There are many reasons to transfer management responsibilities to an association management company. Perhaps your current independent staff plans to retire, or a long-thought-out strategic plan requires a new management approach. Whatever the reason, you have to do your homework to find the right AMC to partner with, because all AMCs are not equal. When considering a change of such magnitude, you need to be very certain that the culture of the AMC matches that of your association.
As you research potential association management companies, ask these questions: Does the AMC’s management philosophy focus on a partnership with the association? Does the AMC use a team approach to problem-solving, planning, and implementation? Does the AMC have professional association management accreditation?
The job doesn’t end once you’ve selected an AMC. Experience has shown that the best results occur when the AMC and the former management staff work as a team to ensure that programs and services are transferred in an orderly fashion.
While the AMC will need to focus its initial efforts on gaining a complete understanding of the day-to-day needs of the membership, the change in the organization’s current management also creates an opportunity to re-examine and re-evaluate association activities and programs. Working together in the new partnership, association officers and the AMC’s staff can bring a fresh perspective on how to best accomplish your primary programs.
Solid preparation and adherence to a strict schedule will make the process run smoothly. Some AMCs have an extensive transition checklist that includes sections on vital areas of the association’s daily operations, such as financial documents, insurance policies, meetings, membership, graphics and artwork, paper and electronic files, inventory, and other transition-specific items. The checklist should detail what should be sent from the previous management, and it should help the new staff ask the right questions about the daily operations of the association. This helps provide continuity for the association’s board of directors, committees, and members. From forwarding the mail to relocating assets, your new AMC should work closely with the board and designated members to execute a seamless transition. It’s also a good idea to formally introduce the new headquarters staff to the membership via a letter from the association president. That could be followed by a "spotlight" article in the association’s newsletter.
Once the physical transition has taken place, be sure to dedicate time and effort to ensuring that members are not only aware of the change in management but that they are confident that the transition has been made in the best interests of the organization. It may be necessary to schedule a visit to your new headquarters. A personal visit is an excellent way to begin building the foundation for what will become a long-term, mutually satisfying professional relationship.
Suzanne C. Pine is executive vice president of operations with Fernley & Fernley Inc., Philadelphia, Pa., (215) 564-3484; www.fernley.com.