Case Study: A new life for ESAE

Challenging Times for ESAE


The European Society of Association Executives (ESAE) is the voice of association leaders in Europe and a platform for senior-level association managers. Established more than 20 years ago to promote the association management profession, and to connect members, ESAE has long been a key voice for its community.

However, the reputation of the Society as an opinion leader and knowledge champion was no longer reflected in its membership numbers by 2015. Frequent changes in ESAE management – often by association management companies working pro bono – and a lack of volunteer engagement had made it difficult to provide professional services and real value to members.

Relaunching the Society


In autumn 2015, the DaVinci Institute Brussels agreed to take on the management and work towards a full relaunch ofEuropean Society of Association Executives. The DaVinci Institute Executive Director – Benita Lipps had already served on the ESAE board for several years and strongly believed in the society’s value and potential. Together with a new executive board team, a number of measures were agreed to give new life to ESAE:

  • a convincing value proposition for members
  • targeting the association management community beyond existing members
  • a striking visual identity and effective communication strategy
  • cutting all unnecessary costs and focussing on member benefits

Once these measures were implemented, new members and partners were to be actively sought.

Steps Towards a New Life


Over the last 6 months, DaVinci has worked closely with the ESAE board to implement this ambitious strategy.

Ensuring Financial Viability

As a first step, the Society’s expenditure was audited closely. Unnecessary office and service costs identified and contract cancelled. This resulted in monthly savings of more than €1.500. The savings were used to build a much-needed reserve and to ultimately reinvest in member services.

A new Face for ESAE

DaVinci asked its designers to develop a new visual identity based on the re-branding of ESAE as AssociationExecutives.EU. The website was redesigned from the ground up, reflecting this new design and the new member-centric approach. 90% of the texts were newly written by DaVinci’s editorial team, before approval by the ESAE board. Key social media streams such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter were added or re-designed.

Offering Real Value to Members

In close collaboration with the ESAE Events Committee, DaVinci established an annual calendar of events, using the Society’s signature format: peer2peer sessions. A newsletter was launched to provide regular updates to members and subscribers. A member-only section was created on the website and filled with exclusive content – curated by DaVinci experts. Members are now encouraged to contribute.

Connecting with the Community

New partnerships, exchanges and media collaborations were established to reach a broader community. Content from existing members and key association voices is now featured regularly on the ESAE channels.

First Results


While there is still much to do, first results can already be observed after six months:

  • 460% increase in ESAE newsletter subscribers – allowing the society to reach a much broader stakeholder group and attract new members
  • 50% increase in partenership- and sponsorship agreements
  • 32% increase in membership
  • 30% increase in ESAE event delegates
  • 22% increase in LinkedIn Group Members and – a daily presence on Facebook and Twitter attracting a growing number of followers

Due to a stronger physical and visual presence online and at association events, ESAE or ‘AssociationExecutives.EU’ has become a much more recognised brand in the sector.

Lessons Learned?

No two associations, networks or societies are alike and it requires a deep understanding of their mission, members and value proposition to create real change.  Meaningful, content-led partnerships with collaboration & networking experts like DaVinci may be harder to establish, but lead to better – and more sustainable – results.

Working with a trusted partner like DaVinci, who focusses on tailored, strategic development, can have a significant positive impact on an association in a surprisingly short amount of time. Rather than providing mere administration services, DaVinci helps its partners to realise their potential through strategic planning, joint implementation and deep content development.