How Do Professional Associations Get Resources? Lessons from Zimbabwe

Jim Rice

Former LMG Project Director

Participants arrive for the seminar in Harare, Zimbabwe. Photo: MSH Staff

Participants arrive for the seminar in Harare, Zimbabwe. Photo: MSH Staff

Your success, and your career effectiveness as a health leader, demands continuous learning and knowledge development.

But if you have a clinical background, how do you learn and master key practices and behaviors that help you succeed in your leadership and governance roles?

The answer to these questions is increasingly...you need to secure support from health service management professional associations.

In countries with a longer history of established professional associations, these associations do more than represent you to secure good workplace conditions and fair compensation (the trade union role). These associations also help encourage and support one’s journey for lifelong learning and capacity building for those who work in health systems leadership, management and governance. Good professional associations build and nurture your effectiveness.

In a number of low- and middle-income countries, health professionals are struggling to establish professional associations. That is not surprising since each association needs to be gradually built up and nurtured through staff support, access to knowledge about best practices, and resources for advocacy and professional education and training opportunities. This requires resources.

It is difficult to access resources to support these professional bodies in low resource countries. It is even more difficult if your professional association lacks a strong governance body, does not have a bold and realistic strategic plan, and does not have a “resource mobilization strategy.”

A meeting with health professional associations in East Africa[1] in August 2013 found that most of these groups were trying to earn more money with charging higher dues by providing good value to members of the association. A “value for money” strategy from earning a dues increase is good, but not enough to meet the resource needs of the modern health professional association.

More recently, in Zimbabwe, Compre Health Services along with the Zimbabwe Medical Association (ZIMA) and the Zimbabwe Nurses Association (ZINA) hosted a seminar on “Leadership, Management and Governance within Health Professional Associations” in Harare, Zimbabwe in which Dr. Rice was the Guest of Honor. As part of the workshop, a session with health leaders on income generating strategies produced these top ten strategies to raise money to support professional association’s sustainability and organizational vitality:

  1. Establish sponsorship/brokerage/incentive percent with various insurance offerings that are used by members:
    1. Malpractice insurance
    2. Life insurance
    3. Discounted insurance for private practices and staff
    4. Auto insurance
    5. Home owners insurance
  2. Sell health services to extractive industries, like petroleum or mining companies
  3. Establish for-profit subsidiaries for provision of services to employers and industries
  4. Form foundations to engage in ownership and operation of certain forms of health centers, hospitals, diagnostic clinics
  5. Form private training centers and colleges to meet ongoing training needs of profession
  6. Collaborate with other CSOs to negotiate favorable tax-benefits for donations and support to our associations
  7. Secure in-kind services and discounted support to members of the association (to demonstrate the tangible benefits from membership) to economies of scale from a variety of companies, like:
    1. Websites and social media packages
    2. Software training
    3. Software installations
    4. Hardware for computers
    5. Bio-medical support services for preventive maintenance of technologies for association or our members
    6. Printing services
    7. Car rentals
    8. Travel agency and transportation companies
    9. Office supplies
    10. Tele-communications
    11. Office equipment for association and our members
  8. Create commercial income generation from co-ventures with experienced and well established groups/cooperatives/enterprises for such varied items as:
    1. Kiosks within health facilities that sell food, drinks and related items
    2. Livestock
    3. Produce and farming
    4. Occupational health services to employers
    5. Tourism health services to hotels and lodges
  9. Organize fund raising events that yield cash and bolster organization’s visibility, such as:
    1. Raffles for expensive and inexpensive cars and other tangible goods
    2. Concerts, Dinners and dances
    3. Cake sales and other food stuffs
    4. Celebrity endorsements from sports and entertaining stars
    5. Golf tournaments
    6. Memorabilia, calendars, badges, glassware, mugs, plaques, clothing etc.
    7. Educational events and courses
  10. Collaborate to secure grants and contracts from national and international donors and foundations to conduct surveys, studies, advisory services, technical assistance consulting, training of community health workers and community members

Experience of the Zimbabwe Medical Association in resource mobilization

The Zimbabwe Medical Association (ZIMA) has used various approaches to raise funds to run the affairs of the association. The bulk of their funds come from member subscriptions.  It is noteworthy though that the current membership is just over 300 whereas it is estimated that there are about 2,000 medical practitioners registered in the country. 

Others sources of revenue have included:

  • Annual dinner dances
  • Fees from Continuous Medical Education (CME) sessions
  • Advertising space from private companies during Annual ZIMA Congress
  • Proceeds from ZIMA-organized golf tournaments that are supported by private sector companies

Which ones of these strategies work best for you? We suggest you organize a small group to prioritize your own revenue-generating activities and develop an action plan to make them happen!

Related Links:

Leading Change and Promoting Better Healthcare Worldwide

Promoting the Value of Health Manager Professional Associations in Low- and Middle-Income Countries (LMICs)

Strengthening Health Professional Associations: Insights from Health Leaders in Tanzania


[1] The USAID-funded African Strategies for Health (ASH) Project collaborated with the Survive & Thrive Global Development Alliance (GDA),  East, Central and Southern African Health Community (ECSA-HC)  and the Regional Centre for Quality of Healthcare (RCQHC)  to co-organize and co-lead a workshop during the Regional Forum on Maternal and Newborn Health in Arusha, Tanzania in August 2013. The workshop, attended by staff from the LMG Project , had participants from 42 regional and national health professional associations from 16 countries in the ECSA-HC region. The focus of the workshop, well-attended by leaders from professional associations across Africa, was to identify the challenges faced by health professional associations, and identify strategies for addressing them. One of the big challenges mentioned was meeting the resource needs of modern health professional associations, and providing “value for money” to association members.