by Loren G. Edelstein | March 06, 2018
Meeting Planners Unite, established as a LinkedIn group following Marriott's decision to reduce independent planner commissions from 10 to 7 percent, is poised to become a nonprofit association and is accepting applications for membership. 
"The opportunity to change the mindset of the industry starts with this organization," said David Bruce, founder and executive director, in an email sent this morning to interested planners. "Our goals are to continue to lobby the industry on the issues of the day and make sure that independent planners and their suppliers are recognized for the efforts they give to the industry every day."
As part of the membership process, planners will be asked questions about their businesses, intended to help the association put a dollar figure on their collective buying power, said Bruce, who also is managing director of Dallas-based CMP Meeting Services.
In just over five weeks, Meeting Planners Unite has more than 1,000 members on its LinkedIn and Facebook pages, and thousands more have shown interest in joining. The organization has been established as a nonprofit corporation registered in Texas, and has filed paperwork for 501c6 status with the Internal Revenue Service. A board of directors has been chosen, and negotiations are in progress with Cindy L. Dodson, CMP, president of Meeting Services Inc., to have her Greensboro, N.C.-based firm handle the association's day-to-day management.
MPU aims to focus its lobbying efforts on four areas of concern for members: addressing issues related to commissions, demonstrating the importance of the third-party planner, underscoring the buyer power of MPU as compared to large third-party companies, and developing programs designed to solidify the relationships between independent planners and their supplier partners.
MPU also intends to negotiate discounts for business services on behalf of members, such as WiFi, legal services, accounting, office supplies, registration platforms, site-sourcing tools, shipping, insurance and transportation.
Plans call for an annual conference limited to member planners and suppliers, and a charitable fund that will offer loans or gifts to independent planner members in need due to personal emergencies or other difficult circumstances.
Membership will be priced at $249 annually for planners (independent, corporate or association) and association executive directors, $499 for suppliers, plus a one-time processing charge of $50 per application.
As the MPU website is under development, payments currently must be made by check. "After May 1," said Bruce, "suppliers who wish to join will be asked to bring in a planner with their membership to keep the numbers as close to even as possible." For membership application forms or other information, email David Bruce.
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