Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The ENA Experience

There it was in an email this morning, the announcement of a staff layoff at a national association. There is no doubt that layoff was an incredibly painful experience but the budget demanded it. The Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) has instituted pro-active measures to weather economic setbacks. I really like the "monthly budget performance memos." Rather than waiting for a quarter to go by (or heaven forbid an entire year), the ENA, headed by David Westman, aggressively tracks their financial health on a monthly basis. And has developed a several tiered system for contingency. What is your organization doing? Write and let me know. Bunnie

The ENA Experience

by David A. Westman, CPA, MBA
Executive Director, Emergency Nurses Association and ENA Foundation
Chief Executive Officer, Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing

Compared to many non-profit organizations, the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) has fared relatively well. We have diversified revenue streams, and several of those streams have continued to perform admirably during the economic downturn – most notably revenue from our train-the-trainer model trauma and pediatric care courses, which are delivered to more than 50,000 nurses each year domestically and internationally. Our membership levels and associated revenue are also (amazingly) still increasing this year. As a result, we haven’t had to take the drastic actions some of our colleague not-for-profits have been forced to into like staff layoffs, salary freezes, etc.

However, we certainly have been negatively impacted by the recession in some key areas. Attendance at our national conferences is down and we have also received diminished support from the corporate world (i.e., sponsorships, conference exhibit sales, publication advertising, mailing list rentals, etc.). This has caused us to tighten our belts in many regards and unleashed creativity in how we approach current corporate sponsors and serve our members.

In terms of cost control, very early in the year we put a freeze on most employee training/development expense and expenses associated with employee celebrations. We also took a hard look at every expense line item and developed our “X, Y, and Z” plans. Each of these plans includes specific expense reductions that may be triggered sequentially after analyzing each month’s financial statements.

The Executive Director and Finance staff, based on this analysis, has developed monthly budget performance memos. This includes recommendations for action that are reviewed by the Board’s Finance Committee. The Committee then makes recommendations to the Board as a whole. Year-to-date, all of their recommendations have been approved.

For example, given results through March, 2009 (we’re on a calendar year) a decision was made to exercise the “X” plan. We’ve now implemented most of our “Y” plan. The good news is that the financial picture seems to be stabilizing, which may mean that the “Z” plan (the most painful of all) will be avoided. Several of the expense line items included in the “X” and “Y” plans may eventually be reinstated towards the end of the year if the revenue picture continues to improve.

In terms of creativity, we’ve taken a number of steps to minimize the negative impacts on employees and our members. Employee training and development continue, with more sessions offered in-house and using low-cost programs. We’ve found creative ways to have fun in terms of employee relationship building and recognition (e.g., brown bag lunches in the office instead of eating out at restaurants).

Relative to our sponsors, we’ve been working with an outside consulting firm to develop lower cost/lower value sponsorship offerings pertaining to both our national conferences and year-round sponsorships. So far, corporate reaction appears to be favorable.

We’re also unleashing additional creativity within the staff organization by creating a new Pipeline Work Team, with the charge of identifying new revenue generation opportunities to supplement or replace the stagnation we have experienced in corporate support.

Overall, our goal from the very start has been to avoid decreasing value perceptions on the part of our 37,000 members. Hopefully they have seen minimal to no impact on such value. Perhaps the closest to a negative impact involves converting hard copy materials (e.g., national conference programs) to electronic formats. However, we’ve been able to position this, truthfully, as an opportunity “Go Green”.

In conclusion, this has certainly been a painful period of time but ENA remains strong. We have taken a number of steps to help us “get by” which will hopefully pay dividends going forward in making us stronger.

Contact David A. Westman at DWestman at ena dot org

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