• Sara Robinson

Make Good Use Of Your Executive Director!

Updated: Oct 12

Sometimes Executive Director job descriptions don't serve the Association to the fullest potential. And this is true especially if your Association only has one staff person! When recruiting for an Executive Director, it makes complete sense to engage someone who has industry experience. Maybe they are designated, maybe they are a retired industry veteran, or perhaps they have a degree in line with your Association sector. If you have hired an ED with this resume, hang on to them!


You may have hit the jackpot, finding the perfect fit for your professional Association. Someone recognized in the field, experienced and knowledgeable about the industry, and who has a clear handle on how to improve or grow the sector. It’s with anticipation that the Board and ED expect they will roll up their sleeves to:


· Grow the membership

· Host round table discussions about industry hot topics

· Build new partnerships resulting in opportunities for members

· Advocacy with government or industry alliances

· Create programs to better serve the sector

· And the list goes on…


What sometimes is not considered is the job of an Executive Director for a small or medium size Association is usually very administrative. These very important tasks listed above are often pushed aside because the ED suddenly is responsible for running the organization which is comprised of:


· Getting membership invoices out on time

· Responding to member inquiries

· Developing procedures

· Updating the website

· Sending out newsletters

· Managing social media

· Chasing unpaid membership fees

· Planning and organizing AGM’s and events

· And the list goes on…


The Administration and Operations of an Association is important work. It’s what will ensure you keep your organization motor running. It’s a big responsibility and often a Board will hire what they feel is a top-notch candidate to fill the ED role because they know how important it is. But do you want your superstar ED spending their days administering your Association, or do you want them representing your industry, building the membership, creating partnerships that lead to new member perks, and speaking as the voice of the industry?


There is no doubt that your ED has the ability to run the administrative tasks of your organization but it’s just not what they love to do. The job satisfaction for many Executive Directors is affected because they feel they are constantly working through operational tasks to get to a spot where they can focus on what they are excited about: the organization and industry growth and success. We’ve all been there, saying ‘as soon as I get this job done, I’ll be able to focus on the big project I have been putting off’. Except when you are running a cyclical organization like an Association, you never get out of operations mode because when the calendar resets, so do all the duties.


Enter…..an Association Management Company (AMC).


It’s extremely rewarding to watch the transition of Executive Directors who were begrudging the admin side of their job (which usually took over more than its fair share of time) to being given the gift of time and tools to do what they love and what they are meant to do. Engaging an AMC is an investment in your Association. If growth is in your strategy plan but you only have an Executive Director on staff, the chances of hitting your targets are slim. An Association Management Company will take on all the operational tasks, become your headquarters, service existing members, and provide support to your Board and ED. With this type of backbone to your organization, your Executive Director will accomplish more than they ever thought possible. The more they accomplish, the more members they attract, the more partners they work with, and the more projects and events they create. In result, the more support your AMC will provide. The model is brilliant because it creates unlimited capacity for your Association and unlimited potential for your industry.


The concept is solid, and the results speak for themselves, but Boards of Directors are cautious, as they should be. It takes a special Board to see the big picture and recognize the potential their Executive Director has if provided with the support they need.


Executive Directors are often experts in their field. If they manage a medical association they may have a medical degree, if they manage a food association they may have a background in food & beverage, if they manage an engineers association they may have a designation as an engineer. None of these career choices make them experts in running an association. If you are so fortunate to have an ED who is invested and informed in your specific industry, use them to their fullest potential. Don’t limit their possibilities by putting them in the wrong role.


Any organization will thrive if the right people are doing what they should be doing. A qualified ED will see your organization through to the next level while an AMC will run your organization so efficiently that you will always be positioned to take on more growth and success, whatever that means for your organization. Now, that’s not a sure investment!

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