Tuesday, March 18, 2014

CEO of Small Association Responds to Staffing Small Nonprofits

Guest post by Bill Knopf

Steve, re your March 16 post headlined Staffing for Small Associations and Nonprofits.

Welcome to my world!

This ad is typical of micro associations with a dysfunctional board, limited volunteer resources or expertise to draw on, and little to no money. Hundreds of thousands of them exist.

This particular group is not recruiting nationally, but decided to put an ad in the local paper, hoping to find a needle in a haystack. As if anyone reads the local paper anymore. 

The ad showcases their minimal understanding of what we do or the nature of the beast. If one were to really investigate this, I imagine the salary would be $75k a year for 65+ hours a week and the budget is probably under $250k. 

And, since they are located in Naples, they will likely find someone who a.) is retired and looking for something “meaningful” to do or b.) wants to relocate to a warm weather resort area. 

Neither candidate likely wants to put in the time necessary to do what you or I would call a professional job. You get what you pay for.

My current employer has a $750k budget, and I am the only full time staffer. (After having spent most of my career in trade associations managing orgs with staff sizes of 8-10.)

The only way we can make that work is outsourcing.  I like to call it, 


  • a meeting planner to manage the two major meetings we do and assorted educational workshops
  • a CPA firm to handle the finances including AR and AP
  • a retired PR professional for marketing/communications 
  • a  lobbying firm for advocacy on the state level
  • an out of state IT firm to handle the website

I manage all these individuals, and do not have to house them or pay benefits, and each can be “replaced” with a phone call. 

The only other “staff” we have is a retired member who handles the “engineering” side of the business on a part time basis as our technical advisor (a skill set not easily outsourced).

After 25 years in the business, I do know a little about association meetings, accounting, the legislative process, adult education and publications, so we made the determination that I could manage these consultants. 

I know what we need and what a good job looks like. I know how my former meeting planner went about meeting planning, and how my former lobbyist built coalitions and got a bill passed. 

But I am not prepared to DO that work myself – there aren’t enough hours in the day.


A senior management executive with 25 years experience in managing tax-exempt organizations, William I. Knopf is executive director of the Asphalt Pavement Association of Indiana. He previously served as the Vice President of the Finishing Contractors Association; Executive Vice President/CEO of the Associated General Contractors of Iowa; and Executive Vice President of the Midwest Manufacturing Technology Corporation.

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