Staff Spotlight: Hannah Abernethy

Staff spotlight

In this new feature, we ask our team members some quick, fun questions to show a little spotlight on the staff that makes IMI great.

Hannah Abernethy

HannahAccount Associate

My favorite aspect of association management is:

  • Working with clients from all over the world!

My favorite blogs:

  • Travel blogs

My media mix:

  • New York Times for news, This American Life and Criminal for podcasts, and lately I’ve been into my Bachata radio station through iTunes!

What I’m reading:

  • Harry Potter y la piedra filosofal (aka Harry Potter and the Sorcer’s stone in Spanish); I’m Neither Here, nor There, by Patricia Zavella

Who to follow on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram:

  • Catsofinstagram!

What I do when not at work:

  • Go to the gym, take strolls with my husband to the nearest ice cream shop, and plan my next big trip!

If I weren’t in association management, I’d:

  • Be a traveler blogger!

Favorite quote:

“Come, my friends,

‘Tis not too late to seek a newer world.

Push off, and sitting well in order smite

The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds

To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths

Of all the western stars, until I die.”

Ulysses, by Lord Alfred Tennyson (Nerd Alert!)

For more about Hannah, don’t forget to check out her full bio on the IMI website!

Want to know more about association management? Contact us at to find out more about what IMI Association Executives can do for your organization.

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Strategies for a Better Board: Pre-nomination

2016-8-24 better board

Image Credit: Benjamin Child

By Rachel Owen, communications manager

One of the great things about working for an AMC (association management company) is being able to tap into the personal strengths and unique experiences of the other association management professionals within the company. At IMI, we encourage this benefit by intentionally scheduling brainstorming meetings to share ideas across the account teams.

Recently, the IMI account managers discussed methods they’ve used in new board member training to build a stronger, more productive board and the consensus was clear:

Building a stronger board of directors starts long before your board members are sworn in.

Here are some of the strategies for a stronger board shared by the IMI team.

Be Strategic

Consider creating a Leadership Development Committee to identify and recruit strong candidates for the board. Although current board members can and should be involved in preparing for the next board cycle, the task of recruitment ideally should be handled by a separate team in order to allow the current board to remain focused on the high level strategic items of the organization.

The Leadership Development Committee should keep the mission and vision of the organization in mind as they search for candidates. Where the organization wants to go will determine what you will need to get there. Are there any important skill sets that aren’t currently represented on board? Perhaps your board needs a legal perspective, financial specialist, a vendor voice or an industry expert. A successful board of directors often has a variety of skills and personality types represented – but all dedicated to a common purpose.

Conduct Pre-board Training

Once you’ve identified potential board members, think outside the box for pre-board training. Consider conducting a webinar for all potential board members. The webinar can be formal or informal, but should describe the responsibilities of board members (more on this below). Be sure to allow time for a Question & Answer session with current board members or brief testimonials of their experiences serving on the board for that “insider” perspective.

The informational webinar could be opened to the entire membership to help members understand what their association does and how they can be a part. During the webinar, take a few minutes to highlight other volunteer opportunities within the organization. Not everyone will be a good fit for the board, but everyone can volunteer.

Set Expectations

As you connect with potential board members and conduct pre-board training, be sure to discuss expectations such as:

  • Time commitment – How much time is expected from board members each week?
  • Availability – Are your meetings face to face or a conference call? Be sure to disclose if travel is required and how many meetings a board member is expected to attend.
  • Job description – A clear job description outlining the actual duties involved as a board member will help you connect with more promising candidates.

Being clear and upfront about responsibilities can reduce the chance of false starts and underperforming board members.

What are your strategies for a stronger board? Share with us in the comments below!

Want to know more about association management? Contact us at to find out more about what IMI Association Executives can do for your organization.


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Strong Volunteers, Strong Associations

Image Credit: Canva

By Rachel Owen, communications manager

Whether your organization is knee deep in “conference season” or in that brief quiet moment before ramping up membership renewals, chances are that you’re thinking about volunteers.

We know that associations are built on volunteers – they’re the heart of any association. Volunteers, along with staff and board members, move the association forward every day.

Here are some tips to build a stronger, more engaged association through volunteers.

Go slow to go fast. It takes time and thoughtful strategy to create a great volunteer base. Take a step back to really survey the landscape and consider your organization’s culture. What worked in the past, with different resources and different volunteers, might not work now.

Read: What to Consider When Re-organizing Volunteers

Create a strong leadership team. Building strong teams takes time and energy – and it starts at the top. Look for leaders that invest in each person’s strengths and work to build better relationships. Leaders are often the first point of contact for volunteers, so make sure your leaders are ready to build a great team.

Read: Creating Strong Leadership Teams

Engagement is really about learning what makes your volunteers tick. This will help you plug volunteers in where they will get the most personal satisfaction – and keep contributing. Keep why they volunteered in the forefront. Read:

Create a volunteering culture. Volunteering is for everyone! Make sure there are a variety of opportunities available to fit every skill and interest level. Promote an atmosphere of generosity – and generously praise those who give their time and skills. Don’t underestimate the power of positive reinforcement.

Read: Create a Culture of Givers

Let your volunteers be the voice. There’s a reason why businesses look for customer testimonials: there’s nothing like the “insider” perspective. Encourage your volunteers to share their great experiences volunteering within the organization and the benefits they’ve received. Your volunteers who find their experience rewarding will be your organization’s best promoters.

Read: 514 Strangers, a guest post from Marc Aronson, quintessential volunteer, Property Records Industry Association (PRIA)

Want to know more about association management? Contact us at to find out more about what IMI Association Executives can do for your organization.

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IMI Gives Back! Meals on Wheels

Meals on Wheels - Group Pic

IMI staff volunteers (left to right): Kimber, Kelly, Courtney, Jessica G., Sabrina, Jadine, Sarah and Katesha.

By Linda Owens, CAE, owner, president

As an association management company serving nonprofits, we know that volunteers are the lifeblood of an organization. With this in mind, we encourage our staff not only to participate in professional associations (like AENC, ASAE) but also to be active volunteers in charitable nonprofits that support the community.

Recently, eight IMI staff members volunteered for Meals on Wheels. The local branch of Meals on Wheels has over 2,200 volunteers helping to “serve 1,300 noontime meals every weekday to the elderly, homebound and persons with disabilities of Wake County” (source). To find a Meals on Wheels near you visit their site.

Read about the Meals on Wheels experience from a few of the IMI volunteers below!

Sabrina Hunt: Meals on Wheels was an awesome experience. From the time we arrived, the Meals on Wheels staff made us feel welcomed and valued. They gave us snacks during our 10 minute training and made everything easy. We reviewed our routes, packed our coolers and insulated bags and we were out the door in what seemed like no time at all. They are a very well organized group of people.

Jadine and I had 7 stops on our route which were fairly close to one another. The people we delivered meals to were mostly women — they were very friendly, appreciative and amazing. One lady told us she just had her 102 birthday! Their smiles and general conversation said more than some people say all day. Thank you IMI for the experience and hopefully the opportunity to do it again soon!

Katesha Phillips: Meals on Wheels was a very humbling and rewarding experience. I have volunteered with them before and it felt great to be able to do it once again. All of my deliveries were within the same building. As my partner and I knocked on each door we were greeted by the recipients and/or their families who were all grateful for our service. It felt great putting a smile on someone’s face if only for that moment. I hope that we are able to volunteer with Meals on Wheels again as a company soon!

Sarah Gillian Carlton: The Meals-On-Wheel experience was really gratifying. We were able to help people who definitely needed us (not just the food, but the interaction!) and get it all done within 90 minutes. I think that we should do this more often, as a Team outing, or on our own- what a great way to make an impact in our community!

Courtney Smith: I think it is wonderful that IMI not only allows, but encourages, its staff to give back to the community! It was super rewarding to be able to donate my time alongside my colleagues.

Want to know more about association management? Contact us at to find out more about what IMI Association Executives can do for your organization.

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514 Strangers

Image Credit: Jose Martin

Image Credit: Jose Martin

In our first guest post, IMI welcomes Marc Aronson of the Property Records Industry Association (PRIA). We are honored to have been partners with PRIA since 2003.

514 Strangers

By Marc Aronson, quintessential volunteer, Property Records Industry Association (PRIA)

Right now, of the 571 members on the PRIA roster, I can say I personally know 57 of you. So, if you’re a PRIA member, there’s only about a 10 percent chance that we know each other. Maybe we got to know each other by going to conferences once or twice a year. Of course, not every member can make it to a conference.

The other way we get to know each other is by volunteering. Volunteering is an interesting concept. Some of you volunteer at your church, hospital or children’s school. You build houses for Habitat for Humanity. You paint houses for the elderly. You are a Big Sister or Big Brother. Why do you do this? It’s fulfilling. It’s different. You get to work with bright, caring people who care about the same things you care about.

I volunteer too. Why? Well, just like you, I want to be engaged with bright, like-minded individuals who can educate me, reinforce my sense of duty to society, provide me with insight, and support me as a businessman. I volunteer with friend and foe alike. We learn from each other. There is the joy that I get in knowing I was part of a group project that will do some good for others. I volunteer because I enjoy continual learning. I try to volunteer with people who are smarter and more experienced than I am. We learn together, we learn about each other. Sometimes we argue, but we never go home (or hang up at the end of a conference call) mad at each other. We iron out the details of the project in which we are involved and move forward. There is nothing like doing a good job together, doing it right, knowing that our efforts benefit someone other than ourselves.

Look back at those words. Can you find the word “work” in this article so far? No, you will not. Volunteering is not work. Volunteering is fun. It is an adventure. It is a learning experience. You make friends. You get to know your enemies (and find out that they are just like you; just trying to do the right thing). Volunteering is an opportunity. Volunteering gives you something to look forward to, something beyond the humdrum of your day. It is an advantage you have over others who do not take the opportunity. And volunteering does not “take time,” it gives you time – time to think, mature, learn and grow as a person. As a volunteer, you put in as many minutes, hours or days as you wish. No one can force you to volunteer. But by choosing not volunteering, you deny yourself the opportunity for fun, learning and growth. How many of those opportunities do you find in your work environment now?

A membership organization is composed of volunteers. Without those of us who volunteer our time, there would be no association. At a meeting, board members and committee chairs listed members who should be approached to volunteer. The good news is that we jointly named around 40 members. The bad news is we only named 40 members! We have 571 members today. We really wanted to put your name on the list of bright, interesting, interested members who want to help the association.

I volunteered to write this story. Will you please volunteer to help write the next story? I know you are good at what you do. Research proves that individuals who belong to an association are at the top of their game and are the most successful in their field of endeavor. May we please borrow your insights for the good of all? Give us an hour, a day, or whatever period of time that makes you comfortable.

Do I know you? Maybe. Do you know me? Maybe not. Should we know each other? Absolutely!

-Marc Aronson, PRIA

This post first appeared in PRIA’s member eNewsletter, In Touch, and is reprinted with permission.

Want to know more about association management? Contact us at to find out more about what IMI Association Executives can do for your organization.

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IMI Celebrates 30 Years

By Stevie Kernick, owner emeritus and account manager

What does it take for an Association Management Company (AMC) to reach its 30-year anniversary?


Persistence | Enthusiasm | Resolution | Stubbornness | Endurance | Veracity | Energy | Respect | Allegiance | Necessity | Commitment | Excellence

All of these adjectives, and more, consumed my life during the 18 years I owned IMI Association Executives Inc. (IMI). But it started long before that.

In 1986, the late Barbara W. Short had a vision. She wanted to be the sole owner of a marketing communications firm that also served association clients. Having been a minor partner in another marketing firm, she stepped out on her own without a single client to support the new company. There were five employees and I was one of them, primarily based on our friendship and my experience working with several small state-based trade associations.

I witnessed just the tip of the iceberg of the start-up process and was spared the 12-hour days that spanned many months, the constant number-crunching, pleading with suppliers to lend credit, the thrice daily scan of the bank account fearful that payroll would not be met and bills wouldn’t be paid. All this while using her personal bank account to fund the start-up costs.

The company grew for the next 10 years, with new clients coming and others going while the association clients endured and were the backbone, if not the cash cow, of the firm.

At the 10-year mark, I was tapped to take ownership of the company. Eagerness, uncertainty, excitement, optimism.

I inherited with the purchase a staff of eight energetic and enthusiastic employees. The association clients didn’t balk at the change in ownership and the marketing clients were transitioned to other area firms which could effectively meet their needs. It was 1996 and I was in the Association Management business!

Goal #1…Meet payroll and pay all suppliers on time. Sounds simple enough, but it wasn’t. It took six months to build cash reserves enough for me to sleep at night.

But all the while I, along with the staff, had one single mission – listen to and understand the clients. They don’t necessarily come right out and tell you what they need or want, but if you listen you’ll hear it.

Goal #2 was at least one new client during the first year of ownership. Check! But by only a few days.

Goal #3…A national or international client. This one took a bit longer, but by the end of the third year we had secured our coveted national membership client and we didn’t look back. For a period of three years, each new association client we brought into the fold linked back, in some way, to that first client.

Suddenly, the staff, which had grown to 13, was consumed with the myriad of day-to-day activities required to serve 14 trade and professional associations.

There were successes and failures during the next 18 years, fortunately more of the former than the later. I made my share of mistakes with clients and, certainly, with employees. I hope I learned from them.

I was never a bottom-line-first oriented owner. Of course, the bottom line was important, it just wasn’t the first thing. What was number one was listening to the clients, understanding their needs and providing them with what was most important to them. That concept has served the company well for the past 30 years. Yes, we’ve had clients and employees leave for a “better, more sophisticated,” AMC but we’ve also had clients and employees come back when they realized that what really mattered was working with people who care about the job they do.

First things first – listen and understand the clients and the employees.

When I sold IMI in January 2014 to a trusted, 23-year employee, Linda C. Owens, CAE, I did so with full confidence that the values of IMI would endure into the future. No regrets. No grieving. Only satisfaction in knowing that the future of IMI is in good hands.

IMI turned 30 in May!


Want to know more about association management? Contact us at to find out more about what IMI Association Executives can do for your organization.



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Staff Spotlight: Jessica G.

Staff spotlight

Image Credit: Eva Blue

In this new feature, we ask our team members some quick, fun questions to show a little spotlight on the staff that makes IMI great.

Jessica Garrett

Conference Manager

2A3A4075-Edit_WebMy favorite aspect of association management is:

Seeing how multiple associations operate and getting ideas from colleagues about what has been done and has worked and what hasn’t.

On my desk right now:

  • Past conference program guides and registration brochures.
  • 20 Year Calendar…a must-have for conference planners!
  • Hotel floor plans and contracts for my upcoming locations.

My favorite blogs:

I’m not really into blogs but will I get extra points if I say IMI’s blog?

My media mix:

So I’m big into current events whether it be international, US, celebrity, sporting events…you name it, I’ve read or watched about it!

What I’m reading:

Lately it’s just been magazines but my go-to’s are usually memoirs or biographies.

Who to follow on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram:

Who to not follow…I follow celebrities, athletes, runners, local stores and restaurants, puppy & kitten related posts, funny memes. I even have some friends that I follow. It’s all Facebook & Instagram for me (and Snapchat).

What I do when not at work:

  • Running in every run club in town – I enjoy the social aspect and the exercise.
  • Being outdoors in some capacity…laying by the pool, hiking, drinks and dinner al fresco.
  • Watching basketball and football (during the season) with friends.

If I weren’t in association management, I’d:

I would love to work at a National Park and be outside all day, giving tours, hiking, enjoying the beautiful scenery. On a family trip out West when I was younger, I played “park ranger” for my family and have been hooked ever since. After a visit to Yosemite several years ago, I just can’t ever get enough.

Favorite quote:

Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today. –Benjamin Franklin

For more about Jessica, don’t forget to check out her full bio on the IMI website!

Want to know more about association management? Contact us at to find out more about what IMI Association Executives can do for your organization.

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