Your Complete Guide: How to Choose an Association Management Company
Imagine how much you could accomplish in one day if you didn’t have to worry about financial management, member recruitment, event management, business operations and marketing.
In order to efficiently manage operations, many professional associations, trade groups and nonprofit organizations turn to Association Management Companies (AMCs) that provide a full-time staff of experts—all under one roof. By outsourcing management services, you can reduce overhead expenses and tap into experts with a wide range of experience.
Many associations do not have the budget to pay an entire staff’s salary or rent office space, but when those expenses are distributed and shared among several associations through an AMC, the costs are much more manageable. Typically, smaller associations can select the specific services they need rather than signing on for full-service support. In fact, the number one reason associations hire an AMC is for the economies of scale they offer.
By leaning on an AMC for day-to-day operations, your board and stakeholders can focus on governing and setting strategic direction. In addition to daily operations, an AMC provides a range of services, including financial management, event and conference planning, membership recruitment and retention and database management, as well as member accreditation and certification. An AMC is a true partner in your organization’s success, ensuring that events are executed flawlessly, your website is up-to-date, revenue is collected, and invoices are processed.
An AMC’s expertise is in advancing associations’ missions and goals by providing customized services while effectively implementing policies that are established by your board of directors. According to AMC Institute, in the first year under an AMC management, on average, associations realized an increase in gross revenue of 9.6% and an increase in net operating income of 13.7%.
One of the unique benefits CMA offers association clients is that the company is also a full-service marketing agency. For our clients, that means they have access to a team of experienced strategists, event planners, financial managers, marketing experts and business-minded creatives all under one roof. Many AMCs consider association management and marketing to be two separate entities, but at CMA we see them as one. Afterall, to get results, you need a strong marketing strategy. For associations, marketing builds awareness, engages members, boosts revenue and helps your association stay relevant.
Typically, organizations can opt for a full spectrum of services or a scalable, customized approach as specific services are needed for an event or project. The four most common association management services our clients seek include:
- Financial management — Over the last decade, association clients have evolved to operate like small businesses, particularly from the standpoint of financial management. Therefore, an association’s finances need to function flawlessly and meet all the necessary benchmarks to ensure its financial sustainability. An AMC provides turnkey financial oversight, budget development, CFO-level association financial and accounting services and most importantly— peace of mind.
- Day-to-day operations — Delivering turnkey management for all operations, including membership management and communication, setting up technology, member recruitment and even serving as the physical headquarter location are part of the day-to-day duties that AMCs fulfill.
- Membership programs and engagements — One of the key characteristics of a successful association is thriving membership. That happens through effective membership management, including regular communications, member programs, member benefits and other opportunities that attract new prospects and motivate current members to retain their membership. An AMC will command the full scope of membership acquisition, retention, and program development, to boost membership.
- Event management — Every event is important—whether it is an annual conference, training, retreat or product launch. Your gatherings can boost your association’s professional prestige and networking opportunities for members. Seek an AMC that can help you create a clear set of objectives for your conference, and strategically craft the event to achieve your goals. An AMC assists with everything from registration to vendor management to budgeting and developing support and marketing materials.
Once you realize that an AMC is the solution you need for your association to run more efficiently, the next step is to submit a request for proposal (RFP). Decide if your organization needs full-service support or outsourced services for a specific project or event. Afterall, every trade association is unique and faces different concerns and issues. Once you review the proposals, choose one that best aligns with your organization’s mission and offers the services and expertise your association needs to run efficiently now and in the future. Some factors to consider include:
- Expertise in your sector: Does the AMC have a strong history of experience managing associations? What about the staff members’ experience who will be managing your association? Did references provide positive feedback? What is the average length of time serving clients? Is the organization AMC Institute accredited? Does the organization have a strong history/reputation?
- Range of services offered: Does the AMC offer the services you need now, as well as the ones you may need in future as you grow or expand your scope? If the AMC is serving as headquarters, is the company located in a geographically desirable location? Will you have access to marketing and creative services teams to execute marketing campaigns?
- Technology: Websites, email marketing and social media are the most cost-effective ways for associations to stay in touch with members. Does the organization have experience managing websites or social media campaigns? What types of databases are used for financial management, event registration and membership management? Is the company equipped to develop a digital strategy to host virtual events that support online engagement?
AMCs leverage shared resources across multiple clients, which means you have access to more services and greater capabilities—expertise that is affordable.
Earlier this year, the American Pediatric Surgical Nurses Association (APSNA) needed to quickly share critical COVID-19 developments to its membership during a nationwide state of emergency. As a result, CMA identified the Facebook Live feature, which is essentially a live social media video, as the ideal way to reach their largest audience on a national scope and promoted the event on APSNA’s social media channels.
APSNA’s one-day virtual event helped deepen engagement with members by providing a forum for them to connect in a genuine way—sharing regional updates about the pandemic and getting answers to questions in real-time. The experience reached 4,000 members, generated 229 social media post clicks, 87 reactions and 20 live comments as the association built deeper engagement with its membership.
In addition to freeing up time to advance your mission by reducing the burden of administrative duties, there are so many benefits of choosing an AMC:
Shared services and reduced costs
Overhead costs are lower because meeting space, equipment and supply expenses are shared across several associations. The combined buying power ensures you have the expertise, support, and cutting-edge technology at your fingertips.
Staff who are experts in critical, niche areas of association management are hard to find. With an AMC, everything, and everyone you need, is working hard under one roof to advance your mission. Since the specialized staff of an AMC is laser-focused on managing associations, they have experience working with a range of groups on various recruitment campaigns, events and membership initiatives. Put their expertise to work to extend your association’s capabilities.
All associations are unique, but all have similar needs for policies, templates, procedure documents, reporting and financials. With an AMC, you’ll have a staff that has systems in place that allow you to move expertly without having to “reinvent the wheel”!
Your organization exists to provide exciting and informative events, as well as networking and educational opportunities for members. Afterall, active, engaged members are the glue to your association. That is exactly where an AMC’s expertise is—involving members through events, marketing, incentives, webinars and social media—implementing strategies to increase member engagement.
With a keen focus on enhancing efficiencies, streamlining expenses and keeping your organization on track toward long-term growth, the success of an AMC is dependent on the milestones they achieve for their clients.
To help spur business opportunities for one of our clients, the International Card Manufacturers Association (ICMA) – CMA built and launched a robust, searchable online membership directory, which was an upgrade from its static listing of companies. The new interactive feature allows companies—anywhere in the world—to quickly search 10 categories to find the right partner for any card-related project, helping members to garner more company brand recognition, sell more and gain business connections. The directory not only raises visibility for members by improving their company’s ranking on Google, but it also boosts SEO.
As a result of CMA’s 12-month promotion and implementation of the online membership directory, the association’s members have directly benefited:
- 850 individuals visited the directory for a total of 2,600 times
- Website traffic resulted in a 105% increase in unique page views
- 95 ICMA members listed themselves in the directory
- Visitor traffic increased 91% to the directory (compared to prior year)
The new, interactive directory has generated a 30% increase in referral traffic to member sites.
When done right, working with an AMC is a seamless, positive experience. They offer an in-depth understanding of all facets of association management and a range of expertise to streamline daily operations so you can navigate on mission and strategic leadership. From administrative tasks to financial management and event planning, AMCs provide industry expertise in all forms, allowing you to focus on the “big picture.” Your members and stakeholders will not even realize a third-party organization is working hard behind the scenes.
National and international organizations turn to CMA for full-service association management—it is what we do best! Running an association can be hectic. At CMA, we offer comprehensive association management services designed to meet your budget, goals, and deadlines. In today’s competitive business climate, associations must move swiftly and adapt to changing landscapes.
Let us do the heavy lifting so you can focus on leading. Contact us today to tap into the full potential of your association through effective association management.