Cashing in on Affiliations

Affiliated with, sponsored by, partnered with ...

They're phrases used by the not-for-profit government associations when they talk about deals they have cut with for-profit companies, usually to provide goods and services to members. Mayors, county executives and other members of national membership organizations may wonder how their associations decide to make agreements with particular technology vendors and e-government companies, why they do it, and how those deals benefit the associations and their members.

by | May 2001
 

Affiliated with, sponsored by, partnered with ...

They're phrases used by the not-for-profit government associations when they talk about deals they have cut with for-profit companies, usually to provide goods and services to members. Mayors, county executives and other members of national membership organizations may wonder how their associations decide to make agreements with particular technology vendors and e-government companies, why they do it, and how those deals benefit the associations and their members.

At the most basic level, the agreements enable companies to get a foot in the door to sell to a targeted audience, and the associations are able to help their members get goods and services that are cheaper, better or both.

ENABLING E-PROCUREMENT

The International City/County Management Association has affiliated with GovStreetUSA, an electronic marketplace, so cities and counties can engage in e-procurement at no cost. The vendors pay fees for selling their products on the ICMA site. "We want to provide this service and these tools to small- and medium-sized local governments," says Bert Waisanen, project director for e-commerce at ICMA. GovStreetUSA brings the technical expertise, while ICMA serves as the "trusted third party" between governments and vendors.

ICMA doesn't provide the service out of the goodness of its heart. It gets a cut of sales made by the 850 suppliers that participate. "The more successful the proj-ect, the more we share in the benefits," says Waisanen. The emphasis is on providing the service members need, he says, but the arrangement compensates ICMA for costs associated with staff time and resources. So far, there have been 1,300 participating jurisdictions, more than half of them with populations of less than 50,000.

GRABBING THE BRASS RING

The Association of Government Accountants, whose 18,000 members are state, local and federal inspectors general, chief financial officers and others who work in auditing and budgeting, has engaged in several partnerships. "Companies come to us because they realize we have a crowd they're trying to reach," says Jennifer McCumber, public affairs manager.

In February, AGA signed on with BrassRing.com, an online job-matching service that enables job-seekers to load their resumes onto a Web site and employers to search the database to recruit people. BrassRing handles all the logistics, organization and marketing, and gets to put its logo and a link to its Web site on AGA's site. "All we give them is space," says McCumber.

AGA gets only about 1 percent of the revenues, but that's fine with the association. "We're trying to promote the best employment opportunities," McCumber says. "We're not in it for the money." The AGA chose BrassRing.com from among 80 or so online resume companies because in addition to its online services, it coordinates in-person career fairs that help association members with recruiting. "The point of the association is to help members network, get good jobs and learn everything they can learn about the industry they work in," says McCumber.

AGA also partners with IT vendor GTSI. The GTSI Web site consolidates more than 40 government contracts, allowing volume discounts for government buyers and pre-negotiated government terms. As with BrassRing.com, all the AGA does for GTSI is give the company space on its Web site, and in return it gets a small fee per transaction.

BEYOND DUES

The National Association of Counties has an arrangement unlike most of the others. Several years ago, NACo formed a for-profit corporation with an entrepreneur. NACo's Financial Services Center "makes money, pays taxes and uses the profits for services to our counties," says Larry Naake, NACo's executive director. "In the association business, you can't live off dues alone." For instance, the center signed a deal with Lockheed Martin IMS to offer debt-collection services to NACo's members, and the association gets a portion of the fees collected.

Public Technology Inc. has been hooking up with private industry to provide products and services for its members since it was created three decades ago. One of the first PTI affiliate programs, in the early 1970s, was adapting breathing apparatus from NASA so it would work for firefighters. PTI worked with IBM to develop a 24-hour city hall, using kiosks with text and video capabilities. In the 1990s, PTI signed contracts for various technology products and services, including a public pay-telephone program with AT&T. PTI negotiated good commission rates for local and long-distance calls made on public telephones that brought a lot of non-taxpayer revenues to governments.

Sometimes PTI is compensated directly for its services. Other times it is paid based on the success of the program among its members. "We don't have a charity for private industry here," says Linda Keenan, PTI's director of constituent services. "All our time has to be covered."

For the latest news about the business and management of information technology in state and local government, go to Tech Talk Online on Governing's Web site at Governing.com.

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