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"Hiring Your First AMC: Five Tips For a Successful Search" by Suzanne C. Pine

Selecting an AMC isn't a decision to be made lightly. But a few simple steps can put you on the path to choosing the AMC that's best for your association.

From membership development to meetings management and strategic planning, a board member's job is never done. Increasingly, volunteer leaders representing thousands of trade associations, professional societies and charitable organizations are partnering with association management companies (AMC's) to help meet their association goals. AMC's provide integrated headquarters and staff solutions for nonprofit organizations, allowing volunteer leaders to tap into expert support and management services, from day-to-day operations to specialized services.

To help find the most compatible AMC for your organization, AMC Institute, the trade association that represents the association management company industry, has outlined five simple steps for a successful AMC search.

Step 1: Prepare your Request for Proposal
Finding the right AMC begins with asking the right questions. AMC Institute offers associations many helpful resources for preparing a request for proposal including an RFP template, sample RFP's, and online step-by-step instructions to develop an effective RFP

Step 2: Distribute your RFP
Once you've packaged your RFP, the next step is to determine how to distribute the information. You can hand-select recipient AMC's by reviewing AMC Institute's online member directory or narrow the search by setting parameters by geographic location, size of AMC, accreditation status of AMC, client type or management specialization.

Step 3: Evaluate the Proposals
As the proposals start pouring in, it's important to promptly acknowledge the receipt of each one. This will give you a chance to reiterate your timeline, and it's always good business to communicate. After reviewing the proposals, hone in on your top three or four candidates. Rather than selecting a management firm on the basis of the written proposal alone, get in touch with the contact people provided to schedule an in-person meeting and presentation, with your full search committee in tow. Often the account executive who will serve your group is a part of the AMC's presentation team.

Avoid scheduling more than three presentations on a given day, and allow enough time between presentations to permit discussion. A good rule of thumb is to build in about two hours per presentation, with a 15-to-30 minute break between them. Following the formal presentation, institute a question-and-answer session. Prepare a standard set of questions to ask each presenting company, so you can fairly assess their responses.

After hearing all presentations, your full search committee should deliberate and agree on one single candidate AMC, to recommend to your association's board of directors.

Step 4: Notify All Candidates
Each AMC has invested time, energy and resources to present its qualifications and capabilities, so it's important to give notification of your decision promptly. When possible, offer specific feedback to all those who made presentations, and share your reasoning with those firms not selected.

Step 5: Negotiate an Agreement
The final step is to negotiate an agreement with your new AMC, from terms of agreement to scope of services.

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Suzanne C. Pine is Executive Vice President of Fernley & Fernley, Inc. and also serves an EVP of the AMC Institute, the trade association that represents the AMC industry. AMC Institute boasts more than 150 AMC members throughout the U.S., Canada, Europe and Asia. For more information about AMC Institute, its member AMC's and the many benefits of partnering with an Association Management Company, visit www.AMCInstitute.org.

An expanded version of this article was published in the July 2008 AMC Directory Supplement produced annually by Associations Now, an ASAE & The Center for Association Leadership publication. For more information visit their web site at www.asaecenter.org.