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5 Reasons Your Association’s Dream Team Should Include Third-Party Partners

By Sarah Sain, CAE • March 24, 2021

It’s March, which for many people across the country (and particularly those of us who live in college towns) means one thing: March Madness.

While those of us at home have filled out our brackets and are cheering on our teams during The Big Dance, coaches across the country are examining their rosters and making sure they have the right mix of people and skills to make a winning team. They look for talented rising stars who are coachable. Players who excel at working independently but also know when collaboration will lift the entire team. Teammates who can communicate clearly in times of success and in the midst of conflict.

It’s similar to what association executives do and the type of people they look for when building their teams. And while your staff are certainly the core of your team – your star players – it’s important for associations to build a deeper bench that includes third-party partners. A trusted partner can add to your association’s depth of knowledge and experience, open doors to new opportunities, and multiply your resources so you can better engage members and advance your industry.

Here are five reasons why your association should expand your team to include third-party partners.

  1. Partners can save you time – and allow you to focus your energy where it’s needed most.

One of the best places to start when you’re considering whether to partner with a third-party provider is to look closely at where your staff actually spends their time and what they have to set to the side because there aren’t enough hours in the day. You want your staff to focus on what’s most important, so if what’s taking up the bulk of their day-to-day hours prevents them from accomplishing your larger strategic goals, then look for a partner that can provide much-needed support and additional resources for those time-consuming tasks.

The same goes for your staff who spend the bulk of their time on projects far outside their roles or abilities. You want each of your team members to play to their strengths. They’ll be happier in their work and more likely to stay when they can work on projects you hired them to do. Look for a partner that specializes in the area where you most need help.

  1. Partners can add expertise in specific areas to your team’s roster.

That leads us straight into our next point, which is that third-party partners have the know-how that associations need. They are experts in their fields. Associations that take advantage of that expertise, whether it’s to improve their events, communications, software, or finances, can elevate their performance in that operational area.

Most partners, besides providing you with a service, are consultants at heart. They know from working with all their associations that no two are the same. They want to share their knowledge and skill in a personalized way to work best for you.

  1. Partners can not only save you money, but open up new lanes of non-dues revenue.

While some partnerships come with costs you’ll need to budget for, it’s important to look at the overall return on investment before deciding to establish a third-party partnership. Your association could save in terms of time and money. Most third-party vendors take on a portion of the overhead, product upkeep and enhancements, and staff time for their work. Furthermore, when you consider how a consultant’s recommendations or a vendor’s streamlined processes can lower your association’s ongoing expenses, it’s worth the investment.

The even better news is that, depending on what type of partner you’re bringing on to your team, it’s possible that earning more non-due revenue may be an option. More revenue would not only cover any sunk costs of your partnership but also bring in new funding for your association. A steady stream of non-dues revenue can help your association keep membership dues low and allow you to reinvest funds into new projects. Companies that offer non-dues revenue as part of their partnership understand how important that revenue can be to a mission-driven association that also strives to offer the best membership value. These companies continually look for ways to make financial gains that also provide value to your members.

  1. Partners can give you access to technology and training otherwise out of reach.

When it comes to technology, associations are not necessarily known for being at the front end of the adoption curve – the risk is simply too high. There’s the expense of new technology to start, as well as the often-uphill task of getting buy-in from the board. Then, if approved, there’s the time-consuming process of onboarding and training.

A third-party partner can both lend a hand and take on a portion of the risk that comes with investing in new technology. The company you partner with should have the staff support available behind the scenes to address IT needs, install regular upgrades, and advise about how to prepare for cybersecurity concerns. They also can provide ongoing instruction to help you understand not just how your new tech works, but how you can make it work for your association.

  1. Partners can help you grow your network and learn from others’ wins and losses.

When it comes to your third-party partners, you are not their only association client– and that’s a good thing. Many companies work with associations of all sizes, scopes and industries.  They can draw on their wide range of experiences to create solutions based on what they’ve seen work – or not work – in situations just like yours.

By partnering with these companies, you’re gaining immediate access to the knowledge they’ve learned over time. Most partners are also willing to introduce their clients if they know the connection will kick off a conversation that can be mutually beneficial, helping you grow your professional network.

Much like coaching a winning basketball team, when it comes to leading a successful association, you have to have the right team in place. Make sure yours includes trusted third-party partners that can help you perform at your best.

About The Author

Sarah Sain, CAE is director of content for Naylor Association Solutions. Reach her at ssain@naylor.com, or follow her on Twitter at @ssain7.