I can't believe that my term as FICP president is winding down and the gavel will soon be passed on to my friend and colleague, Sharon Chapman. Three years have gone by like the blink of an eye. These years have been pivotal for our association, beginning with the relocation of FICP (then ICPA) headquarters to Chicago. I believe that we are in a much better position now, in strong part because of this move, than we would have been without this change.

In January 2005, the board of directors met to develop strategic initiatives addressing our near- and long-term goals. We've made significant progress toward the realization of these initiatives and continue to actively stay the course.

Branding: In addition to renaming the association, we continue to focus on specific goals tied to this initiative. At our 2006 annual meeting in Las Vegas, we will be unveiling a new and improved Web site. Cindy Wheaton, VP communications, and a committee composed of association members, hospitality partners, and technology professionals have been working to create an updated look, increased knowledge bank, and important networking tools.

Membership: Under the leadership of Lynne Schueler, VP membership, and with the tremendous assistance of Jennifer Harmon, membership coordinator, we have had positive results within our membership initiatives. We ended 2005 with 457 active members, an increase of approximately 16 percent over 2004. We expect 2006 to end with another increase in membership. We are well on our way to meeting our 2007 target of 500 planner members, with 50 percent participation in the annual meeting. As well, a membership committee has been formed to discuss such items as member/hospitality partner qualification criteria, recruitment plan, database migration, profile revisions, and several other pertinent items. And we have recently distributed a new and improved association directory that includes not only our planner members but a complete listing of our hospitality partners

Education: Under the leadership of Karyn Rizzo, VP education, and the program design team, we achieved our goal to deliver quality education designed for all levels of planner experience at this year's FICP Educational Forum. We offered additional education opportunities through online seminars introduced in 2005 and an educational cruise that was offered in 2006. We continue to strengthen our chapter governance and will soon be introducing recommended guidelines for chapter leadership. With guidance from Paul Eder, VP finance, who has also taken on the role of chapter liaison, and the help of Jennifer Harmon, we look forward to providing you with improved chapter offerings, a more consistent chapter operating model, and additional chapter opportunities as we move forward. And don't miss the news on the next page about the annual meeting in Las Vegas! Steve Clark and his design team are in the process of designing a conference that will raise the bar for future annuals.

Sponsorship: Patricia Kerr, VP sponsorship, and the sponsorship committee presented and received approval for a completely revised sponsorship model at the board meeting in April. The new model will be phased in with the implementation of a revised sponsorship grid in 2006 and chain allotment/selection process modifications in 2007. The new system more fairly rewards those who support the association. We will continue to be diligent in posting opportunities and will have this information available to potential sponsors sooner than has been done in the past.

Research: Measuring the economic impact of our meetings is crucial to the success of meeting planning professionals and hospitality industry supplier partners — all of whom wish to validate the value of financial and insurance meetings. Consequently, FICP is introducing a periodic “Economic Impact Study” of its membership to paint a comprehensive picture of our important niche. We look forward to revealing the results of this survey at this year's annual meeting in Las Vegas.

It's been a tremendous amount of work but also extremely rewarding for me to serve on the board over the last three years and as your president this past year. I sincerely appreciate the support that I've been given. I am forever indebted to the many volunteers, association staff, and friends and family for your guidance, support, and passion for all that makes this association great. I look forward to my final year on the board continuing to serve our members and hospitality partners. In the January/February issue of Financial & Insurance Meetings magazine, I was quoted as saying that, “a year from taking over as president… most of all, I'd be happy if people say that I made a difference in the association and that FICP is stronger than a year ago.” If you agree that this is truly the case, then it's been worth every minute.

Best regards,
Michael S. Burke, CMP
FICP President