This week we held our 2019 WCA Annual Meeting. It was so wonderful to look out and see so many familiar faces, thank you sincerely to everyone who attended.
For those of you who couldn’t make it, here’s a recap:
Where We’ve Been
I highlighted so me of our 90 year history, and talked about the reasons this group was founded:
- To promote the advancement of women in all fields of communications
- To work for the First Amendment rights and responsibilities of communicators
- To recognize distinguished professional achievements
- To promote high professional standards throughout the communications industry
This purpose still guides us today. At its peak, the organization had over 50 chapters across the nation and 13,000 members. However, in March 2013, leaders of the Austin chapter felt members would best be served by an independent organization, and the affiliation between what had been the Austin chapter of Association of Women in Communications and the national organization was discontinued, and Women Communicators of Austin (WCA) was born.
Where we are in 2019
- We are an all-volunteer organization of 241 members. When I sat on the board in 2011 that number was 200. We’ve swelled over 300 in recent years but are in a bit of a decline.
- Last year our Get Smart attendance was down 25%, Banner Brunch was down 35%, and we’ve struggled to just break even on our monthly programs.
- We also had a series of missed IRS filings that resulted in fines of over $12,000. This has been tremendously painful for an organization that since 2010 has averaged a net loss of about $350 per year. We barely break even. We DO have a healthy bank account that we fiercely protect, but this isn’t sustainable
To try and understand this what’s going on, I have been interviewing dozens of old and new members over the past year. Two things were very clear:
- WCA members are here for the people, not the programs – it’s the community, support, mentorship, the sense of family, that makes us unique. Programs are just the excuse to get together.
- Austin is changing, communications is changing, we’re changing. There are SO many learning opportunities and organizations to join. As we all know, competition for attention is at an all time high. WCA has been struggling to maintain our “market share” of your time and attention.
Where we’re going
Bottom line, we have to keep the things that are working and fix what’s not. This mainly means tighter budgets, more focused programming, and recommitment to the programs that are seeing success.
- First and foremost, we are tightening our belt and recommitting to a zero-based budgeting policy, meaning all events must pay for themselves. Another way Austin is changing is in the the dramatically higher cost of renting a space and hosting a meal. Because of this, we plan to offer fewer catered events (WCA@Lunch, WCA@Night).
- In place of our catered WCA@Lunch & WCA@Night events, we’re planning to transform Connect Over Cocktails into a programming event, featuring panels and discussions centered around our 2019 themes:
- Industry Trends
- Progress for Women in the Workplace.
- We’re bringing back Leader Lunch – these are first-come-first-served intimate events featuring a conversation an industry leader (often an agency executive or business owner) in their office when possible. Approximately 10-12 WCA members bring their own lunch and enjoy an amazing conversation and networking opportunity for free at no cost to WCA.
- We’ll continue the success of Careers over Coffee roundtable peer mentoring. These happen monthly in North and South locations, (and possibly a new West Austin location as well!). These are general discussions, not specifically about job hunting. Again free to attend and no cost to WCA.
- Freelance Austin continues to thrive; programming and location will stay pretty much the same as well.
- Banner Brunch will be better than ever – we’re taking feedback tons of past attendees about – celebration of our heritage. Focus on more fun, more time to connect, shorter programming.
- Get Smart will maintain its role as our core professional development opportunity, and we will continue to work with membership to evolve the training sessions into valuable, actionable sessions that fit your professional development needs.
- Our philanthropy team is excited to bring back CommSquad – our fantastic program dedicated to giving communications support to a local nonprofit. Applications open now!
- More ways to get involved in small bites rather than annual commitments: