8 Must-Have Resources for Association Executive Directors

Executive Resources

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DeLaine Bender CAE - AMR Management Services


Executive Directors play a critical role in the success of the membership organizations, professional societies, and trade associations they lead – and I am blessed to work with some of the best and brightest here at AMR Management Services.

There is a lot that goes into preparing someone to take on the role of Executive Director. Executive Directors are responsible for managing the day-to-day operations, strategic planning and execution, leader and member engagement, financial management, governance, and much more.

To handle the wide variety of responsibilities on their plates, Executive Directors and other senior association management staff need access to a range of resources that can help them stay informed, improve their skills, and navigate the evolving landscape of association management.

In this blog post, we will explore some must-have resources for association management professionals.

1 Professional Associations and Certifications

We wouldn’t be very genuine as association management professionals if we did not participate in the professional associations specific to our own industry. I particularly enjoy membership in the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) and the AMC Institute, which is the association for association management companies.

As association management professionals, we must continuously improve skills and knowledge to stay effective. Professional development programs, such as certifications, workshops, webinars, and conferences, help professionals enhance skills; increase exposure to new ideas, technologies, and methodologies; and learn about trends in the association management profession.

One benefit of association participation is certification or certificate programs, which demonstrate your commitment to the profession. The most widely recognized individual certification program for association executives is the Certified Association Executive (CAE) offered by ASAE. Company accreditation through the AMC Institute Accreditation Program is considered the gold standard for association management companies.

2 Industry Publications and Websites

Staying up to date with the latest trends, best practices, and news in association management is crucial for Executive Directors and senior staff. Subscribing to industry publications and websites, such as those provided by the ASAE, Board Source, Chicagoland’s Association Forum, and Association TRENDS, can provide valuable insights, research, and resources on various aspects of association management. These publications often cover topics such as membership growth, governance, leadership, advocacy, and technology that impact associations.

3 Online Tools and Software

Anyone talking about machine learning and AI in your association? As association management professionals, we must stay on top of emerging technologies to help us streamline operations, manage member data, and enhance member engagement. Examples of essential online tools and software for the associations world include association management system (AMS) platforms, online collaboration communities, customer relationship management software, event management software, email marketing tools, and social media management platforms. These tools can help association management professionals automate routine tasks, track member data, communicate with members, and streamline workflows. The options are endless, and it seems they change almost daily.

4 Networking Opportunities

Building a strong professional network is not just beneficial, it is often crucial. Connecting with peers in the industry has provided me with opportunities to learn from others’ experiences, share best practices, and collaborate on common challenges.

Our Executive Directors enjoy networking opportunities through industry conferences, workshops, webinars, and online forums—as well as the opportunity to have in-person and virtual social outings with AMR coworkers. Walk and talk meeting anyone?

5 Legal and Regulatory Resources

For the protection of our associations, Executive Directors must understand legal and regulatory requirements, such as tax laws, employment laws, data protection regulations, and industry-specific regulations. Noncompliance would have major impacts on the associations we serve. Through enhanced professional training and access to legal and regulatory resources, such as legal counsel, industry experts, or online resources from reputable sources, our Executive Directors can successfully navigate complex legal and regulatory issues. As a career association management professional, I have a healthy respect for the expertise of the attorneys with whom we work.

6 Financial Management Resources

Effective financial management is critical for the success of any association—so here is a shout out to the excellent AMR accounting team! The Executive Director needs to have a solid understanding of financial principles, budgeting, accounting, and financial reporting, including specifics affecting nonprofit organizations—and there is no replacement for a top-tier accountants and on-staff CPAs.

In addition, access to financial management resources, such as financial and investment advisors, accounting software, budgeting templates, and financial benchmarking data, can help Executive Directors develop financial acumen and make informed financial decisions, manage budgets, and ensure financial sustainability for the association. This is one of the top skillsets Boards of Directors appreciate most!

7 Leadership and Management Resources

Executive Directors must inspire and guide their organizations and teams toward success. Resources that can help develop leadership and management skills, such as books, articles, webinars, and workshops on leadership, team management, strategic planning, and change management, can be invaluable for association management professionals. These resources can help them improve leadership style, communication skills, decision-making, and overall management effectiveness.

8 Time

It probably seems impossible, but busy association professionals must set aside some “thinking time” to remain productive at the executive level. Time is a scarce resource, so this is a bit of self-discipline we must practice. Executive Directors need time to plan, time to be strategic, and time to think about how to best achieve the mission of the association. At AMR, flexible work schedules and planning in time to recharge, refresh and rethink are supported by management. Believe me, this is a positive and important benefit of our company culture.

About AMR Management Services

If your association would benefit from executive staff expertise, AMR Management Services is here to help. We employ a staff of seasoned association management executives ready to help your association achieve its fullest potential. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you take your association to the next level.

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DeLaine Bender CAE
Vice President of Client Services

Degrees and Credentials:
Certified Association Executive (CAE), Bachelor of Arts in Journalism & Mass Communication, University of Oklahoma

Association Management Professional Since:

What inspires you about your work?
In my career, I have been blessed to work with some amazing, inspiring association leaders, who have become mentors and friends. I also enjoy the challenging, ever-changing environment of associations, and the sense of fulfillment in having made a difference in a profession or on an issue.

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