IABC’s move to an association management model

IABC recently made the strategic decision to partner with an association management firm. Effective 1 July 2020, SmithBucklin will manage our association’s day-to-day operations, allowing us to better focus on delivering a great member experience that truly helps us to advance the communication profession.

What is an association management model?

Association management companies, often referred to as AMCs, provide professional staff (up to and including executive management) to manage all aspects of an association’s operations. These services include, but are not limited to:

  • membership recruitment and engagement,
  • marketing and communications,
  • conference management,
  • technology,
  • financial management,
  • education and certification, and
  • government relations.

What changes can members expect as a result of this change?

We believe that this change will enhance member value and experience, and in the short-term you will continue to receive all the same member benefits you have come to expect.

As part of the transition to this new model, we will be evaluating how we can best serve our members and the communication profession in the future with a view to creating an enhanced member experience.

Janet Rapp will continue to serve as IABC’s Interim Executive Director and lead the transition, and we will also be recruiting a new permanent Executive Director this year who will play a significant role in shaping the future of IABC.

Why is IABC transitioning from its current management model?

Moving to an association model will improve member experience and value, and allow us to better fulfill our purpose—to advance the profession, create connections, and develop strategic communication professionals.

Like many professional associations, IABC’s membership has experienced some decline in recent years in response to a variety of market forces. This has limited our staff size and our access to the depth and breadth of resources required to deliver the level of experience we aspire to. We believe that moving to an association management model will allow us to operate more efficiently, while improving our ability to offer great member value, innovative programs, and ensure our long-term success as an association. 

Why did the International Executive Board (IEB) decide to move to an AMC rather than retaining our own staff?

After a thorough risk and financial assessment, the IEB concluded that an AMC was the best option for providing the necessary strength of execution, fiduciary safety, and staffing flexibility. Outsourcing provides cost savings in operating expenses while enhancing customer centricity and access to resources and a diverse talent pool.      

Another consideration was whether IABC needed the ability to scale up or down depending on service needs. Permanent staff reduces an organization’s ability to be agile in its response to changing needs unless there are significant investments made in talent acquisition and retention, as well as ensuring strong leadership from the Executive Director.

AMCs also bring expertise from managing many organizations, have robust administrative infrastructure with established financial and accounting procedures and can provide economies of scale through existing vendor relationships.

Who is our new association management firm?

SmithBucklin is a leading association management firm headquartered in Chicago. They provide tailored association management and consulting services to more than 300 professional societies, trade associations, charitable organizations, corporations and government institutes, serving their client organizations’ members globally.

SmithBucklin has over 70 years of experience serving a wide variety of client organizations and expertise in many different areas, from technology to membership to certification. In addition, SmithBucklin’s shared services model will help IABC elevate its content, communication and digital capabilities to better address our members’ needs.

What made SmithBucklin the right choice for IABC?

The Task Force and the Board considered a variety of criteria when evaluating the AMC candidates, the most important being the capability to assist IABC in reaching its strategic goals and improving its relevance as an association. The criteria included experience with:

  •       Other organizations similar to IABC.
  •       Approach to membership management and revenue planning.
  •       Working with a governance Board.
  •       Organizations with international membership.
  •       Volunteer-driven associations.

 Other key considerations included alignment with our brand values and:

  •       A focus on, and valuing of, diversity.
  •       Excellent customer service.
  •       Sound financial practices.
  •       A history of operational and staff stability.

Following evaluation against the criteria and determining culture fit, the Board concluded that SmithBucklin was the strongest option.