Volume 77 | Issue 3
May 2009

State of the Association: Address focuses on the economy, 2008 highlights, and the future

In his final act as president of the Association, Rich Steele, Georgia Institute of Technology, addressed delegates at the Annual Business Meeting. His State of the Association speech focused on the highlights of 2008. 

“I know that the economy has certainly been the story of the year,” he said. “But great things are happening with the Association. We are still developing a sound financial plan.”

Steele spoke about how ACUI currently has more than $300,000 in reserves and around $1 million in the bank. 

“Financially, we are still in a good situation,” he said. “In 2008, our financial performance was better than thought. We had a modest increase in net revenue—around $7,000.”

A portion of this increase was due to corporate partnerships and ACUI Procure, which doubled its sales from 2007. 

Additionally, the Association embraced a unique opportunity in 2008—taking over management of another higher education organization, the Campus Safety, Health, and Environmental Management Association (CSHEMA). 

“There was monumental work done by the Central Office staff to come up with the proposal for CSHEMA,” Steele said. “We now have a new revenue stream, which goes along with the goal of our association being financially sound.”

Steele also pointed out the revenue from CSHEMA enabled the Central Office to hire five new staff members, which allowed for a 1.75 full-time equivalent staff for ACUI at no cost to the membership. 

Next, Steele discussed the issue of ACUI membership.

“Membership has been a major push for ACUI since 2007,” he said. “At the end of 2008, we had 623 member institutions, with 23 outside the United States.” 

To fine-tune the membership efforts of the Association, a consultant was brought in to look at ACUI’s value proposition and all the elements related to membership. This report was provided to the Board of Trustees in September 2008. 

“Jason Cline, ACUI director of membership development, has been working diligently to implement many elements from the report,” Steele said. “He has also engaged regional membership coordinators at a level that I think is unprecedented.”

Despite all the efforts, the Association is still about 100 members shy of meeting its 2009 budgeted projections. 

“Staff and volunteers are working hard,” Steele said. “And ACUI Executive Director Marsha Herman-Betzen has reallocated some of the Central Office staff time to address this issue.”

Corporate memberships also are down slightly from previous years, but Steele believes this is still an area ripe for growth. The decrease in memberships, both institutional and associate, is no doubt due to the downturned economy. 

Just like colleges and universities, the Association had to make cost reductions for its 2009 budget. 

“The Board of Trustees approved the 2009 budget with other $100,000 in cost reductions,” Steele said. “These were done to ensure that we would not reduce the quality or quantity of service provided to the membership.”

The conference was originally budgeted for 825 delegates; ultimately, there were 650 delegates in attendance, 34 percent less than in New Orleans the previous year. Therefore, $69,000 in cuts were made at the annual conference. 

The Central Office staff also is continuing to find ways to increase revenue for the Association. 

“They have given the Board of Trustees a list of a dozen or so new opportunities,” Steele said. “Also, they are cutting wherever possible.”

While the Association may be dealing with the economy’s effect on its budget, ACUI did have many successes with programs and services in 2008. 

Recreation and leisure programs had a “wonderful year with great participation,” Steele said. “UNICEF became a new partner in 2008, which allowed us to make a new campaign available to campuses.”

Even though College Bowl officially disbanded in 2008, the former program team, led by Gail Ferlazzo, took on the new challenge of finding another academic challenge program that could be viable for the Association. 

“Gail did not sign up to do that, but she has done a wonderful job,” Steele said. “Her team presented a report to the Board of Trustees.

Now, they are focused on negotiating with two major academic programs providers and will hopefully have something in place before regional conferences this year.”

Another area of growth is communities of practice. 

“We now have 13 communities, eight public and five private,” Steele said. “I encourage you to check these out. There are wonderful things happening.”

The component groups—volunteer teams that keep the Association moving forward—have been dedicated to their duties the past year. 

“There is great work coming from our component groups and program teams,” Steele said. “Regional directors are doing great work with local-level implementation of programs. So much of what we talk about internationally is happening at the regional level. We are indebted to the regional directors.

“The Education Councils are also working hard. They are focusing on some neat future opportunities. They are ready to post student job descriptions. The core competencies have really come together as a tool that can benefit all of us. And the Education Councils are considering using them as a professional certification opportunity.”

A great success for the Association comes from Bob Rodda’s work with the Council for the Advancement on Standards to have updated the standard for college unions. 

The Board of Trustees has been working hard this year as well. 

“The Board of Trustees works through task forces and work groups,” Steele said. “These groups make many recommendations to us. This year, we had 40 recommendations from the Volunteer Engagement Task Force and 15 from the Growing the Profession Task Force.”

The Central Office and the Board of Trustees work together to prioritize and integrate these ideas into the operational plan. Budget allocations must also be considered, so not all ideas may be implemented immediately. 

“The Applying the Core Competencies Task Force submitted a final report with complete skill sets,” Steele said. “Thanks to past and current Education Council chairs, we are rolling those out now.”

Additionally, in 2008, the Board of Trustees used new communication tools. Two webinars were held with the Leadership Team and one with the entire membership to explain the work of the Board of Trustees and its task forces and open the floor for discussion. 

Looking to the future, Steele spoke of the new Board of Trustees that would officially begin its tenure at the closing banquet. 

“There are a lot of interesting things that our incoming president Don Luse and incoming chair of the [Board of Trustees] Strategic Direction Committee will be dealing with,” Steele said. “We will have ongoing challenges with our budget. We know this to be a fact. We just don’t know how long we will be facing this.”

Ideas driving the coming year are providing educational content in an affordable manner, using technology to get members content, and the ACUI Education and Research Fund will have a true focus on research. Because the current strategic plan only takes the Association through 2010, the leadership also will be beginning the process of creating the next one. 

“It was my pleasure to work with a great board this past year,” Steele said. “And I know you have a phenomenal board coming up.”

At the end of his speech, Steele read a resolution passed by the Board of Trustees that honored the Council for the Advancement of Standards and recognized its 30th anniversary.