Money & Business

A New Look at Association Outsourcing

By / Sep 17, 2015 (iStock/Thinkstock)

Take a peek at some findings from a new SmithBucklin report that analyzed what services associations are outsourcing and how frequently they turn to third-party vendors.

Can you guess how many associations are looking to outside service providers to help accomplish their missions?

Roughly 80 percent, according to a newly released study from association management and services company SmithBucklin that looked at the types of functions, other than of the commonly outsourced audit and legal services, that associations are outsourcing.

“Association executives realize they cannot hire and employ every talent they need to deliver against the important work of their organization,” Carol McGury, executive vice president of event and education services at SmithBucklin, said in a statement. “By outsourcing solutions for specific needs, they can ensure that their organizations thrive while serving the best interests of their members.”

For example, when asked how they currently used or planned to use outsourcing, respondents said the number-one reason was to gain access to specific skills, which was followed by supplementing in-house staff and saving money.

“Outsourcing enables us to have a high level of expertise in an area at a much lower cost than if we had that employee on staff full time,” one respondent said.

The services with the highest rate of outsourcing among respondents include graphic design, multimedia, and video, outsourced by 52 percent of the 360 U.S. association and professional society executives surveyed.

This was followed by editorial and publishing (27 percent), advertising (27 percent), and membership technology (26 percent).

Among future outsourcing needs, membership technology comes out on top, which isn’t surprising considering associations’ more and more advanced technology needs, according to Leslie Thornton, vice president of SmithBucklin Outsourced Services.

“Today, many associations’ technology needs are more sophisticated,” Thornton said in a statement. “In the era of big data and member analytics, associations naturally will tap outside sources with proven expertise in collecting, organizing, and protecting membership data.”

Given the high frequency of outsourcing among associations, and considering the fact that the term “outsourcing” can have negative connotations [login required], here are a few tips from Becky S. Corbett, president and CEO of BSCorbett Consulting, LLC, for establishing good working relationships with vendors:

Be candid. Don’t be afraid to establish open lines of communication with vendors, Corbett wrote in an article for Associations Now Plus [login required].

“If you are wondering something, ask. If you are concerned about something, say it. If you have an idea on how the vendor can do something more effectively, tell them.”

Prepare your team. It’s important to create board and staff buy-in by acknowledging the various teams and departments that will work together to reach the identified goals, Corbett wrote. And don’t forget to provide good leadership. “Projects create change within your association. Change can be scary for some staff, so lead your team.”

Assign a champion. Whether it’s a staff member or third-party consultant, “The individual’s goal is to manage the project and be your eyes and ears,” Corbett wrote. “He or she reports to you.”

For more advice on maintaining good working relationships with vendors, check out Corbett’s full article.

Does your association outsource services? If so, how do you maintain good vendor/association relationships? Please share in the comments.

Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. More »

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