CIPS Lifetime Membership – Myth or Mystery?

Dr Gordon Murray featured an interesting CIPS (Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply) story the other day on his excellent Dr Gordy blog. It concerns the “CIPS Life Honorary Membership”.

As he explains, someone told him that they had intended “to leave CIPS but only decided to remain when they were offered free lifetime membership - I don't want to share the details of those particular circumstances, but my friend's understanding was that the offer was made due to the number of years they'd been a CIPS member”.

Murray decided to enquire about this himself as a long-standing member, but was told he was not eligible and “I cannot advise the criteria for this membership but I recommend you email again with your query in a few years”.

Not surprisingly, he was not very happy with this answer! He followed up and was told it was not a simple entitlement based on length of membership, but CIPS refused to tell him what the conditions are. They did say however that “any information gathered from other sources cannot be treated as reliable”. So we won’t tell you – but don’t believe anyone else who thinks they know! Do read his whole article here.

This is fascinating stuff - in my years on the Board of Management, as Chair and then President of CIPS (finishing in 2004), we honestly never discussed "honorary lifetime membership". So I am not giving away any inside information with what I am about to say.

After my close involvement with CIPS finished, a good friend of mine told me that he was now getting free membership "because I've been a member for over 30 years". He regretted telling me, because I immediately said how ridiculous this was. Let's face it, there is a good chance that folk in that category are better off than the vast majority of members. I could see the logic in having a reduced fee perhaps for retired people, but length of CIPS membership didn't seem to me to justify a freebie. I had to promise I wouldn’t make a fuss about it though so my friend didn’t lose his benefit!

So what do we make of CIPS' failure to explain to Dr Murray what is going on here? Well, we totally agree with him that the lack of transparency he has experienced is not impressive. This is a membership organisation at its heart, as well as a charity. It's not very impressive if we can't be open to our own members about how we treat those same members.

I'd hazard a guess at two potential explanations. The first is that my friend was wrong initially, and that the free offer wasn't given to everyone with 30 years' service, only those (like him) who were "distinguished" in some way.

Or maybe it was historically given to everyone but because of the cost, and perhaps increasing numbers with 30 years' service, it is now not publicised and is reserved for special use - as in the case of Murray's friend threatening to leave.  So maybe we should all threaten to leave and see what happens. (And do the free offers like that keep membership numbers up, presumably helping a few internal KPIs at Easton?)

Anyway, I have a simple suggestion for CIPS. Get rid of this altogether, or make it a publicly promoted recognition of long CIPS service and contribution to the profession, and let people apply or be nominated. Done in that way, it could be a real positive for CIPS we'd suggest, whereas the current situation does not reflect particularly well on the Institute.

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Voices (3)

  1. A Cynic:

    I wonder whether your or Gordon’s friend have bought services from CIPS in the past, or could be in a position to do so in the future?

    Just sayin, it might be another reason not to shout about it. CIPS commercial arm does make excellent marketing use of the professional body and their charity status….

  2. Dan:

    Does ‘distinguished’ in this context not mean ‘play golf with the right people’?

  3. Dr Gordy:

    Thanks Pete, there is some consistency in what our two friends have shared, and I can be 100% certain we are talking about different people – both have specifically referred to 30 years as being a factor in the decision making process!

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