Dane County Small Business Awards: Impact Association Management

0621 Dcsba Impact Ezine Panel

Sometimes, the word pivot is applied to the transitions companies made to survive the business disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic. Jodi Fisher, founder and CEO of Impact Association Management, made her big transition years earlier, and it was a major reason why her company, founded in 2006, is still standing and growing.

Impact Association Management is one of five companies to win a 2022 Dane County Small Business Award, and it was selected by a judging panel of past award winners that evaluated each nominee on revenue growth since inception, the benefit package provided to employees, and community contributions.

Rebranding reverberations

The company began as a virtual assistant business supporting small businesses and associations across the United States. It was and still is headquartered in Madison with branches in Nashville, Tennessee and Phoenix, Arizona. In 2009, it rebranded and is now a full-service association management company working primarily with small to medium-sized associations and nonprofits.

Fisher says she stumbled into the association business, but it was actually a networking contact that led her down this path. “I owned the virtual assistant business, and I was actually managing a professional women’s networking group in Madison, and I met a woman named Lynda Patterson, who owns AMPED Association Management in Madison. I had a couple of associations that I was managing, but I didn’t know it was a whole industry, and so I went to lunch with her. She told me what she did, and I said ‘Oh, we kind of do that. We have some of these associations.’”

AMPED managed large associations and Patterson noted there was a gap in management support for small associations, so Fisher stepped up to fill that market gap. “She has been an amazing mentor and we just had gotten to the point where we thought we were providing better value,” Fisher recalls. “They were longer-term clients, and they really needed support.”

Since becoming a full-fledged association management company, Impact Association Management has been helping local, regional, national, and a couple international clients grow their membership. Thanks to a diversified client base, the company even reported impressive growth during the pandemic year of 2020. There is a bit of a captive audience in that people want to be members of their professional community for the networking, camaraderie, and education, but their associations need quality management. That was especially true during the pandemic-related economic dislocation, when members lost their jobs but wanted to maintain their membership.

“The vast majority of our growth has been through referrals, which also means a lot to us,” Fisher states. “It means that with the good work we’re doing, they are happy to refer us to other boards of directors, other associations, and nonprofits, and that’s really the ultimate compliment.”

To reward employees and pay it forward, Impact Association Management offers paid team bonding experiences, year-end bonuses, professional development events, and coordinated paid team volunteering such as an annual charity drive that has helped local nonprofits such as Movers for Moms, the Green County Humane Society, and Second Harvest Food Bank of Southern Wisconsin.

Each time a virtual happy hour or a new volunteer opportunity is provided to employees, it’s viewed as a business milestone. “The business wasn’t able to afford it for a long time and so, when we finally hit that mark where it was a benefit we could provide, that was really huge to me,” Fisher explains. “I’m really excited about it, and the team loves it. They always wanted it and they appreciate that they have it, and that’s definitely one of the reasons people stay with us.”

Fisher wanted to grow a company that she would want to work for, and she cited the role the right culture plays in building such an organization. “Culture, to me, is huge,” she says. “My team is coming to work every day, and they have hard jobs. We work with a lot of clients. I want them to enjoy working with one another and enjoy that spirit of ‘we’re all in this together.’”

Real Impact

The 2022 Dane County Small Business Award judges included Jon Konarske, publisher of In Business magazine, and past award winners Jeanne Carpenter, owner of Firefly Coffeehouse; Fatou Ceesay, owner and manager of Cairasu Home Care; and Jason Potter, CEO of Farwell.

“It really means a lot,” Fisher says. “I’ve been in the business community since I started this business in 2006, and there are some amazing and some really motivating professionals out there who I’ve known for a long time, and so to be recognized and be rewarded by my peers was a surprise and it was really quite flattering.”

Editor’s note: The public can network with this year’s DCSBA recipients at an award program and reception on Thursday, July 21, from 4 to 6:30 p.m., at the Overture Center for the Arts, 201 State St., Madison.

Coming up:
Thursday, June 23: Sign Art Studio
Tuesday, June 28: The Creative Company

Click here to sign up for the free IB Ezine — your twice-weekly resource for local business news, analysis, voices, and the names you need to know. If you are not already a subscriber to In Business magazine, be sure to sign up for our monthly print edition here.