports, very few people want to pay-to-access anything, including association membership.

This means that someone has to bear the cost of sustaining the current venues through which procurement professionals can access information and expertise.

If we don’t do it, then who is left? Service providers? Who else?

From an association standpoint, the NIGP has been profitable for the past few years by using – at least in part, the revenue models of the analysts and bloggers. The question is simply this, without the Periscope deals and their Enterprise Sponsor Program, would the income from their membership alone be enough to sustain them?

Another question worth asking, is at what point is the blurred line between independent objectivity and paid servitude crossed.

In this regard, I am going to be very, very interested in learning more about the value added services to which Tim referred.

highest bidder2


Posted in: Commentary