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Does Your Association Need a New Management Model?

Oct 8, 2019

If your association is struggling, you might be thinking about changing the program offering or dues structure. But what if the issue goes deeper, to the very way you run and operate the organization? There are four main models of association management, from volunteer-run all the way to full-service management from an association management company (AMC).

Every association has different operational needs. Take a look at the models below. Perhaps it’s time to make a change in your organization.

Volunteer Management

In this basic model, the association is managed entirely by volunteer Board Members. Not only do volunteers take care of strategy and long-term planning, they also carry out day-to-day activities like processing member requests and ordering supplies. With extremely low direct costs for personnel, the volunteer model is best for small or new associations that aren’t quite ready to invest in staff or management services. However, volunteers can only dedicate so much of their busy lives to the association, and because volunteer leaders come and go, the association may suffer from inconsistent leadership. Furthermore, while volunteer leaders are usually experts in their industry or field, most are not experts in association or nonprofit management.

Staff Management

Staff-managed associations directly hire employees to carry out day-to-day operations. The organization also makes its own arrangements for office space, equipment, furniture, and software. The pros of this common model are that the association has more direct control over resources and can foster continuity in its staff and leadership teams.

However, overhead costs for rent and equipment can be extremely high for these staff-run associations. A good amount of the association’s budget may go to overhead as opposed to serving members! Additionally, these associations might have trouble finding talented staff, and, of course, there are many other risks associated with being an employer. Finally, this model requires leadership to spend much more time directing everyday activity as opposed to working on strategy.

Full-Service AMC Management

Here, the association hires an AMC for all operations, from accounting to program management. This option alleviates much of the stress and risk associated with hiring employees. It also ensures that the association is always operated by experts in association management.

Full AMC management offers a number of benefits. First, the AMC model allows association Board Members to do what they do best: think strategically and make high-level decisions. This option also lowers management costs because the AMC can share overhead and other expenses among clients. AMCs give organizations access to experts in multiple disciplines—in the exact time allotments they need. That means tailored, efficient service. The most common challenge for the AMC model is a potential lack of knowledge pertaining to the client’s industry or field. However, with the Board consisting of industry experts, this usually amounts to a small hurdle.

Outsourced AMC Management

The final model is a hybrid solution where the association hires an AMC for projects or certain staff functions. If a staff-managed association is lacking skills or resources in one of the various areas of association management, then the outsourced AMC option is a great choice. AMCs can easily fill the gaps with their association expertise—and that expertise allows them to jump in without much background or training.

Effective management is crucial if an association is to fulfill its mission and provide value to members. If you think either of the AMC options above might help, please don’t hesitate to explore our offerings and reach out. Every day, we help associations just like yours to optimize efficiencies and maximize growth.

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