Friday, November 21, 2008

The Role of An Association


Seems I've been involved with conversations in several states about free clinic associations, and their role. Most associations start out as a networking group, providing a chance to discuss common problems and challenges. Then, some money shows up... An association, like NC, suddenly finds itself with $$ (in the case of NC, $10 million!) for its member clinics via grants, etc. Now, if you ask an NC clinic what the primary role of an association is for them, I'll betcha most would say 'to raise money for me and the other clinics.' But, should that be the role? Associations with money or other resources to give become the victim of their own success. NC was able to get another $10 grant, but I would about bet my 3 kids that there will not be another $10 million. At that point, some clinics will see the association, one that brought in $20 million dollars over 10 years to the free clinic movement, as a 'failure' that fair? Should the primary function of an association be to raise money?

I would argue no - the primary reason for an association is to provide a common voice, to advocate, and to help the clinics in their long-term sustainability. If that means they happen to come across some grant $$ to share, great - but that is NOT their primary mission.

Of course, one could get into the philosophical argument that an association's job is to eliminate the need for free clinics - all people covered, 'universal health care' or whatever - basically, work the associaion and all its clinics out of business. I do not agree with that, but it is an argument I have heard.

I think the association is to teach clinics how to fish...while throwing them a few salmon along the way...

What do YOU think? Love to hear from ya...

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