While associations are staffed by some pretty amazing, skilled, intelligent people, even the most strategic, forward-thinking multitaskers need help completing a project sometimes. Sometimes an association just needs an extra set of hands to complete a project, and sometimes they need a specialized skill set that no one on staff has yet.
Enter third-party service providers and vendors who can help associations achieve their goals in areas from advocacy to finance to events. Our February/March reader poll asked readers:
For what type of project are you most likely to work with a third-party vendor?
Responses clustered into two camps: technology and communications.
If you’ve worked on updating your membership database or association website, you’re likely aware of how helpful a vendor who is well-versed in current IT structures and systems can be. With technology changing as rapidly as it does, the cost of working with an IT vendor usually pays for itself in the long run in terms of improved efficiencies and time-saving systems set up for your association.
Similarly, if you’ve taken on a refresh of your association’s entire communications portfolio, you’ll appreciate the external perspective an outside vendor can offer. Communications consultants, public relations firms and publishers can conduct audience research, suggest a data-based brand refresh and in some cases take on the majority of the publishing process, thus freeing up your staff’s time to focus on other mission-critical areas of your association’s operations.
Says Liz Richards of the Material Handling Equipment Distributors’ Association about their partnership with Naylor, “We were just looking for a print publication, and it has gone worlds beyond that.” Naylor provides magazine, website, video and social media services for MHEDA.
Another area where association-vendor partnerships can benefit membership is events. More specifically, industry vendors looking to give back to your association or to a particular category of professionals, such as students, people new to the field or seasoned professionals looking to take the next professional step are often eager to fund grants that will help individuals in these categories bear the cost of attending professional development programs or events. Kelly Clark and Hester Ndoja offer more details about this topic in their discussion about using sponsored grants to strengthen your membership.
Has your association had a particularly fruitful outsourcing relationship with a vendor? Tell us about your experience in the comments below!