By Talley Management Group
When looking at different association management companies, there’s one way to tell the great ones apart from the good ones. All AMCs can help you with offloading administrative tasks or planning events, but only the really effective ones can help you think strategically about your organization. At AFAMCO, we believe that your association management should be more than just the basics. We take a strategic and comprehensive approach to managing your organization and setting strategic goals for growth.
What does strategic planning mean for an association?
Successful organizations don’t operate on cruise control. An association’s board needs to be forward-thinking and plan strategically, in order to successfully guide their association into the future. Strategic planning brings focus, cohesion, and collaboration to your organization so you can reach your long-term goals.
Strategic planning can look different for organizations, but at the core it’s a systematic process of envisioning the future of your organization and then translating that vision into clearly defined goals or objectives, along with a plan to achieve them. When you take the time to set measurable goals and plan how to get there, you can increase your organization’s impact, hone in on your mission and vision, and define quantifiable success.
One of the most important resources during strategic planning is your people. Planning isn’t just for your board of directors. The effort should be led by a strategic planning facilitator who brings in as many relevant members as needed, like volunteers, students, local chapter leaders, and any participants that they feel are appropriate. Every organization is different so there’s no one right way to create a strategic plan.
How can AMCs help with association strategy?
An AMC consists of a group of professionals from different backgrounds with varying specialties who provide management services to associations, based on the needs of the organization. The AMC provides the professional staff, headquarters, administrative support, technology, and equipment the association needs to operate, both on a day-to-day and long term basis. The AMC represents the association, helping volunteer leaders develop and execute the strategies and programs to serve their membership.
Since AMCs bring experts from different fields, industries, and specialties to help guide your association in the right direction, and are involved with all aspects of the organization, they are well-positioned to help define strategy, and execute on it throughout the association. Among its many services, an AMC can help an organization create its long-term strategy. Since AMCs are intimately involved with all aspects of an organization, they are able to understand and execute on a strategic plan.
The benefits of having an AMC as a strategic partner
The dedicated staff that AMCs have is an advantage when it comes to strategic planning, especially strategic planning for nonprofits. Their experience means they know how to plan, execute, and deliver key goals. Staff can also bring industry trends and recommendations that volunteers could miss as they focus inward on their specific association.
The staff at AMCs provide invaluable institutional memory for your organization, which can help speed up creation and implementation processes. Their expertise will guide different processes and streamline the planning and implementation. With strategic planning and its implementation, it’s easier for everyone at the AMC to measure the impact of those efforts and pivot if necessary.
Another benefit of their expertise is that they can get into the weeds of management, freeing up time for volunteers and members to focus strategically and work efficiently. AMCs provide the ability for leadership and boards to take a step back and look strategically, instead of getting bogged down in the nitty gritty. The small details can take time that leadership doesn’t have.
With association management professionals working with the leadership and following the strategic plan, volunteers can focus on the association, not the overwhelming details. Coupled with the industry expertise of the volunteers, the core team oversees the daily needs of the organization, but more importantly, the needs of the membership.
When you choose an AMC who is a strategic partner, you can benefit from:
Increased Focus — An organizational strategy sets the direction and creates priorities for your organization. It brings your organization’s view of success to the surface, while outlining the strategies and tactics needed to make the view come to fruition. The strategy narrows in the focus of what everyone should be working on as well as what needs to go to the top of the list. It makes it easier to identify priorities and move tasks to the back burner.
Better Alignment — Chances are, your organization has various committees, groups, types of members and even possibly staff departments that are all working toward their own goals — but are they working toward the main goal of the organization? When you have a clear and actionable strategy, all parties can determine what they need to do to achieve success for themselves as well as the entire association.
Increased Efficiency — Everyone brings something to the table. If you hone in on your strategy and then build out, you can put the best people in the most appropriate positions in order to accomplish your goals. For example, if you have a board member that oversees their company’s yearly day-long leadership retreat, put them in charge of hiring a facilitator to plan the next board meeting. When everyone knows the goal they are working toward, they may even realize they have skills that they haven’t thought to use because they have never been needed.
Better Collaboration — When you send out your organization’s Annual Report, you want to show that you accomplished the goals that you had set or how you are going to address areas that need focus. When you create the strategy and have the buy-in of the board, leadership and committees, send it out to your members and make sure that they are aware of where you’re going, and update them as you reach goals or milestones. The more you communicate to members, the more they will be excited about the direction and focus that the leadership is taking the organization in.
Increased Profitability — All of these benefits together can increase your association’s revenue and ultimately your profit. When you can boost your revenue, you have more money to reinvest in your organization and help you meet your goals. We’ve helped associations increase their revenue for program development (including program creation or enhancement), increased member benefits, and additional outreach to help them reach their long-term goals.
Some of our clients also indicated these benefits when working with our strategically-minded team:
Sense of belonging
Increased customer service
Decreased need for direct volunteer involvement
Expert information, guidance, and ability in varying areas
Access to AMC professionals from like-minded or varying associations
When choosing an association management company, finding a strategic association management partner is key to unlocking your organization’s full potential. Finding bare-bones association management might help you reign in your organization’s efforts, but for truly effective long-term support, you need a strategic association management partner.
At AFAMCO, we believe that strategic planning isn’t just an add-on service, but the core of what we do as an AMC. If you’re ready to invest in your association and plan for success now and down the line, get in touch with us today!