Whether you are seeking
greater efficiencies and economies for your independent association, a
change of your association management company, or have reached the
point in the association’s evolution when you need to hire
professional staff, the initial step is to develop a request for
proposal (RFP). Developing an RFP that will attract just the kind of
management your organization needs is critical to accomplishing your
organizations strategic goals. Half the battle is knowing what you
want. The other half is communicating it.
Who prepares the RFP?
The best way to begin is to form a small task force or
search committee of involved members who are knowledgeable about the
work of the association. Often, when work is divided among a number of
volunteers and committees, or is delegated to staff, it may be
difficult to define exactly what’s involved in the management of the
association on a day-to-day basis. Ask people who have been recently
involved to participate in the task force as well as past and future
What does the RFP include?
First, association management companies will want a
profile of the organization. A good starting point is to obtain the
“Request for Association Information” form developed by ASAE. This
form asks many of the questions that AMCs need to know about the
- Is your organization incorporated? If so, in what state?
- Is your organization recognized by the Internal Revenue
Service as tax exempt? If so, under what code (i.e. 501 (c)(3), 501
- What is the purpose of your organization?
- What type of organization is it?
- Board composition?
- Details on committees.
- Who is currently managing the association?
- How many members do you have? What are the categories of membership?
- What is the potential number of members available in your profession or industry?
- What is your total budget? What is the present dues structure?
- Describe your governance structure. Attach an organizational chart if available.
- How often does your governing body meet?
- Does your organization have a strategic plan? Goals?
- What are your most urgent problems or concerns?
- What are the most significant accomplishments you wish
to achieve through a management transition and what do you feel is a
reasonable time frame in which you would expect them to be achieved?
- Other profile information that will help the AMC understand the scope of the association’s activities and programs.
Be realistic. Avoid “wish lists.” Rather, describe
the essential services your organization requires, areas where
volunteer time and talent are not being contributed, and areas where
the expertise of a professional in association management is needed.
Be specific. If you ask for a proposal to “manage
our annual conference,” AMCs will require a great deal of additional
information, such as duration of the conference, format, number of
attendees, number of programs, specifics on social events, details on
exhibits management services to be provided, and publications
associated with the event. A similar level of specification will be
required if you request a quotation for “publishing the newsletter.”
Include samples, whenever possible, of your newsletter,
convention brochure, membership directory, operating budget, trade
show brochure, and bylaws. Remember, you can’t provide too much
What is the deadline for responding?
AMCs will want information on process and deadlines. A
reasonable amount of time for the AMC to respond to the RFP is
typically four to six weeks.
What does the AMC need to include with the response?
You should request a list of references, a company profile,
and background on the staff to be assigned to the association.
How will the selection be made?
Often the search committee will select two or three final
candidates to be interviewed by the full board. Give the date of the
final interviews, the date the decision will be made, and when
prospects will be notified. Include the name of the individual who
will respond to questions.
Who should receive the RFP?
Many associations wish to contract with a management
company that manages associations similar in size or in industries
similar to theirs. The business of managing an association, however,
requires a body of knowledge unrelated to the industry or professional
practice of the organization’s members. More important than whether
the company “speaks your members’ language” is its level of experience
in association management—including expertise in nonprofit tax and
regulatory issues; governance structure and volunteer relations; and
such legal issues as foundations and subsidiary corporations,
generation of non dues income, and chapter relations.