The American Academy of Audiology’s State Network Subcommittee (SNS) serves to facilitate communication among states, and to develop and share resources. State advocates often ask the SNS to provide guidance on how states can begin to form their own audiology organization. The Academy has a State Leaders’ Handbook, available on the Academy’s website, which provides an overview of the process. 

Based on recent questions, the SNS wanted to supplement the information found in the handbook to focus on key “need-to-know areas,” specifically related to getting started and how to approach the financial aspects of forming your state audiology organization.

Those who have developed a budget and raised the funds to form a state organization frequently describe the process as the most intimidating and difficult task of all. Advocates looking to form a state organization most often want to know more about what is involved in terms of first steps, time, money, and how much volunteer participation is necessary. In addition to understanding the fiscal requirements, we also found it helpful to understand some of the lesser known challenges associated with forming a state audiology organization, including what to be cautious of, and how to ensure sustainability of the new organization. 

The SNS has researched current state organization’s experiences and spoken to state advocates from across the country. The results of those conversations vary tremendously. It is our goal to identify information that is both consistent and helpful to those looking to form a state audiology organization. Here are some suggestions that the SNS has developed to assist with this process. 

Identify Key Audiologists in Your State

Look for individuals who are willing to help lay the groundwork for the organization and contribute financially to its formation. One suggestion would be to choose 10 audiologists who will serve as your founding board members. Ideally, you want these founding board members to be known among the audiologists in your state, as it will help with spreading the word and gaining members for your new organization. 

Secure Start-Up Funds 

These funds will assist you with incorporating and establishing the organization’s website. If you can raise $1,500, this will be sufficient to get your organization off of the ground. One approach to raising these funds is each founding board member contributes at least $150 to reach this goal. There are, of course, many other ways that you could raise this money, but this way establishes your founding board members as invested stakeholders in the new state organization.

Open a Business Checking Account

The SNS recommends finding a financial institution that has branches all over your state, for the sake of convenience. At this point, you will need to decide who from the board will be your treasurer and president. These individuals will likely be on the account’s signature card and authorized to make payments on the organization’s behalf.

File for Incorporation 

This can be accomplished through your state’s government website. The process of filling out the online forms is fairly painless, with the costs typically not exceeding $50. If you are not comfortable doing this, you can certainly have a tax professional help you. Completing this process usually includes a form whereby you establish your organization’s Employment Identification Number (EIN). This number serves the organization in the same manner that your social security number serves you. The process may differ by state, so the SNS urges you to check your state’s government website for more information. 

Construct Your State Audiology Organization’s Website 

This will allow you to develop an online presence and portal to reach your potential members, and serve as your communication hub. This step can also include concurrently establishing your Facebook page, Twitter account, etc. You can establish your website through a number of businesses for a cost of approximately $1,000. If you have a professional relationship with someone who specializes in web design, you may be able to construct your website for much less money. Monthly costs for maintaining your website are typically around $100.

Send Out a Call for Membership 

A good place to start is by securing a mailing list of the licensed audiologists in your state, which typically is accompanied by an e-mail list. Your state’s board of examiners should be able to provide this information to you as a licensed audiologist. You may have to purchase this list, but it is typically not expensive. The Academy also has a mailing list of members from each state available for purchase for a nominal fee. You should send out a group e-mail, which includes the link for your state’s website’s “join” page. Sending out a formal paper mailer can be expensive, depending on how large the mailer is and the number of audiologists on the mailing list. If finances permit, you can send out a mailer which includes the same information; however, you may want to only solicit members through e-mail and word of mouth.

Begin Planning your First Professional Conference 

Having your first professional conference really cements the establishment of the audiology organization and should be a significant revenue generator for you, if it is planned for carefully. This is a very large undertaking and you should reach out to a fellow state academy for guidance. With the success of your first state conference, you will now have operating funds to pursue other academy goals and responsibilities, the first of which is to establish your federal tax-exempt status.

File for Your Federal Tax Exempt Status 

Don’t let this intimidate you. There are people who can help! The state leaders surveyed by the SNS recommend that you use a qualified CPA to accomplish this task. You can file for federal tax exemption as soon as you have established your state incorporation, but this process can be expensive. You may pay anywhere between a couple thousand dollars to a few thousand dollars, which is why you may want to have the benefit of your first profitable state conference before beginning this process. 

Companies and individuals that contribute to your academy prior to you securing your federal status can still claim a tax exemption for themselves, and indicate that your audiology organization is in the process of establishing your federal tax-exempt status. Your tax professional can give you advice about this process.

Conclusion

It may seem daunting, but forming a state academy is not hard to accomplish or financially difficult to fund if you know where to start. Part of this process includes finding the right stakeholders in your state and dedicating yourself to accomplishing your goals. This is a personally and professionally rewarding experience that few people have the opportunity in which to be a part. Additionally, do not hesitate to reach out to the Academy’s SNS and/or other state audiology organizations, as you will find that others who have accomplished this task will be very willing and happy to help you. 

The information above was prepared in consultation with different state leaders who have formed their own state audiology organizations. The information presented contains suggested steps to help those considering forming their own state audiology organization better understand the process. This process may vary depending on the state in which you reside and/or other factors, so we encourage you to use this as a general guide.