Cast your vote for AIGA’s future

Over the past few months, AIGA has engaged members in a process to create and consider options for AIGA to enter its second century. This process is the culmination of efforts over the past four years to make AIGA more relevant to the current and future needs of our members and all designers.

Based on member and leader involvement over this period, the AIGA national board developed and adopted mission and value statements, strategies and goals during 2013.

Two options for implementing the strategy have been outlined: the status quo (a continuation of our current practices, changing the emphasis of activities but otherwise no dramatic change) and a transformative option (which shifts our financial and staffing resources to accelerate change and re-imagine AIGA’s financial and infrastructural adaptability, including selling our current building and purchasing a more functional space). We’ve shared our plans with chapter leaders at the leadership retreat each year, published Insight articles, held webcasts, held an open meeting at our biennial conference, had conversations and mailed background information to all members. We plan to consider every member’s comments before making a decision on the future course for AIGA in early November.

What we’ve heard

Based on what we’ve heard back, the board has discussed five priorities to guide new AIGA activities, while largely maintaining current activities, regardless of the choice made by members on how to advance progress toward our goals:

  • Enhance professional development offerings
  • Encourage and enable sharing of chapter successes and innovation
  • Become a participation platform to engage members more deeply through AIGA
  • Enhance AIGA members’ experience
  • Document and make accessible great contemporary design and design criticism

What happens next

All members will receive an email with a personal link to a ballot. The three questions on the ballot include an opportunity to comment on the broader goals and strategy that have been developed based on member input and a choice among implementation options. Voting is open until Friday, October 25:

  • Do you support the strategic framework as a guide for AIGA’s activities through 2020, as articulated?
  • Do you have any comments on the strategic framework?
  • Which option should AIGA pursue for the future of the organization: status quo or transformative?

On October 22 at 3:00 p.m. Eastern, members may participate in a webcast to discuss the options and respond to questions and comments.

The national board will meet on November 7 to consider all comments to date and decide which option to follow in setting the course for AIGA. Based on that decision, AIGA management will begin developing a proposed budget for FY 2015 through its normal budgeting process that will reflect the outcome of the decision. For any new activities proposed, detailed plans will be developed with the board and shared with chapter leadership at the end of May 2014 before resources are committed for the fiscal year that begins on October 2014.

The national board will review and approve the FY 2015 budget and the expenditure of any additional funds in September 2014. The vast majority of the funds from the sale of the building will be maintained in endowments.

Assurance of due diligence

The national board has been engaged in planning for the future for several years and has made a number of decisions that begin to implement the new strategy, such as restructuring the membership fees.

The possibility of selling AIGA’s current building as one element in a strategic reorientation of AIGA was first broached in late summer 2012. This was raised in the context of seeking to both find a more appropriate office space for AIGA’s current and future needs, and diversifying the financial investment of AIGA’s assets. In September 2012 the board instructed the executive director to consider the sale of the building.

All 67 chapter presidents were invited to a regularly scheduled webcast in April to outline and discuss the possibility of selling the building. The rationale for selling the building was discussed within the context of a strategy that had been developed with chapter leaders over the previous five years. The issue was presented again at the 2013 leadership retreat in Philadelphia in June.

To establish a reasonable price, a third-party objective appraisal was conducted in April 2013 by Robert Van Ancken of Landauer Valuation and Advisory. Robert Van Ancken is the most respected appraisal authority in New York real estate. The appraised value of the property was estimated at $11.5 million.

Cirgenski + Capalino, a development strategy firm, was retained for an independent third party assessment of opportunities.

To assure that a market responsive bid would be received, Jones Lang LaSalle, highly respected real estate advisers, were retained to market the building through a competitive bid. On June 13, AIGA received a preemptive offer for an amount significantly greater than the appraised value and also higher than the realtor’s estimate of an achievable range within current market conditions. Assessment of the rental market and additional financial analysis has been provided by Cogswell Realty.

AIGA has been consulting with legal counsel throughout the process, most notably with Hugh Webster, AIGA outside counsel with Webster, Chamberlain & Bean, the most respected national firm on nonprofit governance issues, and New York real estate attorneys. Accounting counsel has been provided by the partner for nonprofit clients at Friedman LLP, AIGA’s outside auditor.

Because AIGA is a nonprofit incorporated in the state of New York, any sale of a major financial asset must be approved by the state’s Attorney General to assure that stakeholders’ interests are being protected.

Public discourse about the issue is critical as we move forward

In the week before the ballot closes, AIGA continues to welcome comments on the proposed course of action. In webcasts, participants from around the country have been generally positive. We have heard concerns; points raised by Paula Scher in email correspondence are included in the comments to this article. Members should weigh all comments in arriving at their own preference.