How to Find Nonprofit Management Help

Enlisting nonprofit management help is a big decision, but it’s easier when you know what to look for. Here are our tips for hiring an AMC.

If you’re looking for nonprofit management help, you might be considering hiring an association management company (AMC). When you decide to partner with an AMC, you’re making a big decision and you want to ensure that you find the best fit for you. You’re looking for a long term partner who you can trust to help you reach your goals, manage your administrative duties, take on your financial management, and more. Whether you’re starting the AMC search process or have already had a few introductory calls, we’ll help you make sure you’re evaluating AMCs properly so you can find the best fit for your organization.

Understanding AMCs

AMCs all have different specialties, so it can be hard to determine which services an AMC can provide and where they align with your needs for nonprofit management help. In general, AMCs can take on the management of your association to handle administrative responsibilities and provide expertise in a variety of areas, like financial management, meeting and event planning, or strategic planning. When you work with an AMC, you can free up time for your board, unlock expertise in specific areas, and take a holistic look at your organization to ensure you’re setting and attaining the right goals for your mission.

When is the right time to look for an AMC?

Many associations seek outside help at pivotal moments, like when the executive director is changing, or there’s significant board turnover. It can also happen when volunteer feedback shows that there’s a general feeling of burnout where efforts aren’t being efficiently managed or directed. Finally, many associations seek help when their financial situations are rocky or stagnant, when they need help managing their finances or finding new opportunities for revenue.

If you’re in any of these situations, it might be a good time to start your search for nonprofit organization management. Associations with specific problems often find success with AMCs as the management company digs deeper and finds bigger issues to tackle that cause smaller problems, like those listed above.

Some nonprofit organizations don’t have any specific issues that trigger the search for an AMC, but instead reach a certain size that makes it impossible for them to manage themselves. AMCs typically work with mid-sized organizations who don’t have their own dedicated space, want to save money on employee costs, or still have control over their member programs.

The AMC Search Process

What is the AMC search process?

The most effective search processes start internally. Ask around your board and see if any members have experience with an AMC or have any recommendations. It’s always a plus if someone has worked with a company before and recommends their services. You’ll also want to start a search committee that includes stakeholders like the executive director, board members, and past presidents so you know who is responsible for the search.

If you don’t have any recommendations from your board, it’s easy to start your search with some online research. You can narrow the search by looking for companies that work with associations in your industry, or who offer the specific services that you’re looking for.

How can I narrow my search?

Once you start researching specific AMCs, it’s important to do a few basic checks before adding an AMC to your shortlist. Make sure they’re accredited through AMCI and they have current or past clients listed on their site. You’ll also want to make sure that you’re looking at AMCs who align with your goals and values. As you browse your option, keep an eye out for qualities like:

  • Leadership

  • Financial stewardship

  • Vendor relationships

  • Industry experience

  • Communication style & frequency

  • Accountability

  • Transparency

  • Strategic & forward-thinking mindset

  • Culture fit

  • Flexibility

It’s also important to schedule discovery calls so you can get to know the AMC and their staff before narrowing your list. You want to make sure that the AMC looks good on paper and in person. Discovery calls can come at any point in the process, whether you want to gather more information or you’re ready to submit a RFP.

Evaluating AMCs

Once you have a list of AMCs you’re interested in or have had discovery calls with, you need to narrow down your list to make the decision easier on your committee. Most associations shortlist 3-5 AMCs to get a good variety without overwhelming themselves with options.

How do I find an AMC that's a good fit?

Ultimately, a good fit comes down to the support you need, the type of partnership you want, and how you get along with the AMC’s staff. Be sure to evaluate a potential partner with these benchmarks:

  • Fiscal fit: the AMC fits within your budget, or the cost is justified by services provided and quality of those services.

  • Culture fit: you want an AMC with staff that you get along with during the discovery, interviews, and everything in between.

  • Relevant experience: a good AMC doesn’t have to specialize in your industry, but they should have relevant experience in your association’s industry.

  • Case studies: any AMCs you’re considering should be vetted with proof of previous clients or case studies, and show that they maintain long lasting relationships with their clients.

  • Strategic approach: check and make sure that an AMC’s ideas and strategies can take your organization to the next level through a strategic approach to association management.

How can my committee choose an AMC?

One of the best ways for your committee to manage the search process is with a checklist and tracker. That way, you can track the criteria most important to your search and compare all of your potential partners in one place. Some good criteria to include are:

  • Expertise in your industry

  • Experience working with associations/nonprofits

  • Staff structure and experience

  • Services offered

  • Geographic location

  • Technology services offered

  • Client mix (no conflicts of interest, experience with clients of a similar size)

  • Average length of partnerships

  • Stability (years of experience and low staff turnover)

  • Office facilities available

  • Memberships

  • AMC Institute Accredited

  • References

  • Price (compare what different AMCs offer for the price)

Once you have all of your final contenders, call your committee together and evaluate your options. It can be helpful to schedule additional interviews with the final AMCs you’re considering. You can use it as an opportunity to bring all stakeholders and committee members into the conversation, or ask questions that could help you find dealbreakers.

When evaluating your final choices, be sure to look for two deal breakers: lack of flexibility and lack of transparency. A good AMC won’t give you a formulaic, out-of-the-box plan to manage and grow your association. Your association is unique and so are the challenges you face. Any good potential partner will understand that and work with you to build custom approaches to managing and growing your organization. Similarly, the lack of transparency can indicate that the AMC isn’t trustworthy. You want to make sure the AMC is open about how you’ll be billed and what additional fees they might charge. Finding an AMC who is willing to talk through these points in the RFP process is a sign that you’re on the right track to finding a great fit for your organization.

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