Many association planners are quick to pin the blame for industry layoffs on third-party planning companies who tempt their organizations to shed salaried employees in favor of less expensive external planners. But Bruce Harris, who heads up the Cleveland-based independent meeting planning firm Conferon, says it just ain’t so. Conferon may be picking up a hundred new clients this year, the majority of which are associations, but "We’re not replacing their planner—we’re working for their planner," he says, adding that housing and registration are the most commonly outsourced functions.

A new study from the American Society of Association Executives backs him up. Titled "Generating and Managing Non-Dues Revenues: A Benchmarking Guide," the study found that only 3 percent of ASAE’s member organizations outsourced their entire meeting and convention functions. "Approximately 65 percent of our member organizations conduct all their meeting planning in-house," says Steven Williams, PhD, ASAE’s director of industry and market research. "Thirty-two percent outsource part of their meetings."

That doesn’t mean association planners can breathe a sigh of relief, though. More associations are consolidating positions and restructuring to do more with less, says Shira Harrington, a senior personnel consultant with Washington, D.C.-based Positions Inc. "They’re passing responsibilities for downsized employees up to a higher level meeting professional, or down to administrative assistants, or just spreading them out to various departments, in addition to outsourcing some functions."

For more on the association job market, look for the December issue of Association Meetings.