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April 19, 2010

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Unable to find an expert who could pronounce Eyjafjallajoekull volcano, we offer an alternate tale of near aviation disaster. The National Aeronautic Association was in a tailspin before Jonathan Gaffney became CEO in '07. "It was almost insolvent," he says.
National Aeronautic Association CEO Jonathan Gaffney

Now, membership and revenue are taking off again. To restore glory to the association of aerospace corporations, astronauts, and skydivers, Jonathan tells us he cut staff, converted NAA's color magazine into e-newsletters, and moved the office from Alexandria to a hangar at Reagan Airport. All told, expenses were slashed 40%. (Fortunately, the model airplane collection got to stay.) Then, he made personal pitches to corporate members, some of which had belonged to the association for a century, asking them to contribute higher dues. Each one of them kicked in, some by 100%. Jonathan thanks the fact that the association has found a niche, focusing on a few things that no one else does, then building upon them.

Nemacolin (Golf) - jumbo
National Aeronautic Association CEO Jonathan Gaffney
One of those things: certifying aviation records such as the fastest speed flying around the world (370 mph, eastbound) and the largest skydiving freefall formation (181 people, female category). The records bring in 15-20% of NAAs revenue, and Jonathan promotes them by presenting plaques to record-breakers across the country. Though he travels at least three times per month, he tells us he sticks to planes and has not tried skydiving or ballooning just yet. Instead, he has a passion for restoring old cars and just finished up work on a Plymouth Fury.

Meeting Pros
Conventionplanit.com's Ashley Spitzer and Debbie Carter with Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America's Mike Tringale at the Hilton Washington for a reception for the advisory council of Conventionplanit.com

Conventionplanit.com, a search site for meeting professionals, recently hosted an advisory council reception at the Hilton Washington. We snapped its Ashley Spitzer and Debbie Carter, with Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America's Mike Tringale. Mike, who previously worked at a trade show marketing agency with clients included the Consumer Electronic Association and National Association of Homebuilders, tells us he's now a regular at medical meetings. He says many of them have been hard hit by gov't regulations, such as prohibiting companies from buying tickets for doctors' spouses to big conference dinners.

American Gear Manufacturers Association's Madelaine Morgan, Binge Eating Disorder Association's Julio Rodriguez, Conventionplanit.com's Maureen Pickell, and Hilton Washington's Katie Sullivan at the Hilton Washington
American Gear Manufacturers Association's Madelaine Morgan, Binge Eating Disorder Association's Julio Rodriguez, Conventionplanit.com's Maureen Pickell, and Hilton Washington's Katie Sullivan. Madelaine's words of wisdom: Always listen to your customer because that dynamic changes. For example, AGMA noticed a lot more members with young families at its annual conference, so it started offering kids meals and blew off its formal dinner. "You think people want to drag a tuxedo halfway across the country?" Madelaine asks.

Association Management Company Institute EVP Francine Butler
Associations run by association management companies tend to be less affected by economic downturn, says EVP Francine Butler of the AMC Institute, the association for AMCs. The Institute is run by an AMC, which is a member. (Wrap your mind around that.) "When you're able to spread resources, you don't get hit as hard," she explains from her Philadelphia office. Instead of cutting staff, for example, AMCs can transfer them to a different place. The AMC industry has grown 150% since 1986, and Francine says she thinks organizations are on the cusp of more outsourcing. "Associations are in a crunch, they need some help, and they need it right now."

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Send story ideas to Jessica Sidman, jessica@bisnow.com
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