For the hundreds of small, member-run professional associations in New Jersey, help is on the way.
Association Business Solutions, or ABS, incorporated in January with one goal in mind – help professional associations and other nonprofit organizations become the vibrant, dynamic and growing institutions their founders envisioned.
ABS of Princeton is run by two principals, Paula Hartman and Karla Pollack, who between them have 25 years of experience working for or with associations. Now, they are offering their services on everything from maintaining membership databases to planning a full convention or trade show from start to finish.
According to a poll by the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB), nearly three of five small employers are members in at least one business organization, either personally or through their firms. New Jersey alone is home to about 1,000 professional associations, many of which have formed since 1990 to bring like-minded professionals together to talk shop, share notes and promote their special skills. Most associations have something else in common. They are losing members.
“People create professional associations with good intentions, but they don’t realize the amount of work involved,” says Hartman. “The day to day operation of running an association is time-consuming and expensive. To do it right, they’re taking time and energy away from their own businesses or jobs, so most just do what they can. As a result, the association stagnates and members lose interest.”
“Our goal at ABS is to provide associations with the support they need to thrive,” adds Karla Pollack. “Paula and I have years of experience running association membership campaigns, events, meetings, and conventions. “We’ve already figured out the best way to get things done. And chances are, we can do it for less than it would cost an association to do the same tasks in-house.”
ABS can be surprisingly cost-effective. For one, associations will only pay for the specific services they need, instead of keeping on extra staff because they need help planning the annual dinner. Additionally, associations will benefit by sharing overhead costs, office space and equipment and other expenses.
Where most marketing firms or temp agencies service for-profit businesses, ABS is set up to address the unique needs of professional associations and nonprofit organizations. Businesses are mostly interested in increasing sales and profits. But an association could be formed to promote a positive image for its industry, lobby state or local governments, or simply provide professional development opportunities to its members.
“We see each association as having its own individual personality,” Hartman says. “First, we make sure we understand what makes an individual association unique. Then we work with them to accomplish their specific goals.”
“Between us, we know what to do and what not to do when it comes to managing an association and planning events,” Pollack says. “We have an extensive collection of best-practice models that we developed through years of experience.”
Among the services that ABS provides:
- administrative services, including everything from answering the phone to maintaining the membership database;
- membership development, such as designing a marketing campaign or coordinating fund-raising and sponsorship solicitations;
- meeting planning for trade shows, conventions or other public meetings, as well as private events such as banquets or board meetings; and
- communications, including newsletters, press releases, member surveys, publications, and marketing brochures.
While headquartered in Princeton, ABS has meeting facilities in Trenton, Bridgewater, Rutherford and Mount Laurel.