2020 has been one of the most difficult—if not the most difficult—year many associations have ever faced. While there is hope on the horizon in the form of multiple effective COVID-19 vaccines, the coming year will still be a challenging one. Large gatherings and a return to anything resembling a normal conference or trade show is unlikely to return before fall 2021, at the earliest.
However, with the right association management partner, your association can still have a bright future. Here are a few signs your association’s board of directors should explore partnering with a new association management company (AMC).
Your association’s board and your AMC just don’t see eye-to-eye on strategy.
Even though the relationship between an association and its AMC is governed by a contract, ultimately the strength of that relationship depends on human-to-human interaction. Over time, the human beings governing the association (the Board of Directors) and the human beings responsible for staffing the association (the AMC) can stop viewing challenges and opportunities the same way.
There can be fundamental disagreements about strategy—especially when confronted with the twin challenges of an ongoing pandemic and resulting business and travel restrictions.
Sometimes, it’s just time for a change.
Associations and their AMC need to be on the same path in order to overcome their present and future challenges and make the most of their opportunities. Your board will know your association and its AMC no longer see eye-to-eye on the strategy. Of course, it is possible to get back in alignment—but sometimes it isn’t.
When that happens, it may be time for your board to explore alternative management partners.
Your board isn’t hearing new ideas.
Innovation will play an important role in any association’s ability to navigate the present health and economic crisis. It is important to know that “innovation” isn’t synonymous with big initiatives and brand-new programs. Innovation can be a better, more efficient association management system (AMS). Innovation can be a new process that increases efficiency and creates a stronger bottom-line through additional savings, rather than increased revenue.
Your board should hear a regular flow of new ideas coming from your AMC. Some of those ideas may include new programs or member benefits—but in the coming year, many innovative ideas will focus on cost savings initiatives that help associations weather this storm and prepare for a brighter post-pandemic future.
Your revenues and membership are stagnating or declining.
Ultimately, misalignment on strategy and a lack of innovation lead to declining or stagnating membership and revenue. And, while associations are nonprofits, they still have to earn more money than they spend.
Associations have bottom lines. They must be financially sustainable. Because of that, your AMC must be able to consistently develop bold, innovative marketing and sales strategies. Without them, your association will not survive.
If your association has faced declining revenue and membership for years (as far too many associations have), then it is time to re-examine your relationship with your association management partner. Associations often avoid re-examining their relationship with their AMC because they have strong, long-standing ties to their AMC. Switching management partners is also time-consuming, carries some potential for risk, and can disrupt an association’s normal flow of business.
But despite the difficulties inherent to the process, a willingness to change direction and inject innovative, fresh perspectives into your association is exactly the bold approach to association governance that separates a great board of directors from a good board of directors.
The past year and the coming year will include some of the hardest months your association ever experiences—but those months won’t last forever. In a post-pandemic world, the desire for connection, sharing, and networking among colleagues will be stronger than ever. As hard as it is to imagine, associations may be stronger in the coming post-pandemic years than they would have been had this tragic turn of events never occurred.
What do we mean?
There has never been a time in human history when human beings will value a continental conference room breakfast more than they will in late 2021 and early 2022.
The craving for the type of professional connection and community a high-performing association provides will be more prevalent than ever.
Despite the darkness of today, your association faces a bright tomorrow—as long as it has the right AMC in place.