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Doubling Down, Turning Around
A trade association, founded in 1983 to serve individuals working in the satellite industry, had reached a crossroads.  Having hired full-time management to grow the association, the Board found itself saddled with costs that were too high and a growth rate that was too low.  The number of individual members had leveled off at 800 and showed no sign of changing.  About 25 companies in the industry were corporate sponsors.  The association hosted the largest social event in the business, a Gala dinner for 900 people, but had not found a way to leverage it to advance the association's mission. 

Cutting Costs, Improving Performance
When the full-time executive director resigned, a careful vetting process led the volunteer Board of Directors to retain our firm to manage the association.  To start, our goals were to ensure a smooth transition of the administrative basics – dues billing, sponsorship sales, event management and Board communications – while pursuing opportunities to cut costs and improve performance.  We automated a manual accounting process to give the association the up-to-date financial data it required.  An expensive newsletter printed and mailed to hundreds of members was converted to an online format, slashing costs and improving delivery.  The Web site was rebuilt on an association management platform that automated dues billing and provided members with their first online membership directory, replacing an annual document printed and mailed at high cost.  The new platform also shrank Web costs by a factor of three.

Monetizing the Value
We soon concluded that the association was leaving a substantial amount of money on the table through its Gala dinner and annual sponsorship campaign, which starved its programs of needed resources.  We completely revamped the sponsorship program to deliver greater value to sponsors and better leverage the association's ability to bring together the key players in the satellite industry.  Then we built out additional award and social events in the US and Europe.  This extended the association's brand into new markets and diversified sources of income beyond the signature Gala dinner. 

Serving the Mission
Improving management and better monetizing the association's value were important steps.  But they could only produce results if the association was delivering on its mission of attracting, nurturing and honoring talent in the industry.  To improve delivery of the mission, we recommended and the Board approved a plan to offer free individual membership to the employees of sponsoring organizations.  Our recommendation was based on the fact that income from individual members was less than 10% of total revenues, while the cost of adding additional members was effectively zero.  Aggressive marketing of this program soon brought double-digit membership growth, and as the membership grew, so did its value as a professional network.

We also introduced numerous programs to fulfill the association's talent-attraction mandate, from a searchable online database of schools offering satellite-related studies to strategic partnerships with major universities and student organizations.  We launched a series of online interviews with key figures in the industry about how they got started and what opportunities the industry had offered them.  We published the first career guide to the industry and marketed it through student science and engineering organizations in the US and Europe.

Results
A decade after assuming management of the association, we had increased membership more than 300% to include people in 34 countries.  The number of corporate sponsors grew more than twofold and revenue from sponsorships and events grew 30%.  Total revenues increased 60% over the period (5% CAGR), and careful management of costs allowed the association to double its cash reserves.  And an active international Board of Directors and set of Chapters on four continents were well-positioned to maintain the association's growth trajectory. 

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