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Graphic image of people working together, a representation of am AMC.

What is an AMC?

From members of nonprofit organizations to executives serving on boards and committees, we certainly work with a lot of different types of people in our line of work — each exhibiting unique characteristics and attributes but often with similar goals. The primary thing these groups have in common is us: their association management company.

But what exactly do association management companies like SBI accomplish for associations? And how do association management companies operate?

An association management company (AMC) is an independent service provider offering services and solutions for associations. This often includes customer service, administrative assistance, management solutions, and strategic guidance to organizations on a fee-for-service basis. In its essence, an AMC acts as the home office, managing the everyday tasks of nonprofits, societies, boards, and other associations.

We share our own individual approach to serving as an AMC partner in greater detail here.

Working with an AMC

Associations by Definition

Let’s take a step back. Association is a pretty broad word; by definition, an association is a group of people who share a common purpose or goal. Thus, an association could be anything from a trade association to a non-governmental organization (NGO). Even within those categories, there is significant diversity in missions, goals, and operations.

With so broad a definition, you can imagine the sheer size of the association industry. The American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), which is the association for the association industry, has more than 44,000 members, representing more than 7,400 associations nationwide. These ASAE members are all association professionals and industry partners. That is just a fraction of the industry: in 2013, the IRS Data Book reported 66,985 trade and professional associations and 1,052,495 charitable and philanthropic organizations. And as societal interests and concerns evolve, the number of associations only continues to increase.

What Are the Different Management Models for Working with an AMC?

If the point of an association is to bring people together to achieve a specific goal, then it’s important that association members be allowed to focus on the said goal. Because everyday operations can be time-consuming for members, AMCs grant associations the opportunity to focus on their mission.

We touched on it before, but to clarify, there are two primary models for working with an AMC:

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Full Service means the AMC has their hand in pretty much every aspect of operations. From membership to marketing to risk management, to event planning and finances and strategic planning. In this model, the AMC is a strategic partner that supports the association so they can be more impactful in the work they do.
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Outsourced Service means the AMC undertakes a single task or project for the association. As an example, the association may only need help organizing an event, or maybe it’s managing the association’s website or finances. Regardless, the AMC can help.

How Does an AMC Operate?

Like lawyers or accountants, AMCs usually work with a number of clients and are typically on a monthly retainer, based on the scope of services. Whenever an association has a project or initiative they need some extra help on (or even a simple question that they need to be answered), their hired AMC can step in with industry connections, expertise, and/or staffing. In certain cases, an AMC staff member may even serve as Executive Director for their client association, truly embedding them as part of the association.

AMC team members work in tandem with association volunteers, acting with an understanding and careful consideration of the specific association’s values and culture. This partnership benefits both and makes sense in theory and practice; when the association succeeds and is better able to fulfill its mission, so does the association management company. The AMC and the association are cheering on the same team!

What Are the Benefits of Hiring an AMC?

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Access to the best technologies and business practices, updated frequently by dedicated industry professionals
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Tailored solutions, optimized specifically for nonprofit performance and led by adaptable and passionate team members
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Completely customizable short-term or long-term staff, focused on day-to-day operations, administrative upkeep, and member support
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Optimal resource allocation, given specific industry know-how
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Financial benefits, including shared resources within the accredited AMC network, increased buying power, and an extra buffer against industry risk
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Crisis Management & Communications: provide an experienced strategic approach to any crisis including event cancellations, financial hardship, public relations, and more.

Partnering with an AMC

It is easy to demonstrate the benefits and value of partnering with an AMC when we compare it to the alternatives: either being solely volunteer-run, or run by a paid staff. Associations that are volunteer-managed often face several challenges. Commonly, this includes limited time and resources, lack of a central office, and lack of knowledge in association management best practices, to name a few. While hired staff may be able to provide a central office, they may struggle to be “all things” to their association, outsourcing many specialized services and not well equipped to keep up a high level of responsiveness to members with competing priorities and a high volume of work on their plate.

Take into consideration the many diverse segments of work that must go into supporting the effective management and ongoing operations of an association. Associations must maintain a database of their members, keep their website up to date with current information, provide value to members through access to educational activities and events, collect dues and manage finances, and the list goes on. While volunteer-run associations can (and do) run their association without an AMC, it often means slower progress, disjointed communication among leaders and volunteers, and a lack of streamlined processes and centralized information.

That’s where an AMC comes in, hired to consolidate all association duties under a single roof and reduce the amount of work expected of members and volunteers. Additionally, the AMC would step in to offer industry expertise.

The Bottom Line

Ultimately, an AMC is there to streamline the management capabilities of an association so the association can focus on mission, growth, and support of priorities. From administrative tasks to strategy implementation, the AMC offers industry expertise and assistance in all its forms — so the association leaders, members, and volunteers can devote their time to the larger picture.

Thinking about working with an AMC? We might be a good fit.

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From Our Clients

What They’re Saying

For us, as a small organization of two staff members, SBI is able to increase our impact around our mission and effectively support us in the areas of finance, marketing & communication and event planning.

Shoshanna Sumka, Executive DirectorIndependent Schools Experiential Education Network

SBI took the management reins for our organization well into our annual conference planning cycle when our predecessor provider terminated relations unexpectedly. The SBI team hit the ground running and demonstrated superior flexibility and support to make the conference a success... and they have only built upon that success since.

Mark Patterson, Conference Committee Co ChairInternational Ombuds Association

WOW – just WOW!! I have been through a lot of conferences and conference planning, and I have to say—this was an extraordinary experience. I don’t know what it felt like behind the scenes but from where I sat, it was flawless. You all do better work than organizations twice this size with twice the number of staff. I am amazed and honored to work with you!

Ellen Miller, Executive DirectorInternational Ombuds Association

Having SBI’s assistance and expertise has been critical to our organization’s growing success and in meeting the needs of members to connect and share information with one another.

Gina Galluppi, Newsletter EditorAssociation of Donor Relations Professionals

SBI's technical expertise, professionalism, responsiveness, organizational strength and depth, attention to detail and support has contributed to the quality trainings offered to our members.

Lori Cummings, Professional Development ChairWashington Recreation & Park Association

Working with SBI has provided increased capacity for the Board to focus on setting direction because now our leadership has the time to strategize on the future of a fast-changing profession.

Julie Bostian, Past PresidentAssociation of Donor Relations Professionals

During the first year...we were able to establish a solid relationship that truly has been fruitful...We look forward to continuing our important work in partnership with the SBI team.

Marcia Martínez-Helfman, Past PresidentInternational Ombuds Association

The board meeting was fabulous. I think the diversity session was very well-received. The strategic planning session was great and gave us concrete strategic areas to work on going forward.

Teresa Costantinidis, Past PresidentWestern Association of College and University Business Officers

We love working with SBI! Preparing for and running our annual conference is made simple and straight forward due to their expertise.

Mousa Shamonki, Past PresidentPacific Coast Reproductive Society

I highly recommend SBI to any association seeking outside management.

Paul Dudley, Past PresidentPacific Coast Reproductive Society

Delightful group with whom to work. Has gone to great lengths to understand, assimilate and coordinate the process of our Society.

Charles Coddington, Board MemberPacific Coast Reproductive Society

We've appreciated SBI's guidance, support, expertise, competence, kindness, and professionalism these past two years. We know that CERF 2023 is not your only client, but it sure seemed like we were. Without fail, you were immediately responsive to all of our many questions and requests. We also appreciated your positively and can-do attitudes. We think that if you had a motto, it would be, "Yes, let's make this happen!" Thanks in no small part to you, CERF 2023 is actually happening, and we know it will be a success.

John Rybczyk and John CallawayCERF 2023 Conference Chairs