What is Association Management?

This summer I’m looking for opportunities to explain association management and share how we do it at Verto Solutions. One of my earlier blog posts included a basic overview of association management. The model is relatively new, and there are still many trade associations and non-profits that could benefit from the efficiency and flexibility of association management.

Verto Solutions Association Management

The associations we partner with at Verto Solutions are from diverse industries, but most are in food or finance. We’re prepared to help any association, but we’ve traditionally been strong in these areas.

Some of our associations are US-focused and others are global.

The budgets of the associations headquartered at Verto Solutions range from $500,000 – $5,000,000. We collect their membership dues, pay their bills, arrange independent audits of their accounts, and in some cases help them invest their reserve funds.  We can help associations of any size, but association management is particularly good for small-mid sized ones.shutterstock_219844360

When associations use our services they spend less time worrying about things like office space, employees & computers, and more time on their mission-critical objectives.

We provide a wide ranges of services to associations. In addition to financial management we support their communications, advocacy, education & training, and event planning.

We’re also known for our expertise in scientific and regulatory affairs for the food industry. We have four PhDs and three lawyers, with considerable experience with food ingredient safety and regulation.

Associations use technology to manage information and connect their members. We manage membership databases, create and maintain web sites for each association, and manage special data collection projects. We’re also creating content for education and advocacy, including social media programs for our associations.

Our offices in downtown DC serve as the headquarters for the associations, and this includes two conference rooms for board and committee meetings, or to prep for meetings at the Federal agencies or on Capitol Hill.

Our sister company, Verto Legal Solutions, provides legal counsel to associations, both general counsel services as well as counsel on specialized regulatory matters.

What distinguishes Verto Solutions from other association management companies is our people. Long-term involvement with the associations, in-depth understanding of the issues, and a real partnership between the staff and the association leaders.

What is Association Management?

There are two primary association operation models used today.  The newer model, association management, is generally more flexible and effective for associations of any size, but particularly those that are small to medium-size.

shutterstock_30840886What does it mean when an association is managed and what are the advantages?

We live in an age of specialization.  Generalists are less common in all fields.  Law, medicine, engineering, marketing and advertising, and in many other areas, specialization results in greater technical proficiency and effectiveness; management of associations and other non-profit organizations, charities and professional societies is no different.  These groups are increasingly supported by professional managers. This is part of a huge trend in which companies are trying to find the best resources to solve problems.

At Verto Solutions we work primarily with trade associations, but this management approach works for all non-profit organizations.

Non-profit corporations have a governing body, usually a board of directors.  The governing body manages the operation of the organization, usually by hiring a senior staff person that has the title of “president” or “executive director.”  This person in turn manages a larger staff that executes the plan created by the board of directors.

Here is where the difference between the two models is most apparent.  An association with their own staff “owns the staff,” meaning they have employees with all the costs and benefits that come along with them.  A managed association on the other hand has a contract with an association management company guaranteeing that the company will provide professional services to that association.  The scope of these contracts varies and the management of the staff can vary as well, but in the most basic form, this is the difference between an association with a staff and a managed association.

The association management model provides more options when it comes to matching available resources to the association or non-profit program needs.  Organizations employing their own staff have greater capacity from the start, but there’s a challenge managing or supervising this capacity and these positions add fixed costs that will only go away if someone is terminated.

The advantages to association management are many but the big ones are:

  • Controlling Costs
  • Eliminating Employee-Related Risks
  • Access to More Skilled and Experienced Professionals

The advantages of costs control and elimination of employment-related risks are closely linked.  That’s because employment issues frequently drive up costs for associations.  Hiring, managing, and firing employees consumes resources.  When an association signs a contract with an association management company its responsibilities are clearly laid out in the contract.

Another advantage of association management is access to talent.  Associations employing their own staff sometimes end up with amazing people; but amazing people are usually expensive employees.  Association management gives organizations access to highly trained and experienced professionals that come with the experience of helping other organizations solve many of the same challenges.  Imagine being a small or mid-sized association but having access to the most talented association professionals available; this is association management.

Executing a management contract with an association management company is a great cost control tool for associations.  The scope of the work, the extent of the charges, and general liability of the organization are all limited by a properly drafted association management contract.

Elements of a Successful Association Management Agreement:

  • Alignment of values
  • Frequent communication
  • Clarity of expectations
  • Regular assessment of progress

Association management contracts are structured in several different ways.  Some associations are charged hourly rates, based on budgets and projects that are approved by the board annually or quarterly.  Other associations pay a monthly amount for an agreed upon scope or level of service.  The level of service can be as specific as the association wants.  At Verto Solutions we use both models depending on what the client association wants.

Whatever the type or size of your association, charity or professional society, association management is good way to control costs and reduce employee-related risks while giving your organization access to the best and the brightest.

Contact me if you would like to discuss your association’s needs.

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2 Responses to What is Association Management?

  1. Joy Butler says:

    It is interesting how using association management gives you a better access to talent. It is often very expensive to complete for top talent conducting an extensive recruiting process. It seems useful to use association management so top talent is already at your front door.

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