Taking Back the Word “Outsourcing”


Last week, I made the seven-and-a-half-hour drive to Springfield, Illinois, for the Illinois Society of Association Executives Convention and Trade Show. This was my first ISAE event, and aside from the opportunity to network, I was also interested in attending a few of the speaking tracks. Much to my surprise, speakers at the convention used a word that has been, until very recently, only used in hushed voices in corner offices. It really got me thinking: Why does “outsourcing” get such a bad rap in the association industry?

The vast majority of associations outsource many current services they need on a daily basis. I don’t know many advocacy or membership directors who moonlight as the cleaning crew. Several association executives mentioned during the seminars that they’ve outsourced their bookkeeping, which saves them from hours of work and unneeded stress every week. One executive director said it very well: “I’m not good at bookkeeping, I don’t enjoy it, and my mistakes cost me time, effort, and money.”

This unwanted stress and lost time could, and should, be avoided, says ISAE speaker and author Mary Byers, CAE. Mary argues that “your job should be your genius.” If you’re not effective at a specific role within your organization, and you’re only doing this role out of necessity due to financial or manpower issues, then a strong option is to explore outsourcing solutions that will put this role in the hands of someone with more expertise, or someone with equivalent expertise but at a scale that offers much greater efficiency. This would free you up to spend more time on what you’re good at, making you more valuable and more effective to your organization.

The reality of the association industry is that with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, many executives are facing significant revenue challenges. Some will need to change their business model entirely. This loss of revenue inhibits an executive’s ability to hire or retain someone on a full-time basis who could help to replace this revenue through improving membership renewal and acquisition rates, exploring non-dues revenue opportunities, and more. This is where outsourcing becomes a common sense, cost-effective option.

Imagine having access to a market research department, graphic designers, membership marketing and management experts, e-marketing and print marketing experts, a data analyst, and more – all at a fraction of the cost of hiring this expertise. How much more productive, and how much more effective, could you and your staff become with these mission-critical resources at your disposal?

The ISAE Convention addressed many important issues, but the topic that has the most potential to change how association executives run their organizations was certainly outsourcing. In fact, every indication we’ve seen tells us that outsourcing will become a necessity for many association executives in 2015 and beyond. And it’s not a bad thing! Executives will rely on companies such as VP-DCS to improve membership retention and marketing services, publishing communications, and more because it’s what we do best. This will allow association leadership to focus on delivering the organization’s mission and delivering value to members.