Membership Organizations, NEC

SIC 8699

Industry report:

This category covers membership organizations, not elsewhere classified (NEC), such as art councils, automobile owner's associations and clubs, humane societies, and reading rooms.

The membership organizations, not elsewhere classified (NEC) group includes humane societies, farm granges, farm bureaus, and similar organizations. In 2009, there were 37,348 of these miscellaneous organizations, employing a total of 266,000 people, as well as many volunteer staff members. Most of the groups were small, local bodies, uniting people with common interests. In fact, many associations in this classification had no full-time staff members and a few hundred or even fewer members; the average staff was seven in the late 2000s.

Almost all membership organizations in this classification are tax-exempt corporations. They generate revenue through dues, sales of insurance and other products and services, fund raising events and drives, endowment funds, and investments. Larger organizations often hire professional fund-raising firms. These companies usually charge a flat fee or a percentage of proceeds and conduct direct marketing campaigns and events. The average establishment in this group generated $600,000 annually in 2009.

American Automobile Association.
With some 50 million members in 2009, the American Automobile Association (AAA) is one of the largest and most successful enterprises in the United States. Nearly one-fourth of U.S. households hold AAA membership. The only other organizations that compare in size to this behemoth are the U.S. Catholic Church and the American Association of Retired Persons. Unlike most organizations in this group, the AAA pays some taxes, but it still operates as a not-for-profit entity.

The AAA is a federation of affiliated auto clubs. Members receive access to emergency road services, vacation and travel planning assistance, group insurance plans, and financial services. They also get periodic newsletters and magazines that keep them informed about automotive, travel, energy, environmental, and legislative topics. The AAA is the largest publisher of travel-related publications in the world. It produces more than 350 million copies of its publications each year, and consumes 22,000 tons of paper annually to produce its library of maps and books. The AAA also supports highway and road safety initiatives, and lobbies for membership interests.

The AAA was formed in 1902 when nine automobile clubs joined forces. As the automobile became a staple of U.S. life during the twentieth century, AAA membership swelled to 20 million by 1980. During the 1980s, moreover, AAA boosted its ranks at a rate of more than one million each year. It markets its services on a local basis, with each affiliate handling its own recruiting through direct mail and telephone sales. In-house local staffs provide individualized service. As a result, AAA enjoys a membership renewal rate of 88 percent, which is much higher than the industry norm.

By the late 2000s, AAA had diversified its services beyond roadside and trip assistance. It boasted the world's largest leisure travel agency and offered its members discounted auto, home, life, and health insurance. Its financial services divisions provided AAA members with opportunities for credit cards, CDs, identity theft protection, foreign currency exchange, and more. The corporate office in Heathrow, Florida, housed 850 employees.

American Farm Bureau Federation.
Another one of the largest membership organizations in this industry category is the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF). It represents the political interests of its members, and is recognized as a relatively powerful lobbying group in Washington. In the past, AFBF leadership has shown support for flexible price supports and minimal government interference in farming. The group has also promoted soil and water conservation, rural education programs, and rural electrification and infrastructure.

Farm bureaus emerged with the development of the county agricultural agent plan in the United States during the early 1900s. The AFBF was founded in 1919 to combine these bureaus into a single entity to "promote, protect, and represent the business, economic, social, and educational interests of the farmers of the nation." The AFBF had over 5 million members in 2009.

The Humane Society of the United States.
The most prominent humane society in the country is the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), with 11 million members in 2009. Its purpose is to protect all kinds of animals, including companion animals, wildlife in both natural habitats and captivity, marine mammals, and farm animals. The organization conducts research campaigns to identify and report when animals feel pain and distress, investigative work to uncover animal abuse, and field services to promote community-based programs. In 2008, the HSUS had revenues of $131 million and employed 440 people.

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