IFAI prepares for new leadership

By Mary J. Hennessy

As you may know, IFAI is going through the process of choosing a new leader. Steve Warner, president of IFAI for the last 25 years, retired at the end of October and the board asked me to serve in the leadership role while they consider who they want to lead on a permanent basis.

The board has appointed a search committee, which has hired a search firm that is conducting a nationwide search for candidates. They plan to conduct face-to-face interviews when the board meets at IFAI headquarters in June. Assuming that the process goes according to the plan, the new staff leader of IFAI will likely be announced in June.

I’ve been in the interim leadership position for a little less than three months. During this time we set four goals as immediate priorities:

  • Stabilize the finances.
  • Increase the membership value. 
  • Increase the number of visitors at IFAI Expo in Boston.
  • Find new sources of revenue.

The very first task was to rewrite the budget for the fiscal year that ends on May 31. Even though we were about halfway through the year, the board asked for a new budget that would reduce an anticipated shortfall. Staff was reduced and non-essential activities cut. 

Next we began work on a new strategic plan. We completed the basic structure and are researching ideas that will add flesh to the bones. This gave us enough information to develop a budget for the fiscal year that starts on June 1st. A draft budget was delivered to the IFAI board budget advisory committee in January. The full board will review and hopefully approve it at their meeting in March.

I’ve been spending a lot of my time on the phone and on the road connecting with members to find out what you think and what you need from your association. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, and I am very optimistic about the future of IFAI. 

The staff and I have a vision for a strong, effective, responsive organization, one that becomes an essential partner helping to make IFAI member businesses more sustainable, more profitable and more rewarding for the owners and their employees.

This is the year that IFAI celebrates its 100th anniversary. Very few organizations can claim that kind of history and longevity. I like to think of all of the volunteer leaders and members who have nurtured the association over a century. Obviously, many of them are no longer with us, but I think that if they saw the results of what they started, they would be pleased.

Now it’s our job to build something that not only benefits us, but future members and leaders. Just as your businesses are changing, IFAI has to change, too. In the next 100 years, the association may not look much like it does today, but it will have one thing in common throughout its history and that’s committed volunteers working with dedicated staff to respond to the ever-changing needs of our members.

Mary J. Hennessy is acting executive vice president of IFAI.