Professional organizations and double dipping

Part of my job is advising recruiters on candidate generation strategy. Every so often, I’ll grab some current job descriptions and head out onto the Internet to see what’s doing. It’s hard to advise on the most effective places to post jobs if I don’t at least do it every so often. Plus it reminds me of the old days.

Another part of my job is working directly with professional organizations. So when I go out to evaluate job posting resources, I definitely think of the professional organization sites first.One change I have noticed, that is really ticking me off, with most of the professional organizations that I have been working with: they are starting to charge for job postings. These are marketing organizations and I get that they are trying to monetize their offering but it’s another situation where I think they have overlooked the value prop and gone straight to the money. It doesn’t work that way. They are acting like a big job board but not providing the volume of quality candidates that can be found through other means.

Most of us staffing folks have a set budget for posting jobs. So, we have to make choices. Do I buy a chapter level job posting or a posting on one of the big boards or use a networking tool? What is the reach of these different options? Where has the quality already been proven? Unfortunately, you kind of have to prove it to me before I pay (and since I’ve already paid for membership, good luck).

I hate to keep harping on the same things over and over again, but for a professional org chapter, you have to think about who the customer is and what they want. If the ultimate customer is the member, they may want access to open job listings (hello…networking is a major reason people join these groups). If you don’t charge the company for the job postings, you will get many of them. This will make your members happy and you’ll have lovely stories about job seekers who have found their next role via the organization (hello….that you can use as marketing tools to get more members). All this from me and I have no formal training in marketing (other than one undergrad class which I hardly remember at all).  If you charge the companies for the job postings, you are competing for dollars with other chapter level organizations so you aren’t going to get as many listings and your membership will go elsewhere to seek out listings. Seems pretty simple to me. What am I missing? I think that these groups will end up making more money in the long run if they decide to charge EITHER the employer or the seeker, but you can’t have it both ways. You have to pick….what is your business, who is your supplier and who is your customer. Could it be any simpler?

(Sorry, I am getting fired up again…it comes on suddenly)

Anyway, I’ve got a blog so I am going to do a hot jobs posting this week because I insist on working around those that want me to pay for something that I’m pretty sure I can do for free. So let’s see!

PS: and those groups that aren’t charging me…thanks! I’ll be back!

Comments (13)

  1. I’m not in total agreement with you on this though from being in the same situation I know how frustrating it is. The chapters have a duty to their members to charge for ‘assets’. They are non-profit organisations so to provide the level of service that they do (events, newsletters etc) they either charge you or I for access to their members or the members have to pay more subscription charges. Sure your job ads have value to some members (those who would want to work at Microsoft) but if they were free then all members would incur higher fees, including those who didn’t want to work for you.

    Given that I don’t think you should be paying for job listings. You should be thinking about higher-level brand building with the professional organisation probably through a sponsorship. Typically you can offer some financial support but you should also think what Microsoft can offer easily that would have a benefit to them as an organisation. This could be, for example, something around their technology need, or it could be a series of speakers for relevant events (which are also great to build that recruitment community). For this you will get a promise of managed exposure, access to members and free relevant job listings. Don’t go for a ‘standard package’, negotiate what works for you.

    I would suggest negotiating at the national level. As a national sponsor you will get the broadest visibility and the local chapters will be most welcoming. If you are only interested at the local level then do the deal there (but it will probably take as much time to negotiate and manage each local chapter as the national level).

    Hope that helps.


    ps, if you have a few active members of the association in Microsoft they are going to be good entry points and advisors.

  2. jorge says:

    Hi Heather, for a few years back now accounting and IT professional associations in Australia have cut a deal with the top job boards by which the board creates a private label for the association(hope that’s what you call it over there), lists the jobs that pertain to the relevant profession through this private label, gets the traffic, registrations, cv’s etc. and pays them (the association) a sum. The association gets board technology, some revenue, and the members get more or less appropriate roles (at least you’ll be looking at the same profession vertical) from the board’s customers

    The catch is obviously that you have to post with the board first, but then again, as an advertiser, you are getting ur budget to buy a bit more, right?

    Maybe the time to buy eyeballs is over, or maybe the boards in the US were never that keen to deal with the prof. bodies. It all just went to the point that maybe you can stay loyal to your members charter and get a bit commercial on the side.

    cheers j.

  3. Would members of the professional organizations and associations be willing to pay higher membership fees to the professional organization?

    Modern organizations generally do not cover their costs with membership fees alone, and find it necessary to diversify their revenue into areas like classified listings, events, magazine advertising and others.

    I’m sure that their members would like all of these services for free, but it could be argued that by finding sources of revenue other than membership fees, they are actually keeping those fees low for their members – something that I am sure that the members appreciate.

  4. HeatherLeigh says:

    Andrew, we do those things. I just don’t have the resources to do that with all of them. That doesn’t solve the problem that by asking companies to pay for postings, they are getting less postings up in the first place. So they still aren’t making the money. They have priced themselves out of the job postng market.

    Jorge-I like that approach. I would be more apt to pay if their was potentially broader reach and the bigger boards do that. Love that idea.

    David-what about advertising revenue in the site? Webcasts? I just don’t see the volume of job postings on these sites that makes me think this makes sense.

  5. Right on Heather! We hear you loud and clear at home office. We’ll see you (and the rest of your team) in our listings soon.

  6. Paul says:

    re: Andrew. Absolutely wrong bass-akwards thinking. If an organization is providing value to its members, then they will pay enough to cover that value. If it isn’t, then they need to look at what value they’re providing, not rent their member lists out to subsidize low fees, and hijack a company that is willing to add value to the organization for free. A company like Microsoft may well choose to spend more for paid ads or sponsorship of meetings or other "visibility" things as part of good corporate citizenship and burnishing their image, but if you don’t care about employment opportunities and networking, you are the only member in your association that feels that way. Sorry, Heather is dead right on this one.

    Moreover, as a professional association, you should care about consistency with your charter, and having the right to say no to listings that don’t fit. We all have seen listings on supposedly "high quality" boards that don’t belong there – the latest pyramid scheme or "guaranteed 6 figure income, just pay us to get started . . .". When you make something that should be an association benefit into something that outsiders pay for, you have a strong temptation to corrupt what it is you’re about.

    Bottom line – one of the things I want is well-qualified properly targeted opportunities to look at. If organizations like Microsoft aren’t going to list because you want money from them, I’ll join a different organization.

    Unfortunately, everyone wants money for services that should be free, including Microsoft. Like when the new OS crashes my PC, and Microsoft wants to charge me $35 to talk to someone about it.

  7. HeatherLeigh says:

    Paul-send me your snail-mail address and I’ll send you a card for a free tech support call.

    You are right-on about how I am thinking about this whole thing, by the way.

    Michael-thanks for reminding me. I need to integrate your info into some job posting guides I’m putting together for our marketing and finance recruiters.

    Guys-ask Michael about whether their members pay for value and how they think about their business model.

    I think you have 2 choices: charge the seeker/member and the companies will provide loads of job descriptions for free (like theLadders)(customer = seeker, supplier = company). Charge the companies and the job seekers will flock there (like (customer = companies, supplier = seeker) or charge both and you’ll get less postings (because you are charging) and you will get less members because you are providing less value. You can try both but I have yet to see it work.

  8. Nishi says:

    Heather I wish all people that work in HR, are as dedicated and committed as you. Also who take their work seriously?

    Keep up the good work.

  9. From an economic perspective, it doesn’t make a difference how much money is being earned from the job postings. For a non-profit (which many associations are) every dollar that is raised in some fashion other than membership dues is one that the members don’t have to pay (at least in theory). Therefore, by creating multiple streams of revenue for themselves, no matter how small they may be, they are serving their members.

    For-profits, on the other hand, simply try to create a revenue stream out of the areas where they provide value. This includes classifieds, events, magazines, and web sites, in addition to membership fees. In 2005, these are not optional for an organization in this line of business – they are necessities to remain competitive.

    You don’t fault Procter & Gamble, GE or Microsoft for serving different people with different products, do you?

    Why would this be any different?

    If you are really interested, there’s all kinds of articles on Association Management at .

    Good light reading 🙂

  10. stone says:

    Heather over at Microsoft has a great post on professional organizations and double dipping. Money quote: I hate to keep…

  11. HeatherLeigh says:

    David-it’s not about fault (you aren’t taking this personally, are you?), it’s about what is most effective and, like I said, who the customer is and whether they are getting what they want. What I do have issue with is poorly thought through value prop which results in the organizations getting less money period. Best way to make money (profit or non) is to give your customers what they want, not to confuse suppliers with customers and charge anyone you can. My point is that the job posters (companies) deliver the value that members want so why would they be charged. Again, you could flip it around but that’s really more of a job posting board scenario. This is about wise business decisions, not chatising someone for being naughty.

    If you give the customers more of what they want, more will come and you’ll make more money. I’m not saying that you should charge more for it (though someone could if the value was there), but it makes the organziation more competitive and I honestly believe would drive membership up. I don’t see the correlation with GE/MS/P&G.

  12. Dave says:

    Personal – never.

    First, I love constructive feedback. Good advice is always welcome – especially when its from somebody who’s opinion I value.

    Second, ERE is not a professional association and don’t charge membership fees!