Setting Up for Success: How to Onboard Your AMC

After finding your perfect AMC, keep the positive partnership going with these tips for a successful association management transition.

Once your organization has completed the hurdles of finding and contracting an association management company (AMC), the next step is preparing for the onboarding process. Whether you’re changing AMCs, or transitioning from self-management to external management, the onboarding process sets the tone for the rest of your relationship and you want to ensure all groups are set up for success. In our guide, we’ll walk you through everything you should prepare for and expect during a successful transition to your AMC management.

Setting the Stage With a Successful Kickoff

The onboarding process typically starts with a kickoff meeting, where all of the stakeholders from your association and key team members from the AMC gather to launch the partnership. This is the time to talk about milestones that both parties want to hit during the transition and how you’re going to work together to achieve them.

The kickoff will be your starting point where you build your relationship and set goals for the beginning of your partnership. It also marks the start of the onboarding process, which takes, on average, about eight weeks on average to complete (though this varies, depending on the AMC and the association). After that point, the AMC will be ready to take on the management services they were contracted for. Until then, your organization and the AMC will need to work together to delegate responsibilities. As the management transitions, each organization will be responsible for handling certain duties, like managing finances or planning events, and it’s important to be clear about who will manage what during the onboarding period.

How to Prepare for an AMC Transition

The most successful onboarding periods start before the kickoff, beginning with associations thinking about goals and preparing ahead of the first meeting. It’s great to show up on the day with an open mind and ready to problem solve together, but it’s even more helpful if you have your electronic records and data ready to share so an AMC can jump right in.

As soon as it becomes clear that your association will be working with an AMC, around the time you submit RFPs, your team should start organizing your documents. Think about what you’ll need to share, like financial information or tax records, and your policies around holding onto important documents. The more prep work you do ahead of the kickoff, the easier it will be for your team to transition to external management. Similarly, you want to prepare any vendors or external support you already have for the AMC transition. Think about who will continue to help you and who will be phased out as the AMC takes over.

One of the best ways to prepare for the transition period is to decide who on your team will be responsible for communicating with the AMC, and facilitating any access they may need to your information and platforms. The transition team should include volunteer leaders and key staff — you want a team of people who can both push initiatives forward and have knowledge of association goals and inner workings. Look for a mix of people who have technical knowledge & leadership power.

Building a Partnership

After the initial kickoff, your general direction and goals should be defined, but don’t worry if there’s still a lot to clear up. The onboarding process will take several months to complete and a lot of back and forth communication to set the AMC up for success. Pay close attention to the AMC’s communication in the first few weeks. They should establish regular check-ins early into the partnership. A good AMC will over-communicate with you, and you should do the same. There should be no surprises in the first few months and everyone should be aware of where progress is being made.

To effectively manage your organization, AMCs will need to get lots of information from you. Depending on whether you’re going for full-service association management or offloading a few departments, there may be more or less information to hand over. Your AMC should provide you with a list of required documents and access to get started, then you can work together to refine the list and determine any extra needs. You should prepare your team to dive into the details and provide small logistical information throughout the transition. Be ready to share:

  • Administrative info, like membership records and systems, or your minutes book

  • Communications, like pending copy for newsletters or periodicals

  • Financial info, like invoices and bank statements

  • Items relevant to meetings, like speaker or program files and abstracts

  • Anything relating to membership, like membership lists or applications

  • Insurance information, like your general liability policy

  • The status of your vendor contracts for services like accounting and legal

  • Inventory counts for publications, certificates, and other owned items

  • Transition information like access to your email provider and change of address notice

This is a partial list just to give an idea of what will be expected. The actual information you’ll need to provide will vary based on your association and the goals of your AMC partnership.

Prioritizing transparency

The best transitions happen when both organizations are aligned on the goals of the partnership, and are willing to approach the engagement as a partnership. Open and transparent communication is the best way to achieve this. Keep these in mind as you start the transition process:

Establishing a long-term partner

AMCs are your strategic partners and they’re more than just outsourced management. That means you can work together to define and achieve your goals. Treat your AMC like an extension of your team, and be ready to talk through every aspect of your organization with them, so they can create the most effective plan for your association.

Take a learning approach

Your processes are new to your AMC and your team needs time to adjust to working with AMC staff. Remembering that the onboarding process is a learning experience will help keep expectations aligned. At this point, there are no stupid questions — the point of the transition period is to learn and support each other, together.

Establish regular communication points

Be sure to decide how frequently you and your AMC will be in contact. Sometimes a weekly call is all that’s needed to make sure everything is flowing smoothly and all questions get answered. Talk with your AMC and set a schedule that makes sense for your organization and time-constraints.

Facilitate handovers

If you have external vendors or stakeholders, your team should be ready to facilitate communication between all involved parties if needed. It can expedite the process, and help keep your AMC focused on the important big picture tasks. This is especially important if you’re transitioning from one AMC to another. Any transition with an AMCI-accredited AMC will be smooth, as there are certain offboarding and onboarding procedures that accredited organizations are required to follow. In cases where the previous management service wasn’t AMCI-accredited, there may be more need to facilitate the transition between organizations.

Navigating internal structure

When starting with an AMC, sometimes there is friction as roles and responsibilities get shifted around. Again, communication is key and can prevent any disruptions to the schedule outlined in the kickoff meeting. Be sure to work with your AMC to make responsibilities clear, especially in the onboarding period. At that point, the AMC will not be fully managing your association, so you want to know who is responsible for what.

One way to do so, which Talley has found success with, is through splitting the AMC team’s roles and responsibilities during the management transition process. When the Talley team begins working with an association, the onboarding leader is different from the eventual Account Executive who oversees the management and handles day-to-day communication. This way, the onboarding leader can focus on what’s needed to set the partnership up for success, and the Account Executive can stay focused on the long-term strategy and hit the ground running at the end of the onboarding process.

Tying Loose Ends

When the end of the onboarding period arrives, you and your AMC should feel good about fully launching the partnership. If there are any leftover action times from the transition period, your AMC should know what they are and have a plan to address them in a timely manner. You can expect your AMC to share a rough plan for the first few months of your engagement, and nothing should be a surprise. Constant communication between the organizations throughout the onboarding should leave everyone prepared for the next steps.

Even as the formal transition period ends, know that there may be some more kinks to iron out and opportunities to learn from each other. No matter how much preparation both of you put into the onboarding process, there will always be small things to catch up on and learn as you launch your full partnership. If you feel like your AMC is attentive and responsible during the transition period with a solid plan to move forward with management, you’re on your way to success.

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