Successful Event Planning for Nonprofit Multi-Gen Events

Marketing, Meetings, Membership Services, Strategic Planning

The Illinois Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ISHA) was experiencing what many associations face at some point in time—a demographic shift in membership. Longtime “legacy members” were retiring and new generations were joining. Both demographics were well represented within ISHA, and the organization needed a way to innovate and adapt in order to attract new professionals, while still servicing its long-time legacy members.

Illinois Speech Language Hearing Association Logo


  1. Find inventive ways to attract recent graduates new to the profession to ISHA
  2. Balance any program changes to appeal to both the legacy and new members

ISHA made these changes in a short time period with minimal financial investment:

Savings from Print Publications
Promotions to 2000+ Members
Quadruple Attendee Participation
Head and shoulders image of Bryan White

“Balance was key—the goal was to make these changes without alienating a segment of membership. If the association demographics are slowly shifting, your innovation efforts must move at the same pace.”

Bryan White
Executive Director, ISHA

Solution for Success

The quarterly ISHA Newsletter was a simple black and white, print document with no images. It did not appeal to new professionals entering the field, so ISHA staff and leadership worked together to develop a branded, content-driven publication resulting in the launch of The ISHA Voice. This refreshed newsletter includes 50 pages of professional content, photos, news, and information. It now has an identity, and it is a resource for members to help further their professional development.

The ISHA Voice was well received, creating momentum for further innovation. Staff and leadership then worked to inject new life into the upcoming Annual Convention. ISHA…

  • Created a new conference brand, look, and feel.
  • Offered its Conference Program Book digitally and stopped mailing it to registrants. (A limited number of printed programs were available on-site.)
  • Developed a mobile conference app, which allowed attendees to receive real-time updates.
  • Established an Opening Night Welcome Reception, which gave attendees an additional networking opportunity and increased foot traffic in the exhibit hall for vendors.
  • Retired the poorly attended formal cocktail reception and introduced an ISHA Tailgate Party, which hosted schools throughout the state, a DJ, backyard BBQ eats, yard games, and bars. It was set up next to the College Bowl, so attendees and students walked directly into the Tailgate Party at the conclusion of the College Bowl.
  • Shifted its Honors Luncheon, a ticketed event where members receive awards and conduct business meetings, to a breakfast. The luncheon competed with educational programming and did not entice new professionals resulting in declining attendance each year. The Honors Breakfast included a keynote speaker and was approved for one credit hour of continuing education.

“ISHA needed to adapt in order to stay relevant to the changing demographics of its membership. Bostrom’s creative thinking and the willingness of our leadership to take the risk allowed this adaptation to happen”

Tena McNamara
ISHA Past President


ISHA made these changes in a short time period with minimal financial investment. The money saved on postage alone by not mailing a 50+ page conference program book was enough to fund the new initiatives. The savings also allowed a promotional mailing to go to 2,000 members and 5,000 prospects thus casting a wider net while reducing overall costs.

The shifts made to conference events also resulted in higher attendance and participation. The Honors Breakfast sold out with 250 attendees compared to the average 50 tickets typically sold for the Luncheon.

Cover of ISHA Voice
Cover of ISHA Program

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