Reinventing ABCSW: A New Identity, Strategy, and $100,000 in Initial Savings

The Challenge: The American Board of Clinical Social work reached a turning point in 2018 when they needed to prepare their association for the future after a leadership transition. Talley was recruited to help them reimagine their organization as a whole and rethink their finances.

The Solution: With diligent financial reports and quick results, Talley was able to build trust with the ABCSW team. From there, Talley was able to assist with strategic planning and execution to expand their organization’s work, and begin tackling initiatives that had been on ABCSW’s wish list for years.

The Numbers: $100,000 in savings with financial management and oversight of spending. Inaugural conference planned for summer 2022.

Like any organization, associations experience lifecycles. For established associations, at times there’s great growth and innovation to help expand, and in other periods there’s a contraction while looking ahead to prepare for the next iteration of the organization. When the American Board of Clinical Social Work (ABCSW) reached this turning point in their lifecycle, they enlisted our help to reinvigorate the association and help them advance to the next stage in their evolution.

The Challenge

After being under the stewardship of one executive director for more than 25 years, ABCSW was in need of fresh eyes that could take a holistic look at the organization. ABCSW engaged Talley for full-service association management, with a particular focus on helping them transition to the next lifecycle of their organization and start accomplishing initiatives that they had always wanted to pursue.

However, before we could really get started, there was a lot of trust-building that needed to be done. Prior to engaging us, ABCSW struggled with keeping the board of directors in the loop and up to date on the everyday happenings of the organization. The board was hesitant to trust that an AMC would deliver on the promise of fully transparent full-service management. This was true especially for the financial management of ABCSW. We needed to prove that our financial management was efficient and transparent, and that we could help ABCSW build up their reserves.

Additionally, ABCSW needed support with the transition into the next stage of their lifecycle. The organization had gone years without taking a critical look at its mission, operations, and how they presented themselves to the world. Before we stepped in, ABCSW lacked a clear identity and direction. It was in need of a total update of the branding, processes, and offerings, which required our strategic approach to set ABCSW up for the future, while keeping their organizational goals top of mind.

The Approach

Building Trust

At Talley, our people are our biggest asset. Our team is full of experienced and passionate association professionals, which is a great help in getting client relationships off on the right foot. As part of full-service association management, we produce comprehensive, easy-to-digest financial reports, so there are no surprises for any clients.

This was no different with ABCSW, where our team shared complete financial reports each month. Ensuring that the financial team was managing these reports and delivering them on schedule became the most important way of showing the ABCSW team that we take transparency and accountability seriously, which was able to reassure their worries in the transition to working with us.

When asked about the transition with Talley, the ABCSW team noted, “We didn’t know how [the previous management team] did the management and record wasn’t appropriate, it was mismatched, it was parceled a bit…to go in there and get the files, transfer the website…I have to hand it to Talley for getting in there.”

Designing a Path Forward

The next step of strategic planning proved to be the most challenging part of beginning an engagement with ABCSW, but our team rose to the occasion. Reimagining and redefining ABCSW’s identity and services became key pieces in this stage of their association management.

We helped them assess their goals and offerings to create the next iteration of ABCSW to help them grow while also assisting in tactical efforts to widen their reach. The combined brand and mission refresh with a reinvigorated look at membership and offerings helped to set ABCSW up for success.

Since ABCSW’s members have diverse affiliations within the social work industry, we stepped in to help them refine their member experience and recruitment. To do so, ABCSW formed committees for the first time to manage the biggest aspects of their work.

ABCSW went from having an 11-member board that handled everything to creating six committees responsible for operations like their certification program, membership, and website, all with board oversight and support. With the creation of these committees, ABCSW was able to efficiently task out different pieces of their operations and processes, allowing the board to step back from the nitty gritty and plan for the future.

The Result

As a result of Talley’s financial management, ABCSW was able to recuperate revenue and turn their focus to strategic planning and enhancing their organization. With our help and transparent reporting, ABCSW, “...saved at least $100,000 in initial costs, right off the bat. We’re in the black now because we have someone who is financially sound at the top. We have someone who was able to take our money and put it into the right investments…have it grow.” With more funds and focus on the future of the association, the next goal was helping ABCSW expand and grow their efforts strategically while building their brand identity for the next chapter.

Finding Success With Committees

On the other hand, the committees helped take weight off the board so they could tackle the long term planning that they sorely lacked before. Particularly with the certification committee, ABCSW saw the difference that a dedicated team could make and that a successful committee can have a big impact on overall operations.

In creating a dedicated committee to focus on all aspects of certification, committee members were able to delve deeply into the certification eligibility and process, taking a large burden off the board. As a result, the committee was able to suggest adjustments to bylaws that allowed more social work professionals to qualify for their certification and therefore widen their reach as an association.

Improving Member Experience

ABCSW also saw an improved member experience and better recruitment as a result of their membership committee. With the dedicated committee, ABCSW was able to take a holistic view of their membership experience and better align their services with the needs of their members. Because of this, they also saw increased recruitment and revenue in a time when COVID was challenging association membership. At our suggestion, ABCSW began making personal appeals to members who didn’t renew their membership, which helped improve their overall retention.

The creation of this committee also led to ABCSW’s inaugural conference in 2022. With the refreshed organizational purpose and our support, ABCSW has planned their first conference. While getting a first conference off the ground proved to be an uphill battle, ABCSW is ready to tackle more events in the future to help them enrich their membership programs.


Despite the hesitant start, overall ABCSW remarked, “...our experience as a board has been great. Without [Talley’s] guidance while changing AMCs and not really knowing what an AMC can do for you, now we can actually see what you can do. Talley was a big part of our rebirth and establishing and rebranding who we are and what we want to do and who we want to touch.”

The transition to working with AMC can be challenging for any client, especially for those who have worked with an unreliable one in the past. It can be intimidating to let an outside organization in and take a holistic look at internal processes, but Talley is more than just an AMC — Talley is a strategic partner that works with associations to help them think strategically and find opportunities for growth.

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