By Wes Sovis — Digital Communications Manager
With the financial uncertainty that has accompanied the coronavirus pandemic, many association executives are hesitant to add staff or, worse yet, have had to reduce staff. Such constraints don’t mitigate the need for associations to deliver services, operate new or existing programs, and add new capacity to help members face the challenges imposed by the pandemic.
There is a real need to acquire expertise and maintain or increase productivity, but uncertainty persists about current and future association budgets. So, what are association leaders to do? One potential solution is to work with a company whose sole purpose is to support associations.
Dispelling Myths About Association Management Companies
When association executives consider AMCs in scenarios like we now find ourselves, a few misconceptions may prevent them from seriously considering working with an AMC. “The most common myth,” offered Donna Oser, CAE, MSAE President & CEO, “is that bringing in an AMC may undermine the CEO or jeopardize their job. To the contrary, ensuring a relevant and vibrant association is the critical work of a successful leader.”
We reached out to a few AMC companies from MSAE’s membership for additional insight on the myths associated with their industry.
“There are several misconceptions about AMCs; two that I’ve heard is that (1) AMCs are expensive and (2) associations will not get personalized service,” says Michael Palmer, President of Treeline Associates.
Palmer explains, “Survey after survey has shown that using an AMC is cost-effective. You can contract for someone through an AMC with specialized skills without having to hire a full-time person. The AMC hires someone that works with two or three associations, so they are experts in their field (accounting, events, membership, executive director services, etc).”
In addition to being cost-effective, it’s important to note that AMCs don’t have to be full-service partners. This is a common misconception about AMCs, as Tobi Lyon, CEO of NGAGE Management, says, “Suppose they [an association] are looking for event planning, marketing or communication support, or membership management. In that case, we can cater to their needs and only perform the job functions they specifically need to move the needle for their association.”
Increased Capacity for Association Staff
One aspect that makes AMCs particularly appealing is the ability to allow the association to pay for only the expertise they need, at a level that fits their budget.
However, not all AMCs are the same, as Lyon is quick to point out. “No two AMCs are alike. Each AMC has a different approach to how they structure their teams, grow membership, market the association, and so forth.”
Finding an AMC with the expertise for your unique needs is critical for a value-add relationship. For example, if your association needs help with marketing, finding an AMC with a robust marketing department should take priority over other factors like price, location, etc.
The important takeaway here is that AMCs are not ‘plug and play’. It’s imperative to find an AMC that knows your association’s niche and has the staff that fits your exact needs.
When to Consider an AMC
The decision to add staff or outsource isn’t an easy one. How does association leadership determine when to consider working with an AMC?
Diane Dufek, of AMR, says,” When an association has a need for expertise in a key area (i.e., event management, financial management, database maintenance, publications) but cannot afford or does not have the need to employ a full-time individual, hiring an AMC is a great option to meet these needs, [as they are] gaining access to employees who already have experience and specialize in those areas.”
When cost savings are paramount, an AMC becomes even more attractive. Dufek points out that “outsourcing staffing needs to reduce overhead costs (i.e., reduce payroll, insurance costs, office space, etc.)” has huge cost-savings benefits.
Contracting with an AMC may be an excellent strategy for improving an association’s viability and capacity. The Buyer’s Guide lists AMCs within the MSAE Community that are happy to answer questions and explore possibilities. The AMC Institute has a wealth of information and resources related to selecting and contracting with an AMC.