by Sarah J.F. Braley | March 01, 2004

Susan Sarfati

Susan Sarfati of GWSAE

The boards of four Washington, D.C.-based industry groups the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), the ASAE Foundation, the Greater Washington Society of Association Executives (GWSAE) and the Center for Association Leadership (CAL) have agreed to consolidate into two organizations, resulting in a greater ASAE and CAL.
    “There has been discussion for years on how the organizations could work together,” said Susan Sarfati, president and CEO of both GWSAE and CAL.
    The consolidation would roll GWSAE’s membership into ASAE; all of GWSAE’s and ASAE’s education offerings and services and those of the foundation will come under CAL, which will continue to be housed in the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center.
    Money, said Sarfati, is not the motivating factor behind the consolidation. Cutting down on competing services in D.C., and offering them more effectively, are. “Our main motivation has all to do with advancing the association profession and the individuals involved,” she said.
    The two membership rosters overlap very little: GWSAE has about 3,000 members, of which one third are supplier partners; roughly 40 to 50 percent of the remainder belong to both GWSAE and ASAE, which has 24,000 members.
    GWSAE’s annual trade show, Springtime, scheduled for May 13 in the city’s convention center, will continue as planned, as will its acclaimed Nation’s Capital Distinguished Speakers Series.
    The planned merger is not without its detractors. At a town hall meeting on Jan. 28, some GWSAE members voiced concerns over losing the unique culture the organization has created since it began in 1927. “What we heard is that people in Washington want networking,” said John Graham, president and CEO of ASAE. “We need to figure out if what ASAE already does is sufficient, or if we need to expand it or put it under the aegis of a local networking group.” 
    Graham countered charges the plan will result in ASAE focusing too much on Washington. “We feel just the opposite is true,” he said. “Eliminating the need for ASAE to compete with GWSAE will enable us to focus our energies outside D.C., particularly with state and regional associations, where there is a real need.”
    Following due diligence and the creation of a plan to integrate the staffs and services of the organizations, the four boards could cast a final vote in April, followed by a vote of GWSAE members in May. If all goes well, restructuring would begin July 1, at the beginning of the organizations’ new fiscal year.