Think Your Association Needs New Management?

By |Published On: March 18, 2019|

You’re in a leadership position in your association. The Board isn’t completely satisfied with the current management team. But you don’t want to go through the hassle and extra work involved with a management change while you’re leading the organization – save that for the next leader, right?

Wrong.

Though it certainly would be easier to not have to deal with a management change while you’re volunteering your time to lead the association, putting it off for the next leader won’t help your association move forward and meet its goals. Additionally, when it’s time for a management change, putting it off can cause more problems than moving forward with it.

You’ve never done this before, what do you do – how do you approach this?
Below is a step by step process for making a management change. Follow these steps and you will successfully navigate the management change.

• Board Authorization – Never should a few Officers or Directors take action without the full Board’s knowledge and authorization. If there are issues that are causing your Board or some of your Board members to consider a management change, talk about them openly and honestly amongst the Board and with your management team. Give your management team a chance to address whatever issues are causing concern. If you’ve tried to rectify the situation and the management team is just not right for your organization, make sure it is the consensus of the Board to undergo a management team change before taking any action.

• Determine what management structure to pursue – The Board should determine if it wants the association to be managed by employed staff or by a professional services company known in the industry as an Association Management Company (AMC). To help in this determination, consider resources found on the AMCinstitute’s website here: https://www.amcinstitute.org/page/TheAMCModel

• Create a Search Committee – The Board should identify a Search Committee whose responsibility will be to facilitate the process for your association. The ideal Search Committee will have members with different interests/points of view. It should be made up of approximately five people. Consider a few current Board members, perhaps a key committee chair or two and a past president. Consider having your current President serve on the committee in an ex-officio capacity.

• Develop a Request for Proposal – In order to develop a complete RFP you need to gather information about your organization and do an honest assessment about what’s working and what isn’t with your current management team. Your RFP should include at a minimum the following information about your organization:

o A brief history of the association
o An explanation of why your organization is considering a management change
o Your organization’s current strategic plan. If there isn’t a formal plan, share your organizations mission, vision and plans for the future.
o Include your organization’s current budget
o Describe your organization’s membership structure and leadership structure
o Describe all your organization’s major programs and activities in detail (meetings, publications, marketing, advocacy, benchmarking, etc)
o Provide a summary of all existing contracts your association may be obligated to
o Provide a Scope of Services. This should include office hours, Board meeting frequency and location, facility requirements, financial management requirements, membership support required, publication support required, committee meeting frequency and locations, meetings/conference frequency and locations.
o Provide a list of any other information you would like the RFP respondents to tell you about themselves. Perhaps you’re interested in the history, the way they approach association management, how they will charge for their services, references, etc.
o Timeline. Be clear about deadlines for receipt of proposals and then also include information about the timing of your review process. When can respondents expect to hear from you. Will there be in person interviews? If so, when? When will a final decision be reached?
o Contact information for questions and for receipt of proposals.

• Set evaluation criteria and prioritize it – The Search Committee should meet to discuss what criteria they will use to evaluate the proposals received and what level or importance to place on each criteria. Some examples of criteria a Search Committee may consider could include: Size of the management company (Number of employees, number of clients), Types of organizations managed, Size of organizations managed, Location of management company, Number of years the management company has been in business, Is the management company accredited, etc.

• Identify which companies should receive the RFP – The Search Committee can use a number of methods to identify management companies to receive the RFP. Perhaps the best are:

o Consider if any Board members or association leaders work with management companies in other association’s they’re involved with.
o Google search – consider terms that fit your association like: XXXX association management company where XXXX is your industry; or association management company, XXXX where XXXX is the location you desire; or just association management company.
o AMCinstitute (www.amcinstitute.org) is the trade association for association management companies. You can complete an online RFP form with the AMCinstitute and your RFP will be distributed to all the AMCinstitute members. Or, if you prefer to be more targeted, you can go to www.amcinstitute.org/search/ and find AMC members based on certain criteria you enter.
o Be sure to give AMCs at least a month to respond to the RFP and provide them an opportunity to ask questions about your association and the RFP so they can develop the best possible proposal.
Distribute the RFP – Send the RFP directly to the AMCs you identified in the previous step or through the AMCinstitute RFP distribution process.
• Evaluate Responses – Distribute all responses to your Search Committee. Use an evaluation grid to have each member of your Search Committee evaluate each response based on the criteria agreed upon. Make the rating system clear to the Search Committee. Combine all Search Committee ratings together in your spreadsheet and identify the top 3-4 candidates.
• Interview Finalists – Set up interviews with the 3-4 finalists on the same day or on back to back days. Provide the Search Committee members with an evaluation grid for the presenters. Following the presentations during the same meeting, discuss the finalists and determine the AMC you will be recommending to the Board of Directors.
• Board Recommendation – Search Committee presents recommendation to the Board of Directors for approval. Search Committee should include a summary of the process followed, key points and lessons learned during the process as well as the reasons they are recommending the AMC selected. Board should vote on recommendation and authorize President to negotiate a contract with the AMC selected
• Negotiate Contract – The President should then work with the selected AMC to finalize an agreement. After the agreement is completed, the Search Committee should notify all other AMCs considered that a decision has been finalized.

The entire process can take as few as two months and as much as one year depending on your organization’s timetable and volunteer availability. While the process sounds a bit overwhelming, in reality if the steps above are followed, not only will it lead to the right decision for your organization but it will be an efficient decision as well. Members of the Search Committee will spend between two and four days of their time from start to finish.

The best part is your organization will have professional management that can help lead the way to identifying and accomplishing its goals for years to come – and it will because you were willing to step up when it was needed.

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