Relationships Form the Core of AFCEA Sponsorship

December 2000
By Lt. Gen. C. Norman Wood, USAF (Ret.)

Corporate membership is one of those topics that is not discussed very much, but it is vitally important to the health and vitality of AFCEA International. The association currently has about 1,000 corporate sponsors, and they range in size from one-person consulting practices to multibillion-dollar international corporations with more than 100,000 employees. These corporate members are active participants in most of AFCEA’s many endeavors. They often sponsor activities at AFCEA International conferences as well as at events hosted by chapters, and they make up a large portion of the exhibitors at AFCEA exhibitions.

Each corporate member designates a number of individuals within its firm as corporate associates, and these associates have all the rights and privileges of an individual AFCEA member, including a subscription to SIGNAL Magazine at no additional charge. The number of associates each firm may designate depends on a firm’s level of membership. Currently, there are about 9,000 corporate associates on the rolls. Many of those associates take an active part in the life of the chapters as officers and volunteers, are active as Young AFCEANs, and participate on the boards and committees at the international level.

Historically, AFCEA has been well supported by its corporate members—and that continues to be true. The makeup of the association’s corporate membership, however, is evolving. In the past, the list of AFCEA corporate members was dominated by the names of very large firms with hundreds, perhaps thousands, of employees. Recently the number of smaller firms has been growing, and currently about half of AFCEA’s corporate members have 25 or fewer employees. This could be partly because of the entrepreneurial character of the industry as well as the continuing process of consolidation the industry has been experiencing over the past few years. This trend is expected to continue, and AFCEA looks forward to small businesses continuing to be the growth area of corporate membership.

As you may have heard, the AFCEA International Board of Directors recently approved an increase in the annual dues for corporate sponsors. This should not have come as a surprise, considering the fact that corporate sponsorship dues have not changed since 1989. During that time, the cost of doing business—as measured by the consumer price index—has increased by more than 38 percent. AFCEA has implemented effective cost containment and revenue enhancement measures, but these have not been enough to stem the tide of increasing costs.

The association also is taking the opportunity to implement several long-overdue improvements in the dues structure. First, of course, the dues needed to be raised sufficiently to preclude another dues increase in the near term. Second, AFCEA International is providing an economic incentive for corporate sponsors to renew their sponsorships in a timely manner. Finally, the association is providing the option of multiyear corporate sponsorships to reduce the administrative processing time and costs associated with annual dues payment, both for corporate sponsors as well as for AFCEA.

The resulting dues structure is significantly different than the AFCEA dues structure in the past, and all the details have been sent to the association’s corporate sponsors. This change in dues structure is a necessary step for the association to provide the best possible value to its members.

AFCEA International continues to provide a unique ethical forum for frank and open discussion of issues among governments and industry. Access to and participation in that forum are most valuable benefits to our corporate members. But in addition to that fundamental benefit, there are other long-standing benefits.

For example, when corporate sponsors exhibit at an AFCEA International event, they receive a discount on the price of their exhibit space as well as special priority in selecting the location of that space in the exhibit area. Another example is the narrative description of products and services that each corporate sponsor may include in SIGNAL Magazine when the company first becomes a member. These listings also appear annually in the January “Source Book” issue of SIGNAL.

AFCEA International also is continually on the lookout for new and valuable benefits for its corporate members. For example, epipeline, a relatively new member of AFCEA, recently has offered a significantly discounted subscription price to AFCEA corporate members. This company provides a comprehensive online service dedicated to streamlining the process of developing business with the government. This discount could be of great value to many corporate sponsors because the service is designed to enhance and automate business development activities within companies of all sizes that are involved in federal procurement.

These benefits, however, are only the icing on the cake. The fundamental benefit is the opportunity AFCEA provides its members for developing and maintaining professional relationships with other members of government and industry as they meet to exchange ideas and technical information. This is the association’s hallmark, and it defines its unique position in the world.