• Webcast: AIGA’s approach to organizational viability

    Part of the AIGA Insights series, which aims to meet members' expectations for openness and transparency

    September 13 at 12:30 p.m. Eastern / 9:30 a.m. Pacific

    AIGA plays a variety of roles as the professional association for design. It must:

    • Promote the value of design
    • Serve all designers as a profession
    • Serve its members, who support it
    • Manage as an effective organization

    AIGA seeks to be a model of an effective professional association (and, in fact, is featured by The Center for Association Excellence in recent research on a model for addressing the changing expectations for member engagement). In this regard, AIGA sets high standards for management, governance and accountability for itself. It is, after all, a business as well as a community and its ability to sustain support for designers well into the future depends on its responsible management and adaptiveness.

    In AIGA’s proposed strategic framework, the fourth of four focuses is on this largely institutional role: Focus on Organizational Viability.

    For the sake of a higher-level discussion on what AIGA should be doing to serve the interests of members, we provide examples of current and proposed activities. In AIGA’s budgeting process, the activities would be developed completely, with purpose, expected outcomes, metrics for success and resource requirements.


    1. Establish an endowment that will help fund the organization in perpetuity
    An endowment, invested to generate annual income and growth, would provide a sound foundation as AIGA pursues a role in supporting the future of the profession, even as the nature of civic organizations change. While AIGA has a valuable asset in its current building, it does not have a properly invested endowment that provides flexibility and return.

    If AIGA sold its current building, as part of a transformative scenario, it would result in net revenues of approximately $20 million. AIGA would invest approximately $7 million in a new, more practical office space and $13 million in professionally managed endowments. This action would create a firm foundation for the long-term future.

    2. Create sufficient operational reserves to help weather economic downturns
    Nearly every association is undercapitalized, which reduces its long-term viability, for it has no flexibility to maintain service levels through business cycles. By developing more liquid investments and additional investment income, AIGA will be more agile and flexible in operating for the long term rather than the short term.

    3. Maximize earned and contributed revenue opportunities through fees, sponsorship, planned gifts, etc.
    AIGA has grown in the past through a revenue plan based on membership fees, program fees (conference fees and competition fees) and sponsorship. AIGA is committed to increasing non-dues revenues. This initiative would require increasing staff to focus on additional revenue potential, based on a solid plan for developing these revenue sources. These are likely to include advertising and partnerships to offer discounted services to members.

    4. Seek new opportunities to support initiatives and programs through foundation and governmental grants
    AIGA has increased its grant funding and will continue to do so. This does not cover core operational expenses, but it does allow for funding special activities.

    5. Ensure that organizational resources (staff and budget) reflect and support key priorities
    The transformation of AIGA will require adapting staff for new roles and functions. All current activities will be evaluated before being funded in coming years; budgeted resources will be allocated only to the highest priority activities for which there are program plans that will make effective progress likely. AIGA’s policies and practices assure that the board has the information necessary for annual budget review.

    6. Routinely review and report on the efficacy of key programs and initiatives to the board
    The board has accountability for the effective use of resources; management is committed to transparency and effective review of financial decisions and consequences.

    7. Ensure effective and transparent communications among board, staff, chapters and members
    Every effort is made to provide complete information to board, staff, chapters and members through accessible websites and servers. Management is always available for questions.

    This session took place on September 13, 2013. Click here for the recording of this webcast.


    Richard GreféRichard Grefé, AIGA executive director
    Ric is the executive director of AIGA, the professional association for design. He is generally involved in all of AIGA's activities, although his major contributions are in strategy, formulating new initiatives to enhance the competitive success of designers and advocating the value of design.

    About this series

    AIGA is approaching its 100th anniversary in 2014, and the AIGA board of directors is developing a strategic plan to take the organization into its second century. We want to hear your input!

    To facilitate the conversation, we’ve published a series of Insight articles and webcasts about AIGA’s strategy. We invite all members to comment on the articles and participate in an “AIGA Strategy” series of webcasts with Ric Grefé and the board to learn more about AIGA’s strategic framework and share your feedback.

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