2020 was a tough year for all of us. Our small business and our nonprofit association partners were shaken at the beginning of the pandemic, and there was no way of knowing how severe the impact would be on the other side of the calendar year.
Now, 2020 is over and we can exhale a small sigh of relief. Although the pandemic continues and more challenges lie ahead, we are proud of our team and the resiliency of our association clients. Forced to make one tough decision after the next, our team and our clients remained ambitious and helped move mountains in service of their missions and their members.
We were given lemons, and we made lemonade.
We have more good to mention than will fit into this brief blog post, but let’s celebrate some of the highlights.
- International Ombudsman Association (IOA), the largest professional association for ombuds worldwide, was forced to cancel several planned in-person trainings and events due to the pandemic. This member-led organization pivoted their in-person programs to online formats so they could continue to provide professional development, networking, mentoring, and resources to meet the needs of their growing membership. An incredible amount of work was done by this group despite it all, and over the past year they successfully launched a series of Community Connections virtual events, a new Online Learning Center, and made webinars free to members, all contributing to strong membership growth. Of particular importance, IOA canceled 7 in-person Foundations courses, which would have trained 200+ emerging ombuds. As the largest revenue-generating program for IOA, canceling courses resulted in a significant loss of funds. IOA took bold and decisive action to move the complex program to an online format and have run several sold-out courses since. You can read the full case study to see the results.
- The American Academy of Oral Medicine 2020 Annual Conference and 75th Anniversary Celebration were canceled due to COVID-19. They acted quickly to host a summer Virtual Scientific Meeting to provide continuing dental education to members, and hosted several new complimentary webinars to the oral medicine community across the globe. Attendance for the webinars soared above typical registration counts and brought visibility and brand recognition to the Academy.
- Association of Donor Relations Professionals (ADRP) is universally recognized as the authority on donor engagement for the philanthropy profession. The donor relations and stewardship industry was severely impacted and disrupted by the pandemic, and ADRP was eager to support members by keeping the community together and offering educational content that was relevant for the moment. The result? A sold-out, two-day virtual event with 1,000 attendees, and 80 new and renewing members. Read the full case study.
- National Association of Environmental Professionals (NAEP) In addition to hosting its annual conference virtually last summer, NAEP introduced a new podcast to connect and inform environmental professionals, the NAEP Environmental Professional’s Radio.
- Company Retreat: Not knowing a global pandemic was right around the corner, we kicked off 2020 together with a company retreat last January. We closed our office early, took care of travel and accommodations for our staff, and spent a day getting to understand more about each other personally and professionally, playing games, learning, and laughing. It was the last time our full team would be together in-person before the pandemic. In hindsight, this shared team-building experience prepared us well for taking our operations fully remote only a few weeks later.
- Moving to Remote Operations: Fortunately, remote-work was not new to our team. However, having the majority of our team work from home full-time was. When news hit that COVID-19 had landed in Washington State, and that high-risk people should stay home, our Executive Team sent us packing – literally, and with laptops, monitors, desk supplies, and anything else necessary to make working from home a breeze.
- Upgraded Technology: With the sudden inability to field phone calls the way we were used to in-office, our Tech Team expedited our transition to using Zoom phones. Within a couple of weeks of taking our team remote, we were answering calls and once again connecting with our association members. We experienced little-to-no interruption to normal operations for our clients. Our team has been working remotely without skipping a beat since March of 2020 – several weeks ahead of many others in our industry.
- The Great Pivot to Virtual Events: The greatest challenge of all: how to move your in-person educational and networking events to a virtual format. Transitioning in-person client events took time, training, patience, but soon we really found our footing. By the end of the year, we totaled around 48 virtual events, many of which were brand new virtual opportunities to keep members engaged, and several were large conferences that maintained a complex program and complied with strict continuing education requirements. We are also thankful to our hospitality friends for working with us to cancel or postpone more than a dozen hotel contracts with no penalty to our clients. The world might have paused — but the work of our associations did not. We have never been so happy to have such a hard-working team and strong client and vendor partnerships.
- Training & Education for Our Staff: Working from home gave our staff additional time in the day without a commute. Many of our team members took advantage of the yearly educational stipend SBI offers to earn new professional credentials. Our entire events team and one of our member services coordinators completed the Virtual Event & Meeting Management (VEMM) certification through the Event Leadership Institute in Partnership with Meeting Planners International (MPI). Our Director of Marketing and Communications earned dual certification as a Professional Certified Marketer (PCM) and Certified Digital Marketing Professional (CDMP). We are so proud of them! We were also able to support our entire staff team to attend the ASAE Annual Meeting & Exposition because it was held virtually.
- Reaccreditation: Among 500-plus AMCs worldwide, very few have achieved accreditation through the AMC Institute. Achieving, and maintaining, AMC Institute Accreditation demonstrates our commitment and ability to deliver consistent, quality service to our clients. We are proud to share that we completed the arduous reaccreditation process in 2020.
We recognize that even though the year 2020 is over, this strange time that we are living in isn’t. While many of the same worries and uncertainties from 2020 have spilled over into 2021, we’re optimistic, and we think you should be, too. Now more than ever, associations and strong communities are needed to support each other and tackle challenges, together. We’ve learned a lot in a short span of time and there’s no denying that we are stronger, smarter, and better prepared because of it.
To give thanks and recognize the many accomplishments of our team over the past year, we created something fun to share with our staff. This fun video was not originally planned to be shared externally, but we think you may enjoy getting to meet the members of our team and hearing more about the silver-linings of 2020.
If you are reading this and wishing your association had a strong AMC partner to help you make lemonade with all the lemons 2020 handed out, it’s not too late for 2021. Give us a call if you are considering working with an association management company.