Is the AMC Option Right for You?

Association Management Companies (AMCs) are a good option for organizations of any size, including those managed by either staff or volunteers and regardless of whether there is a physical office, virtual office, or no office at all. What is different in each situation is the role that could be filled by an AMC. The focus of that role should be based on the needs of the organization at present as well as its plans for the future.

Stages in the growth of an association
How to tell when volunteers are not enough, and you need staff
The Top Ten Reasons for Using an AMC

The typical stages in the growth of an association are shown below, along with the types of AMC roles suitable for that phase

Formation Stage: This is the stage where a group of individuals come together for a like cause. This "connection" allows for the first steps in forming an organization. An AMC is invaluable in the shaping stages so that the new association or society is developed appropriately with the necessary foundations for future growth.

An AMC can assist with: Strategic Planning, Start-Up Management

Developmental Stage: In this stage of development, typically volunteers are more active in the management of the association. The association is relatively small and the income streams are just being established. The purpose of the organization is taking shape at this stage, and the AMC can fulfill the nurturing role that enables the organization to achieve the critical growth stage (many organizations remain "stunted" in their development and never get beyond this stage).

An AMC can assist with: Strategic Planning, Revenue Generation, Operations, Administration and Finances

Growth Stage: During this stage, an association has grown, the identity of the association has taken shape, and the organization is maturing. The programs and services of the organization are established and earning revenue for the association or society. Policies and procedures are now in place. Volunteers can no longer handle the day-to-day management of the organization. The association/society needs the skills of a tactical leader so that the volunteer leaders can think and act more strategically.

An AMC can assist with: Executive Management, Strategic Planning, Revenue Generation, Operations, Administration and Finances, Meetings and Events, Member Services, Creative Services, Communications and Program/Service Development.

Mature Stage: Building upon the growth stage, a mature association is very established and respected in the industry with a solid membership base. The members of the association demand high value and reasonably priced services. There is also a greater need to advocate and promote change within the industry and profession so stagnation does not set in. Mature organizations go through cycles of renewal and transition that continue throughout their existence.

An AMC can assist with: Executive Management, Strategic Planning, Revenue Generation, Operations, Administration and Finances, Meetings and Events, Member Services, Creative Services, Communications, Program/Service Development, Public Relations, Government Relations, Education and Accreditation/Certification. 

Top of Page

How to tell when volunteers are not enough, and you need staff (either an AMC or employees)

The Board should ask and answer these questions:

  1. Does the organization seem caught in an endless loop? No time for program and service development or membership recruitment/retention to increase revenues. Why? Because the Board and volunteers are too busy. Why are they too busy? Because they think they don't have the funds to secure assistance? Why don't they have the funds? Because they are not focused on strategic issues such as membership value and growth.
  2. Is it increasingly difficult to meet deadlines and due dates for programs, newsletters, etc., and complete accounting, and other basic operations within a reasonable time period?
  3. Is the Board finding it harder to recruit volunteers to serve on the board, and for project, program and administrative roles?
  4. Are the directors and the other volunteers losing steam and some of their enthusiasm?
  5. Is the organization's membership declining because of a dearth of membership services or poor customer service?
  6. Is the Board so busy with "governance and administration" and "putting out fires" that no new programs or services are being explored or begun? (see question 1)
  7. Has the membership list stopped growing because no one on the Board has time for active recruiting of new members? (see question 1)

So often, in the early stages of association growth, Boards seem to focus on the structure and trappings of governance and operations. What they should focus on is mission and strategy, and creating value for members and growing members. Then they will have something to govern and manage...and the funds to acquire assistance where needed.

Top of Page

The Top Ten Reasons for Using an AMC

  1. The organization maintains its own separate and distinct identity in the eyes of members - Phone numbers, phone service will be maintained, phone calls will be answered with your organization’s name and your own listing will appear in phone books and association and other directories. Your association will maintain separate bank accounts, investment accounts, membership databases, vendor contracts (such as hotel and printing), educational programs, and promotional campaigns. Your executive director, together with a core team, will carry your business cards and consider themselves your staff. As such, they are dedicated to serving your needs.
  2. Gain access to professionals in key program areas. The successful operation of an association today requires a wide range of skills, from finance management, contract negotiations, meeting planning, and educational development to copy writing and editing, strategic planning, marketing, fund-raising and many more in between including public relations, chapter operations, inventory management, government relations, certification administration, surveys and evaluations, database management and information systems management to name only a few. Rather than have a few people “do it all”, an AMC gives you access - when you need it - to employees who specialize in each area; thus, each task receives the thorough attention and devoted service it deserves. What’s more, your members will perceive your organization as being “top-notch” in every area, rather than in just a few.
  3. Pay only for the professional services you need and use. You can access AMC specialists when you need them and pay only for the time used. Trained in specific areas of association management, our specialists rely on years of experience and expertise to know what works and how to make things happen with a minimum of effort. When compared to outsourcing, this arrangement results in cost benefits to you.
  4. Reap the benefits of leading-edge technology. Each year AMCs invest more than $1 million in advanced technology so that their clients can remain competitive. With their tremendous capability and flexibility, information systems are a key tool in managing every aspect of an association: strategic planning, finances, conferences and meetings registration, database maintenance, desktop publishing, and general administration. Few associations can afford the sophisticated level of technology available at an AMC. Your organization can “plug in” immediately to the newest and most efficient software and hardware available, instantly boosting the level of service to members. And as new technological advances develop, AMCs will keep you on the leading edge with continual access to the software and developments that meet your specific needs.
  5. Share the cost of an infrastructure and pay only for the overhead you use. The cost of maintaining an office can be overwhelming, especially for small to mid-size organizations of less than $3 million. But organizations managed by professionals share the overhead costs of rent, utilities, technology and maintenance, among other expenses. You pay overhead only for what your association uses. In addition, you have access to large and small meeting rooms for board and committee meetings when needed. These consolidated meeting locations afford your visiting members instant access to account staff, membership files and other intangible benefits unavailable at offsite locations.
  6. Save time and energy spent on personnel issues. The knowledge and expertise of Association Boards of Directors is put to best use when decisions about strategy and policy issues related to their field and scope of practice must be made. Issues of employment compensation, benefits, withholding tax, continuing education, hiring and firing only drain valuable time and energy away from these tasks. As the employers of your staff, AMCs relieve you of these duties. While you have input into employee performance evaluations, you do not need to spend time on day-to-day human resource issues.
  7. Expand or contract staff as needed, without pain. As your programs grow, new staff members can be added to your team to provide additional services, often without spending extra time and energy to hire additional qualified personnel.
  8. Minimize phone transfers, voice mail and busy signals with a fully staffed member services group. A common complaint from members of organizations with limited staff is the slow response rate to requests and phone calls. With AMCs, a member services representative, not a receptionist or a recording, answers your members’ calls. These representatives are trained to answer questions specific to your organization. With just one phone call, members can renew their membership, register for a conference or change their mailing address; prospective members and others can find out what your organization is all about. In short, every detail and nuance of the member services function is designed to produce a positive and productive experience for all who contact your organization.
  9. Learn from other AMC-managed associations - avoid mistakes, seize opportunities. The collective knowledge of seasoned executives is invaluable as account staffs share their learning experiences with one another. When an organization is contemplating a new project, such as adding a password access area to its website or searching for a key consultant to conduct a benchmarking study, it is probable other organizations have already implemented similar programs. Thus, you can learn about the pros, cons, cost implications and other unforeseen issues before making the move yourself.
  10. Share in AMCs collective and overall buying power. A key benefit of AMCs is their increased buying power. Combining the cyclical costs of multiple clients year after year - for example, negotiating hotel room rates, printing costs, and mailing services - strengthens negotiating power. That translates into instant access to better hotel contracts, print quotes, mailing services and more.

Top of Page


Copyright 2010 - McPherson Management Ltd.
Calgary Web Design by BlueOcean