Selection Criteria

Michael LoBue writes:  Selecting the right AMC is very similar to selecting the right employee.  It’s all about right fit and that is the result of several important process steps.  The one step in the process this post is concerned with is having a well developed selection criteria for the choice.

While this seems like a blinding glimpse of the obvious, it is surprising how many organizations go out to bid without having their selection criterial established until the selection committee sits down to have their first discussion about the proposals they just received.

One of the reasons for this critical omission is that the selection committee is often tired just getting the request for proposal (rfp) material together.  This is understandable as a high quality rfp package involves a great deal of work; the type of work that boards do not normally spend their time doing.

Another reason selection criteria are omitted is that they don’t really seem necessary once the rfp material has been developed because the rfp material seems so complete.  The fact of the matter is — selection criteria are very different from the other elements in an rfp.  Selection criteria can be (should be) included in the rfp material, but when the criteria are not spelled out the chances of selecting the right fit becomes more of a chance-game than a deliberate outcome of the process.

There’s no generic selection criteria that fit all situations.  The right selection criteria contain those characteristics that are discernable, if not measureable, and will allow the selection committee to observe differences between proposing firms.  They might include:

  • Experience in the organization’s line of business or profession
  • Some threshold of capacity to accomplish the work
  • Experience in some service area that is new to the organization, representing new services and
          organizational opportunities
  • Certain business process practices, perhaps certification for key staff and/or accreditation to industry standards for the firm
  • The ability to serve as a public spokesperson for the organization

Once the selection committee has developed the criteria, the criteria should be provided to the bidders.  It’s okay to adjust the criteria as the selection committee goes about their work.   In fact, it would be surprising if the criteria didn’t drift a bit because this is typically a learning experience for the committee members.  If those criteria do drift a bit, those changes should be communicated to the bidding firms.

No, it is not sef-serving for a bidding firm to ask for criteria up front, although it is beneficial to the firm in developing their proposal.  The reason the bidders should establish their selection criteria ahead of time is because it will increase the likelihood of finding that right firm.   Not to tell the bidders means that the bidders have to engage in guess-work about what is most important to the selection committee.

Manage the risk inherent in searching for a new management firm by being clear about what is most important in the selection.  First, spend the time up front deciding the basis for your selections; second tell the bidding firms so they can present their skills and experience in terms that matter most to you and your organization.

What is an AMC?

Michael LoBue writes: An association management company (AMC) is a for-profit service firm that provides professional management and administrative services to associations.   Perhaps the best way to understand the services is to list the benefits AMC client organizations receive from the relationship:

  • highly experienced personnel who often support more than one client organization at one time, thus able to bring rich and diverse problem solving skills to each client they support;
  • highly efficient use of resources and economies of scale as no client organization shoulders the full burder of occupancy and related fixed-costs of operations; and
  • because all staff are employees of the AMC, the association avoids all the obligations associated with being an employer

AMCs are viable solutions for organizations of all sizes; whether engaging an AMC for full management and operations, or for specific services to complement hired staff.

Quality AMCs also invest in staff development in training in ways that many associations with their own staff are simply not able to afford.  One way to identify quality AMCs is whether or not the firms support professional certification like the Certified Association Executive program from the ASAE, or firm accreditation from the AMC Institute.