Accreditation is a procedure by which an authoritative body gives formal recognition that an organization or person is competent to carry out specific tasks. We are all familiar with certain kinds of accreditation. Your doctor may be “Board Certified” to a particular discipline. The back of your refrigerator probably has a sticker that says, “UL Listed.” Both are forms of accreditation.
Does the sticker mean your refrigerator is better than one that has not been UL Listed? It might. That listing indicates your refrigerator has been manufactured and tested to specific standards. The standards were designed with input from manufacturers, consumers, government officials, environmental “watchdog” groups and other interested parties. Why were so many people involved in their development? To assure that your refrigerator would operate safely and efficiently — better than refrigerators that do not meet the standard.
What does this have to do with association management companies?
Nearly three years ago the International Association for Association Management Companies decided that a standard should be created for association management companies to use as a benchmark for providing quality services. As IAAMC examined all appropriate directions for the creation of such a standard, it became clear that creating an American National Standard was the best method.
Creating an American National Standard is the best approach for several reasons. First, American National Standards are developed under the processes and procedures set forth by the American National Standards Institute. ANSI is a not-for-profit organization that accredits organizations to develop consensus standards. ANSI is recognized worldwide.
Second, in developing an American National Standard, one assures the most impartial process is used to create the standard. Because ANSI requires all its accredited standards development organizations follow its approved procedures, the process takes away the potential for dominance by a small group of interested parties.
Finally, because of ANSI's worldwide recognition, the standard will be more widely recognized and accepted as an American National Standard.
IAAMC applied for and became an accredited Standards Development Organization under the canvass method procedures of ANSI. This was just the beginning of the process.
Next, IAAMC had to implement the canvass process defined by ANSI to develop the standard. This included the following:
Developing a canvass list of interested parties from various backgrounds who are directly and materially affected by the standard including association management company owners/principals, association staff people, andleaders of associations
Approval of the canvass list by ANSI
Conducting the canvass. In this phase, the standard is distributed and everyone on the canvass list gets an equal opportunity to comment on its content. In this case there were several canvasses conducted.
Considering each objection received individually and responding to each one appropriately
Providing an opportunity for anyone objecting to the final draft of the standard to file an appeal, first to IAAMC's Appeals Board and then to ANSI itself.
Finally, submitting the standard to ANSI for review and approval.
IAAMC submitted its draft standard to ANSI for approval in February 2002. In April, the standard was approved by ANSI. The title and designation of the standard is “ANSI/IAAMC A100.1-2002 — Standard of Good Practices for Association Management Companies.”
What can you expect from association management companies that are accredited to the ANSI/IAAMC Standard?
Accounting procedures that are compliant with the Federal Accounting Standards Board requirements
Appropriatereview and transition procedures
Appropriate and adequate insurance coverages
Written record-keeping procedures
Employee recruitment and training programs that assure the company's employees know, understand, and comply with company procedures and systems
What does a national voluntary consensus standard serving as a benchmark for AMCs to provide quality service mean to volunteer leaders of organizations and associations? The standard has meaning only if it is followed. The best way to assure it is being followed is through a process called accreditation.
Remember, accreditation means an organization like IAAMC recognizes AMCs for meeting or exceeding the requirements of the ANSI/IAAMC Standard.
As you might imagine, IAAMC is creating an accreditation program that will be based on the requirements of the ANSI/IAAMC Standard.
The IAAMC accreditation program, like the standard, will be demanding. The program will require written documentation provided by the AMC indicating that it meets or exceeds each of the requirements of the standard. Additionally, IAAMC's accreditation program will require that an independent audit of the AMC be conducted to verify that its processes and procedures meet or exceed the baseline requirements established by the ANSI/IAAMC Standard.
This will be the most demanding and comprehensive accreditation program in the association industry. Those companies able to achieve accreditation will truly be quality association management companies.
Much as you can now look on the back of your refrigerator and see that UL-Listed sticker, you will be able to identify IAAMC-accredited association management companies by this mark.
AMCs using this mark will have demonstrated through an independent audit their compliance to the standard.
To association leaders, this means that, among other things:
Checks and balances are in place to help ensure your association's money is properly handled.
The AMC has processes in place that enable it to perform association management functions and deliver quality services.
The AMC has established and implemented a training program for its employees to ensure that the delivery of services meets standards set by the AMC.
Comprehensive and appropriate insurance is maintained by the AMC.
Association management companies achieving this mark demonstrate a high level of professionalism and responsibility.
An IAAMC-accredited AMC has invested significant time and money to meet or exceed the requirements of the only American National Standard for Association Management Companies. Your organization can be assured that when you see the IAAMC Accreditation mark, the AMC has met the ANSI/IAAMC Standard for Service, Quality, and Excellence.
Rick Church is vice president of Associations, CM Services Inc., The Association Partnership Company, Glen Ellyn, Ill., (630) 858-7337; email@example.com.