MPI to End 2020 With $2.5 Million Deficit But Confident of Financial Standing

November 5, 2020
MPI WEC 2020 Town Hall session.

MPI is set to end 2020 with a deficit of $2.5 million, but the association said previous reserves will carry it through the pandemic period because of expense reductions that are part of a two-year operational plan, which had the strategy of navigating a worse-case scenario posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’ve had very solid revenues the last four years, which, along with cutting expenses, allowed us to have a very healthy bottom line and help us develop stronger reserves,” said Paul Van Deventer, president and CEO of MPI during a November 6 Town Hall at the association’s 2020 World Education Congress (WEC) held in Grapevine, Texas. “We’ll finish the year just shy of $12 million in revenue—a significant drop overall, but less than we expected. Expenses were $14.5 million. We’ve had the benefit of four good years to get us through this. As we build our forecast through 2021, we’ll still be sitting on two and a half or three years of reserves, so we feel good about that.”

Van Deventer said MPI had to act swiftly and decisively when the pandemic hit, and while believing it wouldn’t last as long as it has, adopted a “worst-case scenario” strategy that assumed it would last two years. The association hired association management company MCI to develop an operational plan to navigate it through the crisis.

“We developed a brand-new operating model that was supportive of that, and led to a very significant [change to the] organizational structure,” Van Deventer said. “We had to aggressively cut costs, cut expenses and ensure our liquidity, but we had to do that without losing touch with our community.”

Paul Van Deventer, President & CEO, MPI
Paul Van Deventer, President & CEO, MPI

Van Deventer said MPI cut its operational expenses by 35% by the end of the first 60 days of the pandemic, and received the maximum amount of government funding—$1.5 million—as part of a relief program for 501 (c) (3) organizations.

According to Van Deventer, the MPI Foundation still awarded more than 2,000 scholarships and provided extra liquidity to the association. The association also made all of its education free to members and created 90 hours of COVID-19- and career-related content. Van Deventer said MPI assisted more than 40,000 individuals with career- and mental health support.

MPI Expanding Beyond Membership Model

MPI also discussed expanding beyond the membership model. “We are looking at ways we can expand value to all constituents, not just members,” said Steve O’Malley, chair of the MPI Board of Directors. “One of the things that we realized is an over-reliance on membership dues is not a going to be a good path for us.

“Our desire in the longer term is to get the number of constituents we serve up to the 200,000 range,” O’Malley continued. “We have to really broaden the appeal in our ability to deliver value to members and their membership dues. The MPI Academy has done a very good job providing value and ginning up new material, and we’re just going to accelerate that in the future.”

[Related: Industry Leaders Deliver Inspirational Advice at MPI WEC 2020]

Van Deventer echoed O’Malley’s comments.

“By saying, ‘If you’re not a member you can’t do this,’ we’re isolating ourselves,” Van Deventer offered.

Van Deventer also said the association’s foray into offering a concurrent digital program as a component of WEC 2020 was a success and said the association will offer hybrid events as part of all its major programs in the future.

“We’ve all come to learn that hybrid provides a great opportunity,” Van Deventer said. “We’re all learning, but at all of our major events there should be some sort of hybrid, digital connection.”

Final WEC Numbers

Van Deventer said 608 people came in person and just over 1,100 registered for the digital program, with 999 individual, unique users from 17 countries.

There were 65,000 interactions online between the users, with nine concurrent sessions and three Zumba workouts, Van Deventer said.

The digital program attracted 52 exhibiting suppliers, and had a 71% planner-to-supplier ratio with a 92% online satisfaction rate.

Van Deventer said the association expected a 60% decline in memberships due to the pandemic, but the decline was much less severe. Supplier memberships have been affected more than planner membership numbers.

Read Next: MPI WEC 2020 Kicks off Hybrid Event With Over 600 In-Person Attendees

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Tyler Davidson | Editor, Vice President & Chief Content Director

Tyler Davidson has covered the travel trade for nearly 30 years. In his current role with Meetings Today, Tyler leads the editorial team on its mission to provide the best meetings content in the industry.