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Association Leaders Weigh In On Industry's Biggest Issues

Member engagement, the next generation of leaders and revenue were big topics of discussion yesterday at Bisnow’s Association Roundtable lunch at McCormick & Schmick’s in Crystal City. 

Together with our partner, Cardinal Bank, we warmed our bellies with wedge salad, crab cakes and baked chicken while listening to some of the top association COOs. Here’s Part 1:

On Using Events For Member Engagement


National Retail Federation EVP/COO Carleen Kohut (above) says the organization’s annual conference draws 35,000 people in 228k SF of event space in the Javits Convention Center in NYC. It’s not only a substantial source of revenue, it’s an important way to engage and inform the attendees on key advocacy issues.  



International Sign Association COO Brandon Hensley says the organization’s annual meeting is a forum for partnerships with members. One corporate member is bringing its user group to the show and bringing a few hundred people. It allows the association to tap into a potential member base and they can market their businesses to the attendees. 

On Creative Revenue Streams


National Apartment Association EVP/COO Bob Pinnegar says a lease program launched by one of the organization’s affiliates 40 years ago has become a successful national program. The standardized lease is available to members and can be used across the country. Bob says it’s also been successful in connecting the affiliates to the association and the members to the affiliates. The program has been in place nationally for 15 years and Bob predicts it will eclipse event revenue in the next three to five years


National Automobile Dealers Association EVP/COO/CFO Joe Cowden says the organization shed some of its revenue to focus on its mission and members. The NADA Used Car Valuation guide was sold and its retirement business was transitioned to Great West Financial as part of an affinity deal during 2015. NADA revenue went from $110M to $60M and from 350 employees to 190. The organization is now able to better focus on and expand its core functions like dealer education programs. 

On Technology


The National Defense Industrial Association is going through an IT assessment, says COO Terri Swetnam. She hopes to bring in someone who can be entrepreneurial about using technology. IT is also a challenge for NDIA members, she adds. It used to be that the government developed technology and pushed it out into the private sector. Now it’s the other way around. The government is trying to figure out how to tap into technology being developed by companies, many of which are reluctant to deal with the challenges of doing business with federal agencies. The association is bringing the industry and government together to talk about these challenges. 

Stay tuned for Part 2 of our discussion in next week’s issue. 

For more information on how Cardinal Bank works with associations and nonprofits, click here