In his two-part audio series earlier this year, blogger extraordinairre Jon Hansen of Procurement Insights, explored the question “Is the traditional association model dead?” His panel of experts seemed to agree that traditional purchasing associations as we knew them are on their way out the door.

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On a related note, Purchasing Magazine’s Dave Hannon recently penned an article about a purchasing and supply management association that is considering allowing salespeople to become members. According to the article, that association is holding a vote among its members in December to get approval to change its bylaws so that salespeople are no longer prevented from joining. If a majority of voting members agree with the change, salespeople and purchasing professionals will have equal access to membership.

While the association itself defends this proposed change as a means “to better reflect the changing nature of the supply management profession,” Hannon smartly gets to the heart of the matter – it’s all about money and survival: “The broader membership would mean more revenue for the organization at a time when many industry organizations are struggling. [The organization’s] officials confirmed the organization’s membership numbers are down from past years.”

Indeed, in an editorial in its own publication this summer, that association’s CEO wrote that the association “is being challenged in the current economic environment. Revenue is declining. Last fiscal year, we posted a huge loss…This will likely occur again this fiscal year….we are blessed with substantial reserves for a ‘rainy day.’ Well, it’s raining.”

The likelihood of this change passing seems uncertain based on Hannon’s research. The article includes this type of feedback:

  • Members and affiliate presidents and board members contacted by expressed a variety of concerns about the proposal.
  • “One [affiliate] member said opening membership to salespeople, ‘would hinder and negatively affect membership and/or attendance at meetings. I have found over the years that when we have a company involved in sales do presentations that they cannot stop themselves from doing a sales pitch as part of that presentation.’”
  • “Another [affiliate] member pointed out that his company would ‘do more than frown if they knew that I was in a meeting with a vendor who could gain an advantage over other vendors regarding strategies or methodologies we are using.’ In fact, this [affiliate] member said he would not be able to attend meetings that included salespeople ‘as the appearance of meeting with a vendor or salesperson where we are discussing the aforementioned would violate our firm’s purchasing guidelines and principles.’”

So, what does this mean? Does this mean that traditional associations are no longer sustainable doing business-as-usual? Does this mean that if the traditional association model survives, it will no longer have the benefit of being buy-side only? And will this lack of insulation from salespeople cause an exodus of purchasing and supply management members and effectively turn purchasing and supply management associations into veritable sales associations that welcome purchasers?

Time will tell.

To Your Career,
Charles Dominick, SPSM
President & Chief Procurement Officer
Next Level Purchasing, Inc.
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Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2, SPSM3

Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2, SPSM3 is an internationally-recognized business expert, legendary procurement thought leader, award-winning entrepreneur, and provocative blogger. Charles founded the Next Level Purchasing Association in 2000, oversaw its incredible growth, and successfully led the organization to its acquisition by the Certitrek Group in 2016. He continues to blog and provide advisory services for the NLPA on a part-time basis as he incubates his upcoming business innovations. Charles is also the co-author of the wildly popular, groundbreaking book, "The Procurement Game Plan: Winning Strategies & Techniques For Supply Management Professionals."

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