While this year’s convention marks NBAA’s 60th anniversary, the organization has another reason to celebrate as membership approaches record levels thanks to a concerted effort to increase the rolls over the last year and a half.
Perhaps it’s a “circling the wagons” response to recent attacks on business aviation from the airline industry, but NBAA has experienced a 40-percent increase in membership, according to Connie Penne, the organization’s vice president for membership marketing. “For us, we think [the airline attacks] are the biggest threat to business aviation in a long, long time,” Penne told NBAA Convention News. “We’ll never be able to match the airlines in terms of what they have to spend on their advocacy efforts and on their commercials, but we would like to be able to contribute in at least an intelligent way to try to get the message out.” NBAA today lists more than 7,000 companies as members.
Penne credited the registration surge to improvements in how the trade organization communicates with its members. “It had been a while since anyone had asked our members what they were looking for and what they needed from NBAA, so I think it was just talking to members finding out what we could do differently,” she said.
In his tenure as NBAA president, Ed Bolen has strived to create a more cohesive and unified organization, which Penne said has been reflected in the recent growth. “Having the tools behind him in terms of the membership being satisfied and willing to work with him and talk to him on a regular basis helps our advocacy efforts, but it also helps us grow,” she said. “As more companies that are in business aviation hear about us and see what we are trying to accomplish, they come and join,” she said.
NBAA has made several changes based on feedback from member focus groups. “Some of the answers we got surprised us,” said Penne. “For instance, we had gone almost all-electronic a few years ago because it saved so much money. As a nonprofit organization that was important for us, but our members really wanted to be communicated with in print.”
As a result, the organization started its members-only Business Aviation Insider newsletter. Another resolved gripe had been the slow speed of the Airmail list server on the NBAA Web site, where users can post questions to the membership. “Our list server was so old that sometimes you would post a question and it wouldn’t even show up for a day,” said Penne, “so we finally finished the installation of brand-new list servers to fix the Airmail problem.”
In honor of NBAA’s 60th anniversary, Penne said the organization is reviving one of its most cherished traditions. “NBAA used to provide a membership plaque and certificate of how long that company had been a member, and four or five years ago we stopped it,” she said. “Members wanted to bring that back, so we have revived the program.”