The Naval Reserve Association, after 55 years, changed its name in 2009 to the Association of the United States Navy (AUSN). This change will permit AUSN to become the professional, service organization for all Navy people, a support organization to Navy families, and an advocate for a strong naval service. This change was needed in response to a declining membership base as a result of the Navy’s reduced manning requirements and the newer generations of Reserve Officers being less inclined to join organizations. These factors have had a dramatic impact on the decline of new revenue coming into the organization along with the current economic environment reducing the return on the association’s financial investments, which are increasingly being tapped to meet operational needs.
The association recognized the need to restate its mission, vision, and core values in order to attract a new constituency of membership. The association now welcomes both officer and enlisted members, active and reserve, retired, and also Department of Navy employees as full status members and their family members as associate members. AUSN must create a new market awareness of the benefits to all target groups for membership in the association.
By completing a Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, Threat (SWOT) analysis the Strategic Planning Committee identified four critical issues that need immediate attention:
- Improve Structure and Governance
- Create Business Development / Marketing Plan
- Promote Fund Development
- Use Technology – Social Networking to Better Communicate
This plan highlights these critical issues for immediate action in order to ensure the long term sustainability of the organization.
Strategic Planning Committee Objectives
The following objectives were directed in the Strategic Planning Committees appointment document:
- Develop statements for Mission, Vision, Purpose and Guiding Principles.
- Determine what are we going to be in 2010 and beyond
- Identify what products and services we will we provide and to whom
- Propose the metrics to measure our success
- State how we will know when we are achieving intended results
- Develop and communicate a strategic marketing plan
- Establish Business/Revenue development plan
Assessment of the AUSN
The organization’s mission, vision, and core values need to be restated, as the association now wants to address a much broader constituency of Navy service members and families.
The association’s structure is complex and bureaucratic. This makes it difficult to make timely decisions in response to a rapidly changing economic and business environment. Most decisions are held until the Executive Committee meets twice a year at the national conferences. The number of national conferences will be reduced to one conference per year starting in 2011. This will further delay the decision process.
A SWOT analysis was conducted with the following thirteen items identified as significant:
- Name of Association
- Reputation on Capitol Hill (legislative efforts/results)
- Access to Navy Leadership and Congressional staffers
- Structure / Governance
- Business Development / Marketing Plan
- Few volunteers / Low number of full time staff for scope of mission/vision
- Unsustainable expenses (Revenue Development / Fund Development)
- Use technology – Social Media
- Help Navy Leadership achieve its objective
- Redefine products and services
- Generational differences in propensity to join, reducing member numbers
- Competing associations / consolidation
The Critical Issues and Opportunities for AUSN
The following top four issues were identified as critical and requiring immediate action:
- Improve Structure and Governance
- Promote Fund Development
- Create Business Development / Marketing Plan
- Use Technology – Social Networking to Communicate
The association is currently using two outside contractors: Marketing General and Fox Associates, Inc., to bolster the declining membership and secure additional corporate sponsors.
An AUSN Enterprise Management review (Attachment E) was completed in March 2010, which evaluated the following areas: customer perspective, governance perspective, operational perspective and financial perspective. AUSN had a bottom line score of 42.8% favorable rating in relationship to best practices. The Committee believes that the association should benchmark itself against other like associations as a means of determining best practices that will enhance its overall stature.
The Strategic Planning Committee has reviewed the Strategic Plan 2010 by an outside contractor. We determined that most of the recommendations of this document were technical in nature and that the AUSN staff should take the appropriate action on its recommendations.
AUSN Mission, Vision, Core Values
The Association of the United States Navy advances the interests of all members of the Navy community and supports the needs of the Navy.
- A premier voice for Sailors
- A strong supporter for national naval power
- A leading provider of professional career development
- An acknowledged advocate for military benefits
We will strive to become the leading voice for America’s Sailors and the premier advocate for a strong Navy.
Community…Relevance…Passion with Commitment…Education
Recommended Responses to Four Critical Issues
Structure and Governance
The Association of the United States Navy is governed by a twice a year national conference under its constitution and by-laws. In between conferences, AUSN is governed by its elected National Executive Committee and managed by its appointed National Executive Director and staff. This legislative governance model is cumbersome, unwieldy, and slow to effectively make changes in an increasingly dynamic environment. As AUSN converts to one national conference per year, the governance of operations will require greater oversight, flexibility and timeliness to properly conduct the business of the Association.
- AUSN must move to a Board of Directors style of governance, which is consistent with the majority of other nonprofit organizations.
- The Board of Directors shall consist of a minimum of seven (7) but not more than fifteen (15) Directors. Director candidates would be submitted for nomination based on proven backgrounds, professional expertise, and commitment to actively serve the needs of the association.
- The Board of Directors will oversee the administration and operation of the association, with the National Executive Director managing the day-to-day operation of the association and reporting to the Board of Directors.
The Strategic Planning Committee, in concert with the National Executive Committee, shall ensure all proposed changes are properly presented for vote and approval by 2/3 majority of the General Session at the 2010 August National Conference. Nominations for acting membership on the Board of Directors will be solicited and also presented for vote and approval at the 2010 August National Conference. The remaining Board of Directors vacancies will be presented to the membership at large for vote via either mail-in or electronic means prior to 15 December 2010. Presently, only those attending the national conference actually have a voice in choosing the Associations leadership. The fully elected Board of Directors becomes effective 1 January 2011.
The Structure and Governance subcommittee needs to prepare, correlate and present all amendments, changes and repeals necessary to convert to a Board of Directors governance system effective at the 2010 August National Conference.
Business Development / Marketing Plan
The association’s business development needs a strategy that is focused on building a sustainable revenue stream and increasing members in all classes and sources. Currently, there is no one dedicated full time to business development. With a focused effort, the achievable metric is to generate $1 Million in net revenue growth over the next 18 months. Through our outreach programs, our success in rebuilding a robust member base in all categories will greatly assist in our work on Capitol Hill and our relevance to the Navy community.
- Hire a dedicated Director of Business Development is the first step. A detailed job description has been developed with necessary qualifications.
The primary source of increased revenue will come from significantly expanding our corporate sponsorships. Capturing a small percentage of sponsors doing business with the Navy (100 new platinum sponsors) would generate $1.7 Million at today’s rate. Are there enough companies that can be targeted? It is a target rich environment. For example, in the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA) 2010 source book, there are approximately 1,800 companies listed who supply goods and services to the Department of Defense.
Additional sources of net revenue will come from a more robust event program, expanding membership, and other current revenue generation programs (for example, magazine advertising, store sales, and golf outings).
Membership growth is the engine that drives influence and indirectly drives revenue. Building the number of members in all categories is essential to AUSN's viability. Our new expanded all Navy footprint enables us to increase our membership. Building off our professional development seminar series will provide instant value. We need to continue working to make AUSN more visible through the media and on-base contact that will enhance AUSN's image by participating in on-base events, advertising, and contact with Navy leadership. We must work to make sponsored events relevant to our membership and sponsors both for events that we conduct and those that we may partner with other associations. Finally, we need to expand our services to the network such as our group site, branded social networks, and enhanced delivery of valued content. These projects will address the interests of all members – Active Component / Reserve Component, spouses and retired so that our theme of cradle-to-grave service is retained.
Currently the only funding the association has is that which is generated from membership dues, some small website activity, and our securities investments. There is one foundation, The Navy Reserve Fund, that supports the annual scholarship program, but there are no other grants or foundations that support the organization in general.
- Create additional funding streams such as a Planned Giving Program under the Internal Revenue Code 503 (c) 19 authorization. Given the association’s membership demographics this would be a prime target for such a program. Many organizations have such programs that address the estate tax issues of the retired community. The association has the existing infrastructure of a website and membership database to launch an effective “Legacy” program. This would require additional staffing in order to launch and monitor properly.
- Friends of the Navy Foundation should also be established as a separate Internal Revenue Code 501(c) 3 entity for deposit of funds.
Communicating with Members and Target Audience (Redefined Use Technology – Social Networking to Communicate)
The association will need to develop a comprehensive communications strategy and plan in order to reach members and newly targeted audiences. It may be necessary to upgrade the technology systems to support this plan with well designed services and programs on a functional website that is properly maintained and backed up.
- The Vice President of Communications should form a committee to work on the prioritizing of the components of a comprehensive communications plan that will reach members and newly designated targeted audiences.
This committee will use the existing Strategic Communications and Marketing Plan developed by Jean Byrd as a basis for this enhanced communications plan. A review of new and emerging technologies will be a necessary technical function that the staff will undertake.
The following are some the technical issues that should be considered by the staff:
- Minimal upgrades to the servers and database systems that will allow the association to make greater use of the emerging technologies such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
- Continue the monitoring and participating in the various social networking technologies to ensure name protection across them.
- The use of YouTube could be used for various communications regarding the legislative update.
- The broadcasting of training activities and other services could be accomplished using Webcast or WebEx.
- The technology staff and the Business Development staff need to work closely together to achieve the best return of investment and marketing communications to broaden the brand awareness of AUSN. A $25,000 plus investment in upgrades is recommended.
The association’s current declining financial situation is reversible and its out of date governance structure can be brought up to date with a focused and committed plan that can ensure the organization is vibrant and will grow well into the future. A dedicated and functioning Board of Directors will go a long way in putting the proper oversight, resources, timely decision processes and sound strategy in place to make the association relevant to the entire Navy community. The hiring of a Director of Business Development will provide the expertise and committed resources necessary to carry out the detailed product and service plans. A structured “Planned Giving Program” is an opportunity for generating much needed new revenue. A comprehensive communication plan is needed that will target the existing members and the new audience of membership, which the association is striving to attract. The core technology is in place, but needs to be upgraded to meet the new demands of an expanding organization. It is critical that these issues be addressed quickly so that the association has a solid foundation from which to expand.
The information on measureable outcomes, cost, completion date, and responsible party are detailed in the worksheets (Attachments A, B, C, D) of the critical issues. These worksheets will serve as a checklist for the staff and Board of Directors to ensure that action is being completed as outlined. The Executive Vice President of AUSN will have overall responsibility to ensure that the Strategic Plan is implemented.