I’m on a mission

By Trace Carson,
Senior VP of Association Management

You’re most likely reading this because you’re a Board member of an organization managed by OMG. I would love to take a survey—and perhaps one day I will—to find out how many of you reading this were aware of association management before your exposure to OMG. How many of you even think of it now? Would you be able to explain it to someone?

I’m on a mission to help spread the word about association management. People understand what school teachers, accountants, bakers or even philosophers do. Over the years I’ve heard other association management professionals voice what I thought was particular only to me: “My mother still doesn’t understand what I do.”

Why is it that the profession I love is so far under the radar? The Association Management Company Institute (AMCI), which is OMG’s professional association, represents over 180 association management companies worldwide that manage over 1,800 associations overseeing budgets of $1.5 billion-plus.

The American Society of Association Executives for FY 2016 published the following statistics with data from the IRS Data Book 2016; NAICS (North American Industry Classification System), U.S. Census Bureau:

In FY 2016, the IRS recognized approximately:

  • 64,000 501(c)(6) associations [trade and professional associations]; and,
  • Over 1.2 million 501(c)(3) associations [charitable and philanthropic organizations].

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, trade and professional associations generated $116 billion in revenue in 2016 and hold an estimated $306 billion in assets.

Associations are big business, contributing over 5% of gross domestic product and employing more than 1.3 million people. Odds are you are one of the 63 million who volunteer your time through an association.

So, again, I ask, why is association work – and particularly the work done by association management companies like OMG—not more in the collective consciousness?

For those who have held leadership positions in an association managed by OMG or have worked with another AMC, how much do you really know what goes on behind the scenes? Sure, you know we distribute the Board packets for meetings, send all of those broadcast emails for events and meetings, and manage the registration desk at the annual conference.

But the most important services we provide are the ones that are never seen. We ensure that an organization’s IRS status is never in jeopardy; that the Directors and Officers insurance policy that protects you is always in place; that the annual 990 is filed; that there are never any anti-trust issues; and that the bylaws are being adhered to. It’s not exactly as exciting as the golf tournament fundraiser or conference we manage for the organization, but it’s the stuff that needs to be done to keep your organization in compliance to maintain its tax status.

So, if the volunteer leaders don’t really know what it is that we as association management professionals do, is it any surprise that the general population—or my mother for that matter—don’t as well?

With over 1,500 associations being formed each year, chances are you or someone you know may belong to another association that could use the services of an association management company.

If you do or run across someone who does belong to another association, please do them (and me)  a favor and let them know about our industry. And then try to explain it to my mother.