Avoiding the Nuclear Option with Your AMC

At Association Hub, we love Association Management Companies. The model is excellent for so many of our clients that are making the move from purely volunteer associations to professionally managed organizations. While an AMC may not be the right solution for every association, the statistics speak for themselves. There has been good research over the years that looks at comparative bench-marking of staff run versus AMC run associations. Not surprisingly, a number of good studies can be found at the AMC Institute.

A full third of our clients are run by AMC’s and while we remain agnostic, we always encourage associations to consider all possible models for professional management. Our quandary lately though has been how to provide advice to client boards with good, long standing AMC relationships that want to ensure some degree of due diligence. Consider yourself in this situation:

  • Well established, healthy association
  • Long standing relationship with an AMC
  • All staff are employees of the AMC
  • Numbers are good, reserves are healthy, association is growing
  • The board has no reason to be unhappy with their AMC
  • They love the staff and love the growth and continual improvement of the conference and programs

But, the board has a duty of care to spend members’ money wisely and ensure they are getting value. More than half of the association’s total revenues are paid to the AMC. This is not an unusual situation. In fact, many associations with AMC’s are in a very similar position. So everything is fine. Everyone is happy and getting along, but there is a twinge of uncertainty. Is the board exercising reasonable due diligence about how all the money is spent? When the board usually has questions like this, they ask their management and staff…who are also the AMC. Who can they talk to about this? These questions generally arise when the AMC is negotiating their contract. The AMC is usually driving the conversation about fee increases based on increased services.

There is no reason to go to RFP…if not the nuclear option, this is at least like telling your spouse you want to see if there is anyone better out there. How can a board perform realand meaningful due diligence regarding the majority of association expenditures without metaphorically poking their best partner in the eye? Find out in the next blog…Association Due Diligence

Effective Networking At Association Conferences

Association Hub expert Peter Wright had the pleasure last week to speak at the annual conference of the Florida Society of Association Executives. The focus of the session was helping FSAE conference attendees get more out of their conference networking experience. The audience was incredibly receptive and enthusiastic to learn how to be great networkers. With plenty of time for interacting and meeting new people, the session was high energy and lots of fun. Peter offered a range of tips to help delegates maximize their networking experience.

  1. More effective networking leads to a more valuable conference experience, and you control the value you get from networking by the effort you put in
  2. It takes planning to get more out of networking
  3. Planning to meet a speaker is something you should set up before the conference
  4. You have a critical role to help other people benefit from networking
  5. Helping others get value from networking is a great way to take the spotlight off you and be more comfortable networking
  6. Don’t go in to a conference with no objectives for networking. Think about what you want to get out of your networking experience
  7. Write down your rough networking plan
  8. Choose a networking wing-man in advance
  9. Ask your association’s staff and board for introductions to people you really want to meet at the conference
  10. Take lots of business cards and give them to everyone you introduce yourself to

If you would like Peter to speak at your next event, have a look at his services page.

Peter Wright Association Conference Networking

Peter Wright
Association Conference Networking

Is Your Association Board Fully Engaged?

Last blog we discussed the top 5 indicators your association board might be slacking…or at least lacking full engagement. We have had plenty of feedback on the blog and suggestions for 5 more indicators to round out a top 10 list.

  1. Active and effective committee leadership is critical to success for many associations. While there are many board members that step up and provide the leadership required, there are many other examples of board members that pay lip service to this role. Association managers are counting on board members to drive the mandate and work of important committees forward, but all too often low committee engagement just causes more work for staff.
  2. Active engagement in cultivating volunteers is something board members often see as the sole domain of association staff, but this is a critical space where we need board support. Board members are in the best position to turn regular members into volunteers and volunteers into super volunteers. Association management can help with a clear and disciplined process for volunteer engagement, but board members need to be prepared to take an active role.
  3. Active participation in board succession may be as obvious as attendance, but many board members pay mere lip service to their role. Any first time association board member will tell you that ensuring effective succession is central to association sustainability, but do they know what that means? Again, association management will provide a strong process, but we need every board member cultivating future directors and ensuring a full and strong slate every time.
  4. Director skill development is also given cursory and spotty attention by many board  members. Beyond director orientation and initial board training, we need directors to constantly be honing their skills to really serve associations effectively. We may recruit directors for their specific skills, but we need them to learn the basics of the association. After one year on your board, can all your board members tell you your association’s annual budget, or reserves? What about board members that have served many years? From our experience, the vast majority cannot.
  5. AMC oversight is simply the most important function that many boards overlook. With an average of 50% of revenues going to their association management company, boards have an obligation to members to ensure they are getting full value year after year. While we do see boards that get obsessed with monitoring and squeezing their AMC, we also see boards that let the tail wag the dog.

Association board members are mostly tireless, passionate volunteers and we love them for it, but there are too many directors that are passive and disengaged. Imagine the success of your association if every board member was fully engaged in all the right areas.