Developing an association credentialing program

A year after the founding of the Philippine Council of Associations and Association Executives (PCAAE) in November 2013, it has embarked on an ambitious plan to develop its own credentialing program to advance association governance and management for associations and other member-serving organizations in the country.

Designed and developed by association professionals here and benchmarked with the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), the Certified Professional Association Executive (CPAE) covers the essential knowledge, skills and behavior that an association professional needs to do the job.

The 6-module course includes: association management fundamentals; governance and legal aspects; public relations; communications; branding and marketing; people management; financial management; and, organizational sustainability. To complete the program and receive the CPAE credential, a participant has to prepare and present to a panel a “back-home-plan,” which entails a project or a practice that the participant envisions to do for their association.

Recently, an association that would like to design and develop its own credentialing program for its members has reached out to me to get ideas and insights on how to go about its plan. As I was among those who developed the CPAE, I shared the following steps to take, with the assumption that the purpose and objectives of the program are clear and it has the buy-in of all key stakeholders: the association’s Board; management; and, members.

The first step is to form a task force (say, five to six people) to focus on the project. Each member should know the organization’s capacity-building needs and aspirations. This group needs to:

1.  Make a research and survey what is already available “out there.” In the case of the CPAE, the PCAAE task force knew there are already existing credentialing programs, notably ASAE’s Certified Association Executive (CAE) so there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. It will also help to survey members on what subject matters would be essential to their profession or industry.

2.  Prepare the first draft of the program curriculum. The curriculum identifies and outlines the subjects comprising the course of study. In CPAE, the six learning modules and a validation subject such as a “back-home-plan” were identified as the minimum requirement for association professionals to further improve on their work.

3.  Identify the speakers for each subject. Careful selection of speakers is also important. Since CPAE deals with various management disciples, e.g., legal, marketing, HR and financial, the choice of speakers relates to their educational background and expertise. A pool of speakers will also be needed as backup.

4.  Fine-tune the curriculum and test it. The draft curriculum goes to a larger group, e.g., the Board and a few external resource persons, for review and critique. It is subsequently tested with a small group of members.

5.  Conduct, evaluate and improve. Once beta-tested, the program is now ready to be conducted and offered to members. Continuous evaluation and improvement is necessary to make the credential program current, relevant and beneficial to members.

Having a credentialing program is one of the value propositions that will make members join and stay in an association as part of their career and leadership development.

Octavio Peralta is currently the executive director of the Global Compact Network Philippines and founder and volunteer CEO of the Philippine Council of Associations and Association Executives, the “association of associations.” PCAAE is holding its Associations Summit 10 (AS10) on November 23 and 24, 2022. E-mail: