Hiring an AMC
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By Donnelly K. Eurich, CAE, CMP

We can't afford to hire an Association Management Company (AMC)!
We're uncomfortable hiring an AMC. What if it doesn't work out?
If we can only earn more money and increase our budget, we'll be able to hire a firm in a couple of years.

Do these statements sound familiar? Well, take heart, you are not alone when it comes to struggling with the decision to hire an AMC. Many small associations have a very similar profile...they are being managed by the Board or Executive Committee, all of whom are volunteers and have full time professions or businesses to run. Growth is slow or stagnant, and recognition by the media, legislature, public and even your own membership is lacking due to limited resources and the difficulty your volunteers may have making time commitments. Volunteers do the best they can, but the task of administering the Association is growing beyond their capabilities.

It's Time for Professional Leadership

Many associations shy away form hiring an AMC because they think the management fees will break an already tight budget. In fact, Eurich Management Services prides itself on growing smaller associations, creating additional revenue by growing the membership, generating advertising income through a high quality newsletter, offering profitable educational events, and developing new member services. EMS works hard to add value to membership, and by doing so your organization grows and prospers.

Hiring an AMC is an investment, not an expense! The expertise we bring to managing your organization will increase your budget and give you the flexibility to offer new services and create the image and influence you are seeking. You will have an entire staff of association specialists, all of whom are knowledgeable and experienced in non-profit administration.

Best advice:
Remember to apply the same decision making principles to this process as you would any other important decision in your life. You would seek out a physician if your health were endangered. If you needed to resolve a legal issue, you would contact an attorney. If you are trying to nurture and grow an association, turn to a professional association manager.

Paid Staff Versus AMCs ...A Matter of Style

There are no studies which suggest that hiring an AMC is superior to hiring a single employee or Executive Director. However, there are advantages, both in terms of flexibility and expertise which give AMC's an advantage. If your association is considering hiring an AMC instead of a staff employee, consider these points:

  • For an investment very similar to hiring a single executive employee, you can hire an AMC with 3-6 employees, all of whom have expertise in specific areas of association administration.
  • You can eliminate the overhead of office administration by hiring an AMC. You do not need to invest in computers, fax or copy machines, desks, filing cabinets, office space, not to mention payroll taxes, workers comp insurance and employee pensions or other benefits.
  • You establish long term security with an AMC, as a company is not going to quit, or take another job. Recent statistics show the average individual changes jobs every 28 months. With an AMC you are assured that your leadership will remain in place to carry out the long term goals of the organization.
  • You establish immediate credibility for your association by hiring an AMC. With over 25 years experience in the administration of associations, and with over 75 consulting clients in our portfolio, an AMC such as Eurich Management Services brings your organization recognition and immediate professional respect in relationships with hotels, other service providers, government agencies and the legislature.
Best Advice: Examine the services you want your organization to offer. Make a list of your organization's priorities. Can one individual bring the necessary expertise to successfully manage all these tasks? If such an individual surfaces, they will likely have the experience and skills to demand a higher salary than you can offer. When discussing your association with an AMC, match up your organizational needs to their expertise and compare the value of what you will receive to what you are spending.

What About Hiring an Industry Veteran?

It is not uncommon for a Board of Directors to believe they need to hire someone from within their industry or profession to manage the association, citing "industry knowledge" as their rationale. Experience shows that many of these people struggle with their new assignment, as they have no training or experience managing a non-profit. They are no longer in the industry or profession where they had previous career success, but have entered a new, unknown profession and are required to compete with other non-profits for membership, develop affinity services, manage conferences, meet a restrictive budget and lobby the legislature.

Industry veterans do have their positive points. They are often well known to the membership and credible. They create a certain comfort level for the Board, as the organization's leadership is not being handed to an "outsider". There are certainly many success stories among industry veterans making the transition to association management. But remember, you are hiring this individual as an association manager, a profession unrelated to their background and experience.

If you are considering hiring an industry veteran, ask the following questions...Is this position going to represent a full time endeavor, or merely a temporary activity prior to retirement? Does the individual possess the initiative to lead and grow the organization or will he or she simply monitor the status quo? Is this individual comfortable with the career change, and how will he or she get the training and knowledge to manage your organization effectively? Is the individual willing to share his or her vision as to where they will lead the association over the next 3-5 years?

Best advice: It is very easy to conclude that your organization needs a leader who walks, talks and works in the same industry or profession as the Board. There are numerous examples of industry insiders having success managing their industry association. We are all comfortable with individuals from within our professional or industry sphere. But ask yourself this question...If you broke your arm, would you want your cast set by someone else who once had a broken arm, or by a professional trained in the task?


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