Outsourcing Beyond a Single Project

When Michael Connor, member records manager for the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO), was tasked with a massive, ongoing data collection project, he knew immediately that he did not have the in-house resources to complete such an undertaking. As Connor explains, “Every summer we ask our 2,800 institutional members to update contact information about individuals from their organizations. Based on the size of the project, I knew we would not be able to handle this task in-house. And because we continually update this data, I knew that I had to find a long-term solution.”

The concept of using outside help to provide ad hoc services to the membership department is not a new one. For years associations have turned to consultants, print shops, and mail-houses to manage special projects that were too big for existing staff to handle on their own. Increasingly, however, associations are partnering with vendors to provide support for ongoing membership department responsibilities. These are no longer “one-off” projects, where the vendor comes to the aid of the association and then quietly disappears into the night. These arrangements are intended to provide long-term support to associations that have been stretched too thin by tightening budgets and board expectations of doing more with less.

To manage the job of collecting so much data, Connor turned to Datamax Solutions. “Because the summer is a slower time for Datamax, they were able to give us a great rate on data entry,” states Connor. “And as a result of the success of this project, we’ve now engaged them to manage our ongoing data updates, which is around 1,000 records per month.”

According to Connor, “In the past we used temps to do the original project. That situation was not ideal because the temps were not well trained and there was very little ownership or pride-in-work from them. The Datamax staff are professional data entry people who have a job they want to keep, and thus they have incentive to get it right.” For Connor and NACUBO, what started as a once-per-year project has grown into an ongoing and successful partnership.

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) has a different challenge. Over the years ASHA has accumulated a number of affinity programs to offer their members. ASHA realized that while the programs were beneficial to membership, managing these programs took staff away from operations closer to their core mission. So ASHA contracted with McKinley Marketing, Inc., to manage the programs for them.

“Our goal for ASHA is to improve the performance of their programs, from both revenue and member service perspectives, ” says Jay Younger, McKinley’s vice president. “By managing the process from beginning to end, we ensure a quality experience for members from day one, which helps to raise awareness of ASHA’s program portfolio and build brand loyalty.”

The arrangement allows ASHA to offer a more valuable experience for members, increase non-dues income, and decrease internal staff time and overhead costs.

With more than 28,000 members and a membership staff of just three, managing the membership renewal process for the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) can be daunting. As Jim Gandorf, CAE, director of membership, explains, “With the continuing growth of our membership and the increasing complexity of membership options, we could no longer efficiently manage the process of getting all of those renewals into the mail.”

So Gandorf contacted Franklins Printing. With Franklins’ help, MAA moved all of its membership renewal mailing processes out of the association. MAA’s renewal is on an annual basis (January 1 to December 31); thus the renewal mailing cycle runs from September to June. Because there are so many options for MAA membership, the mailings are exceptionally complex. “There are some 64 possible combinations of membership rates,” explains Gandorf. “Using an outside vendor allows us to customize each of our renewals to the individual receiving the renewal, even with all of the different possible rates.”

Gandorf goes on to say, “The long-term relationship with the vendor is key. Having a stable vendor makes the process easier on a year-to-year basis. We don’t have to continually educate someone on how we do our renewals.”

As these three cases illustrate, outsourcing recurring, non-core membership processes can be executed effectively when both parties agree that a long-term commitment is appropriate. Each of these associations has been successful by retaining their core processes in-house and developing on-going relationships with outside vendors to assist in noncore activities.

This article originally appeared in Executive Update. Reprinted with permission.


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