During the Dark Ages skilled craftsmen formed guilds. The purpose of the guild was to first assure the quality of workmanship by the members: hence the names apprentice, journeyman and master.
The second purpose was to share advances in the “state of the art” as it currently stood among members. The third reason for guilds was business: Sustain what you had and solicit more profitable contracts. When a castle, road or anything else needed building you went to the guild for craftsmen.
When the Industrial Revolution came, the master (one who was skilled at a thousand tasks) was replaced with a thousand people skilled at one task. The guild system nearly died out. Today the guild system has evolved into two branches. The first branch is a licensing system. You know this as board-certified doctors, licensed contractors, electricians, etc. Sharing advances in the state of the art (the guild's second purpose) is now accomplished by trade magazines. The second branch evolved into the professional society.
Societies serve the third purpose of the guild: to sustain business, expand technology and solicit more profitable business. Most societies in the plastics business have tried for certification (licensing) programs. One society directly aimed the certification program at those with engineering degrees. It failed because an engineer could cash it in better with a professional engineer certification than something from a society. Perhaps it would have succeeded with a technician certification managed by the plant owner.
Look at your society. Look at the national committee. Is it heavily weighted with academics or business professionals? What do you suppose their personal agenda is? Helping your company become more profitable? A professor's agenda is to publish books the society will print, write articles in the society magazine, and present papers at the society's conferences. His papers/books/research —whether done personally or by his students — is blatant marketing for promotion in academia or consultancy in industry. A business professional wants to make money.
There is a concept in marketing called the “One in a Hundred” Rule. This is if one person takes the time to write a letter, send a fax or e-mail a suggestion to an organization, there are probably a hundred others who feel the same way but didn't bother to write. This is how small groups influence government:
* Saturate Congress with letters and faxes on a specific issue.
* Know the general public will sit by doing nothing.
Result: Legislation is passed favoring this issue. Bingo!
Is your society helping you and your company? What has it done to assist you or Jill and Joe Lunchbox to do their job better, helping improve your company's profit? Does your society provide you with leads to help solve problems relating to technology, materials and processes?
Your choice is to voice your views directly and through the channels of the society, sit passively by and get nothing for your dues money, or drop your membership and go into a corner and pout. It is my belief that many societies who represent people (as opposed to companies) have forgotten their focus: to take care of the people who pay their salaries by helping them to stay and become more profitable. If you don't feel you are getting your money's worth for your dues, fax or e-mail the head of your society. If he doesn't hear from you, he'll think what he's doing is right and continue doing it.
But that's my opinion; I could be wrong.