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Guidelines in the Selection of an Association Management Company (AMC)

1. Select an Association Management Company (AMC) on the basis of more than the written proposal. A visit to the candidates' offices should be conducted by one or more members of the search committee, if possible. A good cultural fit between your organization and the AMC is critical.

Select the AMC candidate by reviewing the proposal and contacting the references provided to you. The officers and committee chairs of an association that has been utilizing the services of an AMC are excellent resources for you.

Evaluate each candidate based on information such as:

  • Number of Years in Business:  Another important aspect is to determine if providing non-profit management is the firm’s core business.  Many types of service firms, such as public relations, lobbying, and accounting firms offer management as an ancillary service. 
  • Organizational Structure: How does the AMC work internally to effectively manage several clients simultaneously?   Will your association have a single point of contact?
  • Accreditation: Is the AMC Accredited by the AMC Institute or the American Society of Association Executives?  Do members of the AMC’s professional staff possess advanced degrees, specialized training, or certification?
  • Client Mix: What kinds of clients does the AMC currently serve?  Knowledge of your specific industry or profession is less important than the philosophy of the firm and their approach to servicing each client effectively.  They will learn the nuances of your organization.
  • Client Loyalty:  What is the average length of time that the AMC has served its clients? 
  • Calculating Fees:  Is the management fee based on hours or a percentage of the association’s budget?  Does the AMC mark-up reimbursable expenses?  Are commissions paid to the AMC for certain services?   
  • Hotel Contract Negotiations:  Does the firm negotiate directly with hotels and vendors on behalf of its clients or are these services outsourced?  Can they offer added benefits to the association based on the combined buying power of all clients?  
  • Professional Staff: Can the AMC assign permanent staffing immediately or would they assign a transition executive?  It is often necessary for the AMC to recruit when a new client comes onboard.  This can be advantageous to the association as the Executive Committee usually has a say in the hiring process for their association.
  • Scope of Services: Does the AMC have the capability to offer services in the areas of financial management, membership recruitment and retention, database management, meeting planning and conference registration, marketing, publications development, and web services?  Are these services outsourced to third party vendors?  Outsourcing is not necessarily a negative as long as the AMC has established relationships with quality vendors and has systems in place to routinely evaluate the quality and price for services that are being outsourced.
  • Leadership: Does the AMC encourage professional development in its employees?  Do the AMC’s Executive Directors participate in industry associations such as AMCI, ASAE, NAW, NAM, etc?    

3. Once you have selected your top two or three finalists, schedule the face-to-face presentations on the same day, in a central location. Allow sufficient time in-between presentations for discussion among the search committee about each presentation while it is fresh in your mind. Make written notes.
4. A minimum of 2 hours should be allotted for each presentation. Allow each candidate to select the format of their presentation (i.e. formal PowerPoint), this will tell you a lot about the AMC. Ask each candidate the same set of questions; provide them in advance if possible so that each AMC can come prepared to respond.
5. At the conclusion of each presentation, be sure to explain your decision making process to each presenting company. Identify the date when you expect to have a final determination.
6. Make your final decision based on a predetermined set of criteria. Know in advance the top three qualifications your association is seeking from a new management firm. Selecting an AMC is not as easy as buying a new car. Although most AMC’s offer similar services, they all differ in their management approach, pricing models, and business philosophy.
7. Don’t be afraid to contact candidates to ask clarifying questions following the presentation, if necessary. The AMC will be pleased to provide further clarification or additional information required for the Search Committee to make a decision.
8. Be sure that your final decision is communicated to each company promptly on the day that you indicated. Each company has invested time, energy, and resources to present its qualifications and capability to you and deserves to know the final outcome in a timely manner.
9. Many AMC’s ask for post presentation feedback from members of the Search Committee. It is recommended that you accommodate this request if at all possible. Understanding why an AMC was not selected allows the firm to improve for future business opportunities.
10. Once you have signed a management agreement with your new association management company, share the good news with your members immediately. Your members need to know why a change was made and the positive impact it will have on the overall association. Ask the AMC to pen a brief article for your next newsletter introducing your new Headquarters Team.