Steve Bova, CAE, has been an association management professional for 18 years, but he has the same intellectual curiosity as in his student days at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Association management isn't just his profession, it's his passion. Binders on every subject from membership recruiting to association law fill a closet at his home in Naperville, Ill. He and his staff at SmithBucklin, a Chicago-based association management company, took the helm of ICPA in May 2004. In the whirlwind of activity that followed, Bova guided the ICPA Board in the development of a three-year strategic plan. At the time of this interview, ICPA members were voting on bylaws that would change the name of the association to Financial & Insurance Conference Planners.

What was your first priority as ICPA executive director?

Getting to know members and Hospitality Partners. Beginning with the 2003 Educational Forum in Washington, D.C., at least one staff member has attended all ICPA regional meetings as well as the national meetings. We know that relationships are what makes ICPA unique. It was important for us to be really visible from day one.

Talk about ICPA's strategic plan.

In January 2005 we brought together industry thought-leaders to talk about the future of ICPA. Out of that came four priorities: membership, sponsorship, education, and rebranding. Two new committees were formed, on education and on sponsorship. Our goal, from the association's perspective, is to create a seamless transition embracing planners from financial services companies and planners from insurance companies. We're hearing a need for stronger education from everyone. We also want to create more programs for HP sponsors, not necessarily related to the annual meeting. In terms of membership, we want to grow it to a reasonable point but our goal is not to become as large as MPI. We're not really targeting a number.

Why did you ask members to vote on a slate of bylaws changes?

The new bylaws address many issues. Among them is the name change to FICP. Another is the incorporation of the association in the State of Illinois. Third, the definition of active membership has been more broadly defined. Fourth, the new bylaws state that HPs are part of the organization. Fifth, we're proposing a change in the Board of Directors election process that would create a nonboard nominating committee, chaired by the VP of membership, that would recommend future Board candidates.

What does ICPA need to do to thrive in the future?

The first priority of any association is to ensure that its business model continues to be viable. We must meet the educational and networking needs of our members, who live in an industry that is constantly changing. Our goal is to keep the same culture everyone has known and appreciated, but position the association differently within the financial services market. We thrive by continuing to be relevant.