Association management companies, or AMCs, have been around for more than 100 years, but most Canadians don’t even know they exist. This is a shame because, according to the AMC Institute, “on average, AMC-managed associations experience more than three times the growth in net assets and 31 percent more growth in net revenue regardless of size than those that do not use AMCs” (AMC Institute, July 2015).

So, what is an AMC?

AMCs are businesses that manage not-for-profit associations, societies, trade groups and charities to help them grow and prosper. They offer the full range of resources required for success: staffing, space, technological expertise, buying power and financial acumen. They are an organization’s “back office” – managing all the day-to-day operations and special events with expertise and flexibility. All of this is done without the cost and headache of having to secure your own office, hire and train your own staff and invest in the latest technology. Essentially, AMCs help not-for-profit organizations to grow and allow Board members to focus on the strategy of the organization without the headaches.

Denise Craine, the President of Secretariat Central, summarizes it this way: “An AMC is the perfect solution for small to mid-sized associations and charities that have members, plan conferences, have regular Board meetings and need expertise and continuity that would cost far too much for an organization to acquire and manage. Besides, if your president lives in Newfoundland this year, but next year your new president will be in British Columbia, where will you house your new office and who will manage it?”

While there are definite advantages to your AMC providing a full-service solution, some associations opt for an “outsourced service” model. Craine says, “Some of our associations require our financial and conference planning expertise. Some require a complete approach that includes management of operations, membership, marketing, governance, daily operations and communications. We are flexible and have the expertise to take on some or all of an association’s requirements.”

One major advantage of using an AMC is the ability to ramp up and down in service support as needed. Have a major project or funding opportunity? Your AMC can jump right on it and get it done. Finding your own staffing can be time consuming and carries severance risks and exposure.

In short, the eight main advantages of using an AMC can be summarized as follows:

  1. Free up your Board to be strategic. Growth and innovation can’t occur if your Board is tied up with membership issues or planning a conference.
  2. Say farewell to HR issues forever, including hiring, firing, benefits, performance evaluations and severance obligations.
  3. Gain access to a full range of expertise based on your specific needs and requirements.
  4. Forget about landlord issues – you will never pay an office lease again.
  5. Gain opportunities for collaboration. If your AMC has industry-specific expertise, they can foster very valuable collaborative opportunities for you.
  6. Access the latest technology without the costs.
  7. Increase your buying power: your AMC has negotiating power with hotels, restaurants, suppliers, etc. that you can’t possibly have.
  8. Control your costs! Contracting with an AMC allows you to set a budget and be confident in its accuracy.

Marilyn Sinclair, B.Sc., MBA, is the CEO of Secretariat Central, a full-service, turn-key association management company in the Greater Toronto Area. Secretariat Central manages 14 not for profit associations and charities.