Groups of professionals exist under many different labels: professional organizations, professional membership communities, mastermind groups, and professional associations, to name a few.
These structures share many similarities and benefits to members. With so many options to choose from, coupled with a lack of standardization, it can be dizzying for prospective members looking for the right group to join.
Here are some key points of distinction for each of these professional groups.
The term community generally refers to a group that forms organically around a shared interest or goal.
Professional membership communities are groups that are formed around, curated, and moderated by a trusted authority in the space. They are focused on providing support, resources, and networking opportunities to their members. These communities may be organized around a specific niche, industry, or professional development goal. While they are not extremely dissimilar to the other group types in this piece, a key point of distinction is: membership communities often feel tighter-knit than other groups of a similar size.
Professional masterminds are generally hyper-targeted, highly exclusive groups of individuals who meet regularly to discuss their goals, and challenges in business and beyond.
The members within mastermind groups offer support and accountability to one another, and in many ways, can feel like an extension of one’s circle of friends, or family. These groups are often focused on both personal and professional growth, and they can be a valuable way to stay motivated and on target.
A professional association is a group that is intended to advance a particular interest, mission statement, or profession, through programs and activities that enhance the competence of its members.
Associations tend to have a more lax, democratic structure than professional organizations, which are run from the top down. They usually form around a specific cause or mission, e.g. the Association for Women in Science, a “network that inspires bold leadership, research, and solutions that advance women in STEM.” Associations are often non-profit.
Professional organizations are groups that are formed to bring together professionals in a specific industry, location, or other common demographic—not dissimilar to the other types of groups discussed above. Leadership is generally fixed and established by the founding members, rather than democratically elected.
These organizations often offer professional development opportunities and networking opportunities, among a host of other benefits to their members. It’s also not uncommon for entire entities, like a corporation, to be “members” of professional organizations.
Professional associations, organizations, membership communities, and masterminds can all be valuable resources for professionals.
Each type of group offers unique benefits and can be a useful way to connect with others in your industry or to work towards your goals. Consider the different options and determine which type of group might be the best fit for your needs and goals.