The International Association of Business Communicators, which lost $529K in 2013, needs new sources of revenues and should target the 28 million small and medium-sized businesses in the U.S., says chair Russell Grossman.
Russell Grossman
Grossman, director of communications, U.K. Government’s Dept. for Business, told the annual general meeting June 10 in Toronto that past revenue streams such as the annual conference, awards and publishing “can no longer be relied on.”
He said one strength of IABC is the “B” that stands for “business” although it is “not leveraged any where near enough.”
The U.S., alone, he says has some 28 million small and medium companies that could benefit from the expertise of IABC members, particularly those who have their own firms (about 20% of members).
There are five million small businesses in the U.K. and more than two million each in Canada and Australia, he noted.
Grossman quoted consultant Cindy Gallop of New York, who addressed the IABC conference, as saying that IABC needs to “redesign its business model” if it hopes to survive.
The new IABC chair repeatedly said that the association must “reach out more strongly” to potential audiences and potential members. “We need to be heard,” he said, calling on all members to “be prepared to speak out” in behalf of their services.
He also urged them to “listen and to learn when others have valid points.”
Members Seek Answers from IABC
Members as well as reporters are seeking answers to numerous questions from IABC leaders and staff but have yet to get them.
Julie Freeman
Julie Freeman, paid president from 2001-2010, asked for Grossman for details of the contract dispute with web designer Extraction of S.F. that has resulted in a listing of $552,067 in the audit as an “intangible asset” because it is tied up in a “contract dispute.” She wondered what assurance do members have that the same issues might not develop with the new web designer, which has not been named.
She noted that the dip in dues cash intake of $245,036 indicated “a substantial loss of membership.”

Board Spends on Self

Freeman was especially upset by the $589,187 spent by the board on travel, meals and hotels, a gain of 25% from the previous year. “Faced with declining revenues, how can the board justify this increase?” she asked.
The $589K was 10.8% of IABC’s total income of $5,666,983 in 2013. PR Society of America’s travel/meals/hotels cost was $434,970 in 2013 or 3.4% of total income of $11.4M.
Grossman said that forcing directors to pay their own travel expenses was a “burden” that kept qualified members from service. The board is now “competency-based,” he said.
The international nature of IABC is also costly, he noted. Six of the 13 on the 2014 board are from outside the U.S.—Grossman, Jane Mitchell and Michael Ambjorn being from the U.K.; Nerissa Ronquillo, Philippines; Vita Kernel, Slovenia, and Sharon Hunter, Canada.
More than 90% of IABC’s members are in the U.S. and Canada.
Grossman has also been asked for the terms of the contract with new executive director Carlos Fulcher; the total cost, including severance pay, of Christopher Sorek, who was executive director in 2012-2013 until he resigned; the identity of the new web developer and details of the contract; the identity of the new board (only four of the directors are scheduled to remain after July 1, —Grossman, treasurer Terry Cerisoles of Turner Broadcasting System, Kernel, and Michael Ambrozewicz of DIRECTV).
Scheduled to leave, according to the current website listing, are Robin McCasland, Ronquillo, Tom Roux, Cynthia Schmieg, Michael Ambjorn, James Lynch, Jane Mitchell, Sharon Hunter and Ann Lazarus.
All are listed as “director-at-large.” IABC does not have directors that represent regions.