I have this sort of ambivalent view of industry trade associations.

I have this sort of ambivalent view of industry trade associations. They provide really good continuing opportunities, decent networking events, and great trade shows that give vendors the chance to interact with providers, and providers a chance to explore the latest and greatest.

The big challenge is that because of their very nature, a trade organization has to pretty much take all who want to join so they find themselves representing some less than great companies (in this case, senior living providers). As a result they mostly behave as if all providers are equal. They generally do a pretty good job of celebrating outstanding members but mostly just remain silent about bad providers . . . part of the nature of the association business and partly because there are legal issues involved.

The  default then becomes:

  1. The associations are mostly silent when providers do bad things.
  2. They mostly work to protect the status quo.


Traditionally job one for trade associations has been to protect association members from unwanted, damaging government incursion. This means fighting damaging laws and advocating favorable laws. While ALFA has become a powerful and important force in the industry, they lacked the traditional legislative battleground except in the very limited role of fighting federal legislation.  

While this lack of or at least very limited role has not stopped them from growing into a significant role. They needed to go someplace. That new someplace represents thoughtful, creative, brave thinking and action on the part of the paid leadership team and the board of directors.

A New Way of Thinking

The hodgepodge of (state) regulations in assisted living and independent living has overall been good for consumers and providers. It has allowed legislative interaction between providers, consumers, consumer advocates, and lawmakers to craft rules that reflect the needs of each individual state. The downside is that there is not much consensus about much of anything. ALFA is now stepping up to close that gap.

Independent Credentialing

From executive director to line caregiver there are minimum levels of knowledge and competence that each person must have to be successful at their job . . . to be able to competently serve seniors. Large providers have, for the most part, outlined what that requirement is for their teams. Smaller providers may mostly rely on an ad hoc, hands-on training program that works ok at least most of the time.

What ALFA has done is to say “we are a great organization representing great providers and we want to take what we do to the next level.” You have likely already seen the announcement, but with that in mind, on April 8 they announced the formation of a new Independent Credentialing Organization.  

The thinking behind the forming of this organization is to “elevate professional standards, enhance individual performance, and identify senior living professionals who demonstrate the knowledge essential to the practice of senior living.”

It will be a time-consuming process and will likely be a major focal point of the May ALFA conference in Tampa.

After receiving the press release I reached out to ALFA CEO James Balda with some clarification questions.  His responses will be part 2.

Steve Moran