Smart Sourcing a New Generation of Association Talent

Written by Kevin Ordonez on May 27, 2019

The freelance economy is bringing a wave of disruption that will have world-wide impact. Sixty million Americans are freelance workers, and that number is growing. A typical contract employee is comfortable with limited supervision and adapts easily to a variety of environments and cultures. Whether freelancers work from home, at a client site or move fluidly between venues, they will change the way associations operate.

Freelancers aren’t generally thought of as part of the team. They are referred to as “remote” or “offsite” workers. That mindset must be updated. Freelancers are an incredible resource that can add depth of experience and specialized skills to an association’s human capital. I view hiring freelancers as smart sourcing—augmenting teams with talent as needed and building your bench in ways that are both intelligent and efficient. Several of my consulting clients have already demonstrated how successful this strategy can be.


Smart sourcing can turn great teams into exceptional performers. Business units, from IT to membership and meeting services, may include a combination of full-time and contract staff, but everyone shares information and works collaboratively. One of the advantages of hiring freelancers is that location doesn’t trump talent. If that perfect market analyst lives in Anchorage and your office is in Dallas—no worries. Video conferencing and cloud computing have made working across geography almost seamless.

It’s important to remember that leading a virtual team will require adjustments in communication and culture. Managers need to formalize processes and tools to ensure that everyone understands their personal roles and responsibilities and is also aware of the big picture. Opportunities for the group to provide feedback and input and to make quick decisions or operational adjustments should be built into the workflow. Location specific details such as differences in time zones and schedules are among the issues that might need to be resolved.

The virtual team is not really a novelty for associations. Think about the members who vet the content at annual proceedings, who review certification proposals or serve on your boards and committees. Volunteers are the heart of your association, and full-time employees have been working successfully alongside them for years. Our industry is well positioned to turn this wave of disruption into a significant opportunity. But the future is unfolding quickly, and to take advantage of this rich resource we must be prepared.

Kevin spoke in the “The Future is Now—Get Ready to Work It” session during SURGE Co-Creation, an interactive virtual conference hosted by on May 1-3rd. Click here to watch the sessions on demand.