November 9, 2009

The Washington Post reported today on the lengths nonprofit meeting planners are going to in order to drum up interest for their annual meetings or trade shows in a very challenging economy.  At a time when all businesses are tightening their belts, nonprofits have to go the extra mile to interest attendees in traveling to meetings by convincing them the networking opportunities are worthwhile or the exchange of information is critical.  Also, squeezing the best deals from hotels and meeting places is essential so members or attendees can afford to come. http://www.washingtonpost.com/

All of this is definitely affecting the budget performance of nonprofits.  “Two-thirds of trade groups anticipate a decline in revenue in 2010, according to a survey conducted by the American Society of Association Executives”.  http://www.asaecenter.org/.  Trade shows and annual meetings are frequently the bread and butter for an association, so cancellations are rare – but cut backs are one method to keep attendance up by keeping the expense within spending limits.  Holding events during times when airfare is cheaper appeals to cash strapped registrants and exhibitors.

In addition to the nonprofit organizations feeling the pain of the economy, the big three cities for conventions are feeling the pain also – Las Vega, Chicago and Orlando.  This actually plays to Washington, D.C.’s advantage as a venue of choice – not being seen as a “fun” city, the travel here is not construed as frivolous from the standpoint of the attendees’ company.  Also, as the Post article points out, D.C. has loads of free entertainment, such as the Smithsonian museums, which is an added attraction in a budget conscious year.  Unfortunately, the trade show business is considered a lagging economic indicator, which means the downturn hits later, and recovery is later as well.  As many nonprofit organizations are located in the D.C. greater area, costs can be lower by having the annual meeting or trade show close to home.