Voluntary National Standards and Accreditation: Why You Should Only Select Accredited Association Management Companies
Rick Church, Owner, CM Services, Inc.
This article originally appeared in the April 2002 issue of Association Meetings Magazine in April 2002, It has been slightly modified to stay current with changes in the Standard.
Accreditation is a procedure by which an authoritative body gives formal recognition that an organization or person is competent to carry out specific tasks. We are all familiar with certain kinds of accreditation. Your doctor may be "Board Certified" to a particular discipline. The back of your refrigerator probably has a sticker that says, "UL Listed". Both are forms of accreditation.
Does the sticker mean your refrigerator is better than one that has not been "UL Listed"? It might. That listing indicates your refrigerator has been manufactured and tested to specific standards. The standards were designed with input from manufacturers, consumers, government officials, environmental "watchdog" groups and other interested parties. Why were so many people involved in their development? To assure that your refrigerator would operate safely and efficiently – better than refrigerators that do not meet the standard.
What Does This Have to Do With Association Management Companies?
The International Association of Association Management Companies (now the AMC Institute) decided that a Standard should be created for Association Management Companies (AMCs) to use as a benchmark for providing quality services. As they examined all appropriate directions for the creation of such a standard, it became clear that creating an American National Standard was the best method.
Creating an American National Standard is the best approach for several reasons. First, American National Standards are developed under the processes and procedures set forth by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). ANSI is a not-for-profit organization that accredits organizations to develop consensus standards. ANSI is recognized worldwide.
Second, in developing an American National Standard, one assures the most impartial process is used to create the Standard. Because ANSI requires all its accredited standards development organizations follow its approved procedures, the process takes away the potential for dominance by a small group of interested parties.
Finally, because of ANSI's worldwide recognition, the Standard will be more widely recognized and accepted as an American National Standard.
AMC Institute applied for and became an accredited Standards Development Organization under the canvass method procedures of ANSI.
This was just the beginning of the process. Next, AMC Institute had to implement an industry-wide consensus process defined by ANSI to develop the standard. This included:
- Developing a canvass list of interested parties from various backgrounds who are directly and materially affected by the Standard including: Association Management Company owners/principals; association staff people; and volunteer leaders of associations.
- Approval of the canvass list by ANSI.
- Conducting the canvass. In this phase, the standard is distributed and everyone on the canvass list gets an equal opportunity to comment on its content. In this case there were several canvasses conducted.
- Considering each objection received individually and responding to each one appropriately.
- Providing an opportunity for anyone objecting to the final draft of the Standard to file an appeal, first to AMC Institute’s Appeals Board and then to ANSI itself.
- Submitting the Standard to ANSI for review and approval.
AMC Institute submitted its draft Standard to ANSI for approval in February 2002. The title and designation of the standard will be: ANSI/AMCI A100.1-2002 - Standard of Good Practices for Association Management Companies.
WHAT CAN YOU EXPECT FROM ASSOCIATION MANAGEMENT COMPANIES THAT ARE ACCREDITED TO THE ANSI/AMCI STANDARD?
- Accounting procedures that are compliant with the Federal Accounting Standards Board (FASB) requirements
- Appropriate contract review and transition procedures
- Appropriate and adequate insurance coverage
- Written record keeping procedures
- Employee recruitment and training programs that assure the company's employees know, understand, and comply with company procedures and systems
WHAT THE STANDARDS MEAN TO VOLUNTEER LEADERS OF ORGANIZATIONS AND ASSOCIATIONS
The Standard only has meaning if it is followed. The best way to assure it is being followed is through a process called accreditation.
Remember, accreditation means an organization like AMC Institute recognizes AMCs for meeting or exceeding the requirements of the ANSI/AMCI Standard.
As you might imagine, AMC Institute is creating an Accreditation Program that will be based on the requirements of the ANSI/AMCI Standard.
The AMC Institute Accreditation Program, like the Standard, will be demanding. The program will require written documentation provided by the AMC indicating that it meets or exceeds each of the requirements of the Standard. Additionally, the accreditation program will require that an independent audit of the AMC be conducted to verify that its processes and procedures meet or exceed the baseline requirements established by the ANSI/AMCI Standard.
This will be the most demanding and comprehensive accreditation program in the association industry. Those companies able to achieve accreditation will truly be quality Association Management Companies.
Much as you can now look on the back of your refrigerator and see that "UL Listed" sticker, you will be able to identify AMC Institute Accredited Association Management Companies by a logo signifying their commitment to best practices.
AMCs displaying this logo will have demonstrated through an independent audit that they meet or exceed the baseline requirements established by the American National Standard for Association Management Companies.
To association leaders, this means that, among other things:
- Checks and balances are in place to help ensure your association's money is properly handled.
- The AMC has processes in place that enable it to perform association management functions and deliver quality services.
- The AMC has established and implemented a training program for its employees to ensure that the delivery of services meets standards set by the AMC.
- Comprehensive and appropriate insurance is maintained by the AMC.
- Association Management Companies achieving this mark demonstrate a high level of professionalism and responsibility.
An AMC Institute Accredited AMC has made significant investment to meet or exceed the requirements of the only American National Standard for Association Management Companies and your organization can be assured that when you see the AMC Institute Accreditation logo, the AMC has met the ANSI/AMCI Standard for Service, Quality, and Excellence.