For the last several years, the Emerald Marketing Association has been fighting a number of troubling trends. These trends aren’t unique to the EMA; if you’re part of a nonprofit, you might recognize several of these issues:
- Membership has been declining and many current members have been not renewing. A declining membership means lower revenues to use to sponsor free or low-cost events.
- New volunteers have been difficult to recruit, and the board’s positions have been challenging to fill. Per our bylaws, Board members can only be filled from current paying members.
- Finding qualified speakers for the EMA’s monthly lunch and learn events has been increasingly difficult. It’s our position that a speaker shouldn’t be delivering a sales pitch, as that undermines trust in the organization. And a speaker should be recognized as an expert, not just in their own mind, but by their peers.
- Attendance at our events has been declining. This adds to the challenge of finding speakers. It’s reasonable for speakers to decline if we can’t deliver an adequate audience. Our speakers have been volunteers, with occasional stipends given to offset travel expenses from distant locations. Low attendance also means that we don’t make back the money we invest in these events.
- Our social events have rarely been well-attended. Outside of our holiday ugly sweater events, most have only been attended by very small numbers. We’ve had to cancel some of these due to lack of signups. This summer’s Agency Crawl was an exception, and was generally well-received and attended — but it was a free event, and we did have financial costs associated with it.
If we as a board made no changes to the way the EMA has been operating, we would be insolvent in about three years. The good news is that we’ve got some time, but we obviously must make changes.
Given all of these issues, the current Board of Directors has made some difficult decisions.
- First, we’ve called off our regularly scheduled monthly luncheons. It appears that this event format’s time has passed. Either we can’t find appealing enough speakers, or it’s just too inconvenient for people to leave work during the day. If we can find a great speaker, we may consider scheduling them, but it may not be a lunchtime meeting.
- We’re working to organize one or two larger events per year, with multiple speakers. We hope to share details soon about the first of these events, which is tentatively targeted for early in 2018.
- We’re also not accepting new memberships or membership renewals until the organization can provide reasonable value to our members. If you’d like to help, we’d love to have you reach out. Send us an email through the contact page on this site.
- If you have recently joined or renewed, we’re happy to provide you with a pro-rated refund, based on your renewal or joining date. Again, send us an email through the contact page on this site.
We may be announcing some other activities, seeking input from our members and past members about the future of the EMA. Please send us your thoughts and suggestions, as we make our plans and make needed changes to this all-volunteer organization.