January 16, 2017

IOA Belt Tightening Means Fewer Meals at Annual Conference

A report from the International Ombudsman Association's Treasurer, Janet Hill, says that the organization will try to cut costs at the annual conference in Minneapolis.  Despite an expected surplus for 2016, trims to the conference budget mean the end of breakfasts and lunch on the last day.

Here's the full statement posted on the IOA website:
IOA Members:
As your Treasurer, I’m pleased to tell you that the budget for 2017 has been approved by the IOA board and this will be a busy year. If you are not active in IOA, you will certainly have every opportunity to become an active participant!
Although we expect to end 2016 with a surplus, which can be attributed to the ongoing professional development courses and a wonderful annual conference, as well as moderate membership growth, we do anticipate that 2017 will continue to present some financial challenges for IOA. There is much that the IOA Board has identified strategically in the areas of external outreach for IOA with strategic partnerships, a global marketing task force, legislative efforts and others that will help to grow this organization. All of these efforts take resources — both human and financial. The IOA Board has made some decisions to be conservative in some areas in order to grow other areas, and you will see some changes this year, starting at the conference.

We’ve learned that IOA spends substantially more on food at our conferences than other organizations of our size. Since the main focus of our conference is education, networking and knowledge sharing, we will be modifying our usual meals.
• Breakfast will be on your own, with nearby options (both in the hotel and outside the hotel) available to you.
• Coffee and tea will be provided by IOA throughout the conference.
• Lunch on the last day of the conference will be a dine — around networking event — small groups will sample nearby restaurants while discussing a variety of topics, at the participant’s own expense. Specific logistics will be described in future emails and sign-ups will take place on site at the conference.
• More information will be provided to conference registrants as details and logistics are finalized.
We look forward to seeing all of you and to making this 12th Annual Conference another huge win for IOA!

Lastly, I want to thank every person who contributed to the successes of 2016. IOA truly is an organization of volunteers. As I once read, “Volunteers don’t get paid – not because they are worthless, but because they are priceless!”
Best regards,
Janet HIll
Senior Manager and Ombudsman
Dispute Resolution Program - KBR
(IOA News.)

Related posts: IOA Annual Report: Association Builds on Strategic Plan in 2015; Call for IOA 2017 Conference Speakers; IOA Members Vote to Change Bylaws; IOA Seeks Nominations for International Conference Scholarships.


  1. This will limit the overall networking opportunities and ultimately send the conference into a death spiral.

  2. It's a good thing Linda Wilcox and Mary Rowe are retired. We would have an armed uprising (armed with knitting needles).
    -The Angry Ombuds

  3. I couldn't agree more. This will also possibly limit the attendees. Why not increase Registration fees to include ALL networking events? It seems that the attendees will be paying more and more out of pocket otherwise, because most per diems are very low. However the majority of companies or universities are willing to pay the Registration fees regardless. If the organization would not pay such expensive management fees, the membership would get more benefits for their money. Keep this in mind when voting for Board replacements! John Carter and Vicky Brown (prior Conference chairs) worked so hard to give the membership what they requested to make this conference a first class networking event. Now the slippery slope begins just to pay the ED and management company that have NOT lived up their end of the deal.

    1. This is ridiculous that IOA has allowed the management company to rob them only to pay themselves. If we cut out an important piece of the conference where attendees network – why bother to come. It sounds like the management company is driving IOA to the poor house and IOA is providing the gas. When will this change

  4. The decrease in number, size and clout of corporate programs is now recognized in a new way.

    Anyone eaten at an ABA or Compliance Conference lately?

    Tide has been ebbing for sometime.

    Wondering what IOA and each of us indivdually intend to do differently to try to create new programs that are "to code" in places out side academia and fed govt (recent growth) in places like health care, tech, financial services and others with upsides?

    John W. Zinsser

    1. In retrospect, does it seems that IOA has not had a strategy for growing the pie (there's some irony there) such that we'd see growth in those non-academia and gov't areas you mention? To the contrary, has IOA created an elite club with the Co-Op certification and idea of certified office (all but insuring opportunities for those already in the club)? IOA sinks or swims with growth of corporate OO offices.

  5. My question is: Did we get our money's worth (of food) and where is the money reallocated to? I find it hard to believe that a conference (full of mediators and negotiators) this size needs to cut FOUR meals to make ends meet. With several meals eliminated, prepare to say goodbye to the hors d'oeuvre (which is always scarce) at Sunday night reception and mini brownies at networking breaks.

    It's never about the muffins and bagels, but they create an environment for us to stay together. On that note, conference organisers are going to have fun times herding people to the morning keynotes......

  6. A food decision was made, and we'll be fine. Its not about the food, and the decision isn't catastrophic. The great majority of Ombuds are the utmost professionals and will make the most of every minute of the conference. This is one of the best weeks of the year when we get to be around our professional colleagues, learn from each other, recharge, and re-commit to the profession we love. Lets keep our focus on that.

  7. IOA has approximately 250 academic members and 91 corporate members, yet the Board sector representation is primarily corporate, which is unbalanced. The executive committee of the Board is making all the decisions with the assistance of the Over-Paid Management Company at the expense of the membership benefits. We are a unique organization and therefore elimination of opportunities for networking on an annual basis is an unfortunate decision. Many members will be mandated to pay more out of pocket expenses than necessary, if they attend the coonference.

  8. Nicholas Diehl1/21/2017 4:05 PM

    Dear Colleagues,
    I would like to share a few thoughts about this thread.

    First, I would like to start by recognizing that the work of IOA is done by volunteers. I think the Conference Committee has done an excellent job of pulling together a wonderful event with few resources for many years now. They should be commended for their work and accomplishments.

    I am not saying that suggestions or critiques are not appropriate, but I find it disturbing that people post harsh criticisms anonymously. I would suggest that if you are moved to comment and criticize, that you should also have the confidence to attach your name to those statements. I think a more likely "death spiral," as noted previously, is alienating the volunteers who work so hard for the association.

    I am not currently involved in the conference, but a number of years ago when I was the Assistant Treasurer I remember being completely shocked when I reviewed the hotel invoice detailing astronomical expenses at the annual conference. There may be merits to either funding meals or not, but I would imagine that many people would be astounded at how much their individual lunch or breakfast costs. I appreciate the challenging position of the Board, Finance Committee and Conference Committee in making difficult decisions to balance expenses and ensuring a positive experience.

    I think the questions about effectiveness of our current management company are valid. As someone who was involved in the selection process, I am disappointed by what appears to be a lack of strategic direction from Kellen. I can confidently say that IOA is not receiving what we were promised when we selected them among other association management companies. The support we receive continues to be more administrative rather than strategic. There is also clearly a factor of Kellen alienating IOA volunteers - I have raised some of these specific concerns both to Kellen directly and to the IOA Board.

    This may be a separate conversation from a discussion of funding food, but John Zinsser (thank you for being the only person to attach your name to your comments) rightly notes the difference between the stature of our field as compared to others. We need to work with our limited resources to build our influence to ensure that people in organizations can benefit from the important work that we do.

    I am looking forward to the conference in April and I hope that we can continue to focus on the big picture of our place in the world and how IOA can help make a positive difference.

    Nick Diehl

  9. I smell a revolucion brewing....

  10. Maybe we need a new Ombuds association. I've looked for one (could not find one) but for some time now I've been seriously considering leaving IOA for good.

  11. I hope we do not go to the conferences for the food, but for the learning and social interaction. I know many ombuds offices struggle with finances, but I think we can afford the pretty modest sums to buy our own snacks. We always bought our own dinner anyway, and no one will starve if they miss out on a cookie with their coffee. I only eat between meals at conferences anyway, so its actually better for my waistline anyway.
    I look for great speakers at IOA not the best cookies.

  12. While there are many excellent presentations at the IOA conference, there is precious little opportunity to meet new people during those sessions. The value of breakfast and other meals is NOT the nutritive value of the food; the value comes from chance meetings with other attendees. It is through such interactions over a muffin that I have net most of my IOA contacts. A conversation over coffee and a cookie leads to an exchange of numbers, perhaps getting together over dinner (as has happened with me), and conversations that lead to REAL connections with other attendees. If folks are scattering to Starbucks on their own, the greatest value of the conference -- growing networks -- is lost.

  13. IOA decision to eliminate conference breakfasts and dessert breaks under the guise of spending too much $ to feed our faces is shortsighted and ill-advised. Not only were both excellent networking opportunities, but greatly anticipated conference perks that distinguished us from most other professional gatherings. If this was so costly, IOA simply should have added $5, $10, $15, $20 to the registration fee. Just plain stupid from my perspective. It isn’t a big deal, but it is! We’re becoming just like NASPA and ACPA for those of us in higher education. It certainly removes one of the incentives for attending future conferences. Penny wise, pound foolish!