The Strauss Blog

The Role of the Administrative Support in an Association Office

I am frequently asked, “What is it that you do for work?”. When I tell people I work for Strauss Event and Association Management in an administrative position, I usually get a blank stare. Then, I explain what an association management company is, and what my role is within this organization. Strauss provides management services for not-for-profit trade associations and professional societies as well as signature events.

The Daily Activities of Administrative Support

The role of today’s administrative support is much different than it used to be. The support used to answer phones, type letters and do faxes and mailings; they had a very limited job description. Today’s support has a variety of job duties ranging from communicating via a wide range of media, to organizing and planning board meetings, to acting as the primary contact for one or several associations. I currently work with two associations but have worked with up to four at a time.

Working in association management, my day-to-day activities vary depending on which association I am dealing with and what time of year it is. The diversity of work is one of the things I love about my job – every day is different.

Below is a list of some of the job duties that I have as an administrative support:

Membership Management. This is my main task.  General member inquiries, membership renewals, new membership applications, and member complaints are a few of the things I deal with daily.

Public Inquiries. I am the main contact for public inquiries, fielding questions about how to become a member, benefits of membership, and exam information.

Exam Management. This role includes sending out proctor test information, and coordinating, receiving, marking and sending out test results.

Board of Directors Correspondence. Some of these responsibilities include coordinating association, executive, and committee meetings, taking meeting minutes and following up on action items, and preparing and producing various routine reports for review.

Store Product Orders. I also manage the online sale of association products, including processing payments and sending out products.

Accounts Receivable. This involves invoicing members for membership dues, store orders, event registrations and then following up with members on any outstanding invoices.

How to Provide Strong Support

Administrative support is one of the most important functions within an association (or association management company), as these staff are the first point of contact for members and public inquiries. Having a strong person in this position is vital due to the variety of duties and ability to handle many tasks at once.

A strong administrative support person worker must have the following skills:

Organization. With the long list of job duties and ever-changing responsibilities, it is very easy to fall behind on your work. Making a ‘to do’ list is my key to staying organized and on top of things. I create my list based on how I am going to tackle my day item by item, and then work through the list. I try to follow the list from first to last and not jump around. Otherwise, I will have a lot of unfinished projects at the end of the day or week and am likely to fall behind on my work. Our article Staying Organized in the Fast-Paced Association Management World has some great guidelines to help stay organized in a busy environment.

Communication. Strong communication skills—both written and verbal—are the key to this position. Most of my daily correspondence is via email. When corresponding with members remember to be professional and courteous and be careful about what you are saying. Remember to always review your email before you send it. For information on email communication with your association members read my article How to build a professional relationship with Association members over email.

Although phone correspondence is less common than email communication, it is equally as important.  When people call the office, or you are calling a member, it is important to remember that if you are distracted, or are having a bad day, the caller is going to notice your unhappy attitude. When answering the phone, I always put on a ‘smile’ as the person on the other line can hear that ‘smile’ without seeing it.

Problem Solving. Support staff members need to be quick thinkers, adaptable, and have a thorough understanding of the company’s policies and procedures. In the ever-changing world of association management, having a problem come up that you have not dealt with before is quite common. A tool that our office uses to help in novel situations is the association Policy and Procedure Manual – unique to each client. These manuals provide an overview of the client and the steps to follow to complete the required tasks. These often contain the answers to any questions or problems you may have. If the problem persists, you can always go to your association manager for help.

As you can see, the administrative staff are an integral part of any association; having a strong person in this position is essential to your company’s success.