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Turnaround tips.

Turnaround Tips

When I joined the Life Insurers Conference, Atlanta, as president in October 1988, the board told me my first priority was to turn the association around. LIC, a small trade association founded in 1910, had peaked in staff, income, and membership during the 1960s, but industry acquisitions and mergers had weakened the association over the past 15 years.

Thanks to the help of the association's executive committee and our dedicated staff members, a new LIC emerged within 19 months: Surplus increased from $45,000 to $150,000, life members increased from 45 to 65, and our annual meeting attendance rose from 97 to 136.

How did we do it? Three board members and three former chairs spent 2 1/2 days at LIC's headquarters drafting the association's first strategic plan. That was the basis. In a turnaround situation, leaders and staff must consider many factors. In brief, here are some of the factors we contemplated and the initiatives we undertook to address them.

* Providing an easily accessible location. That an association has been based in the same city since its inception isn't necessarily a reason to stay there. Accessibility is critically important. Six weeks after I began as president, I moved LIC's headquarters from Richmond, Virginia, to Atlanta. The new location is more centrally located-thirds of our members are located less than four hours from Atlanta-and made it easier for people to visit and attend LIC meetings.

* Evaluating primary communication vehicles. Because so many members view their association's publications as primary membership benefits, it's important that the publications meet their needs. Consider conducting surveys and focus groups and receiving input from committee members to determine their needs.

A survey of LIC's communications committee showed that members were displeased with the association's monthly publication, The Newsletter, which only ran obituary and company-promotion information and was designed by a secretary.

Based on the survey, we redesigned it. The new eight-page monthly newsletter, The Communique, includes news from and about our members and the industry, as well as information on legislation and regulations affecting insurance. An LIC staff member who took a newsletter class redesigned the masthead.

* Generating publicity. You can't expect to recruit new members if they never hear about your organization. One inexpensive way to get the word out about your organization is through your industry's trade press. We send press releases and encourage trade publications to publish news related to new board members, our annual meeting, and the winner of our Distinguished Service Award. Promoting LIC's name and activities helps recruit new members and reminds member companies of our various services.

* Keeping in contact. Visiting members and nonmembers shows them that you care and want to help them. At LIC, we set up a company visit program. I've been to 65 member offices-from Brooklyn, New York, to Biloxi, Mississippi-and to countless nonmember offices in three years. I tell members and nonmembers about the organization: what the dues are, what our activities are, and how their company is or isn't involved. I then ask them which of our activities and services help them and what new activities and services would help them.

We've written three operating plans since our first try in 1988. If we don't accomplish a goal, we include it in the following year's plan. Where we fall short, we evaluate why-not enough time, money, or people-and what we can do differently next time.
COPYRIGHT 1992 American Society of Association Executives
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Association News; tips for strengthening trade associations
Author:Dalzell, Bruce C.
Publication:Association Management
Date:Jul 1, 1992
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