Outsourcing Guidelines

  1. Take a look at your organization’s strengths and values (and be honest about it!). Determine what makes sense for the Board and Committees to do and what is reasonable for someone else to take care of. Every organization is different so the first key to effective outsourcing is to identify exactly what you need.
  2. Know that outsourcing is a process that takes time and planning. Plan for your needs, tell people what challenges you might be having and always be on the lookout for exceptional people through your circles and networks and ask for referrals. Take time to find the right people for the job.  Hire slowly, fire quickly.
  3. Understand that outsourcing is not a “set it and forget it” way of getting things done. Organizations are responsible for managing the resources that work for them. Keep in mind that if you micro-manage your resources for fear of not being in control, then you will miss the whole point of outsourcing.  The key to success is finding the right balance and developing a trusting relationship between you and the resource.
  4. Are you the bottleneck? Check in with yourself on this.  Having all the knowledge is critical, however, it’s smarter to get out of your own way and delegate the back office tasks so that your organization can thrive and grow with a  focus on mission.  By outsourcing, your time will be freed up so that you can conduct growth activities effectively.  It’s really more about mindset than it is about logistics.
  5. When outsourcing, state your expectations and requirements from the outset and don’t assume anything. This holds true whether you’re hiring a Virtual CFO or a teenager to cut your lawn. The resource doesn’t know what you know and they are also looking at the task from a different perspective than you are.  Open conversation with a potential resource to identify deliverables is essential.
  6. Create a specific contract that outlines exactly what performance is expected and when, remuneration, terms and conditions, confidentiality policy, etc., and be as detailed as possible. Carefully review and sign the contract before work begins.  It’s a good idea to have all business contracts reviewed by your lawyer.
  7. Take time to transition. Letting go of tasks is not merely a matter of saying, “Here, you do it.”  A time investment on the part of the organization is essential to provide insight to the resource on how they want a particular thing done, when and why.  This can be as simple as open dialogue or a conference call with all stakeholders to discuss how and when transition is to take place, scheduling, etc.  Once the handover is done, let go and trust that all will be well.  If you have provided clear instructions (and it’s your job to do so), there should be no problems.
  8. Be prepared for a learning curve on the part of the resource. Be patient and with time the resource will find their groove.  Then you can let go of the task completely and manage it by checking in at periodic intervals.
  9. It’s all about relationships. The key to successful back-office management is building and maintaining relationships in every facet of your operations.  An absolute must for any organization, whether it’s a non-profit or for-profit association, is to network to build relationships.  The same can be said for building relationships with outsourced suppliers: getting the right team in place, at the right time and for the right reason creates winning relationships and goodwill all around.

A few things to consider:

  • The lowest priced outsourced solution may not be the best; good people cost money and beware that even these days, you still get what you pay for. Take the time to find the right fit.
  • If you’re just starting out, outsource from the very beginning with a remote support provider and perhaps a bookkeeper and grow your team from there. As your organization grows, as committees are struck, you can take on a web designer, a ghost writer, a graphic designer, an executive assistant, a project manager, etc.
  • Don’t outsource a task just because you don’t want to do it. There will be tasks that only you can do because they’re important to operations and strategic plan.
  • Always strike a fair deal with your resources and treat them with respect. You’re relying on them to handle important tasks for you and your organization so don’t take advantage of them.