FAQs about Association Management Companies
(Information provided by the American Society of Association Executives)
Will the association lose its identity when contracting with an AMC?
How can an AMC be dedicated to more than one client?
What are the staffing advantages of AMCs?
Why do AMCs want past and current financial information when responding to a request for proposal?
Are AMCs ideal only for start-up associations?
The short answer is no. Members shouldn’t even realize that the association does not have direct employees and a separate office. Most AMCs answer the telephone with a generic “association headquarters” or “association offices”. Many stand-alone associations with tongue-twister names (e.g., International Society of Left-Handed Neuropsychopharmacologists) use a similar phone greeting. Even with the increased use of voice mail, these sophisticated systems can be programmed to give members easy phone access to association staff.
Association leaders often express fear that they will become lost within the AMC’s staff structure – that no one will be responsible for their needs. But with many AMCs using a team approach to client management, there is always at least one, and often several, individuals who are intimately familiar with the association’s members, programs, and culture.
AMCs have professional executives with years of education and experience. Like lawyers and accountants, association managers attend to the affairs of each of their clients without disclosing confidential client information or co-mingling client funds. Even where client associations have contrary positions on public policy issues, so long as key staff for each association are separate and confidential client information remains secure, the associations can be assured of discretion.
Because the relationship of an AMC to a client association is that of an independent contractor, the association is freed of employment responsibility and liability. Employee relations are an increasingly complex management responsibility. Hiring, firing, worker compensation, fringe benefits, avoiding discrimination in a host of protected areas, and employer liability are only some of the concerns employers face. AMCs relieve an association’s board from all of these concerns.
The flexibility in staffing levels that an AMC provides an association is another distinct advantage compared to having a direct staff. A well-staffed AMC can provide the appropriate person with necessary skills to complete an association project when needed. When the project is completed and staffing needs decrease, the individual goes on to the next client? project. The shared resources of an AMC help smooth out the peaks and valleys of staffing needs. And this shared-resources concept allows AMC clients to realize savings in computers and other office equipment, office space rental, insurance, and the host of other expenses that go into maintaining a business office.
Financial statements are necessary because they provide the AMC with information about the extent and breadth of the association’s activities, giving the AMC a truer picture of the association. A current financial statement reveals the budgetary priorities of the association and helps identify projects and activities that consume staff time. It also gives the AMC the opportunity to see how well the association? finances are handled and if the prospective client is, in fact, solvent.
No. An AMC can be an asset at any time within the life cycle of an association. AMCs can be particularly useful in assisting in the start-up of associations. They have the experience, contacts, and expertise to get the newly formed association over many hurdles, saving volunteers time and effort and husbanding scarce association resources.
But AMCs are equally adept at managing mature associations. The interchange of ideas that is fostered by the AMC’s management of multiple organizations helps them introduce fresh concepts to their clients. An active AMC office is a hothouse of germinating ideas, budding programs, and growing talent–the very thing needed to bring life back into an aging organization.
Steven T. King, CAE, is executive vice president of Clemons and Associates, Inc., Baltimore.