As I end my term as Treasurer, I am pleased to report that our Association is in sound financial standing. The 2017 budget, adopted by the Board of Directors last November, projected a net loss (total revenue minus total expenses) of US $1.1 million, so that we could make strategic investments in benefits for our membership worldwide. We have outperformed on our budget, and we expect to end the year with a net loss of less than US $0.4 million.
We maintained a 91 percent membership retention rate in 2017, added 477 unique new member organizations, and now have 7,119 member organizations around the world. Our primary source of revenue continues to be our Annual Meeting, which consistently accounts for more than 50 percent of our gross revenue. When we prepared the 2017 budget, we assumed that attendance in Barcelona would be approximately 5 percent less than the actual attendance in Orlando. I am pleased to report that we exceeded that threshold and hosted more than 10,600 trademark professionals in May. As a result of the Membership Dues and Annual Meeting results, primarily, the Association’s gross revenue for 2017 is expected to be approximately US $22.2 million and US $0.5 million more than budget.
Our global footprint and outreach to members continues to grow. This year we held four conferences: an anticounterfeiting conference in Hong Kong; a Latin America conference in Cartagena, Colombia; the Brands and Fashion Conference in New York; and we will be hosting a Brands and Authenticity Conference in Berlin in December. Additionally, Free Trade Zone workshops have been held in Hong Kong, Dubai, and Cartagena. Late this year, we will launch a social media campaign for the Unreal Campaign in an effort to expand our reach to students globally. Earlier this year, we opened our Latin America Branch Office in Santiago, Chile. In addition, by the end of the year, we will have led delegations to India, Canada, Latin America, China, and other Asian jurisdictions, and we held our September Board Meeting in Brussels.
We continue to convey an important set of messages to our members, prospective members, and government agencies around the globe of our commitment to education, advocacy, and public policy in all regions. Our U.S.-based events continued to draw strong interest, as evidenced by the number of attendees at the Brands and Fashion Conference in March in New York, the TMAP Meeting in New Orleans in October, and at this Leadership Meeting, where we are hosting more than 1,400 volunteers.
Our Association’s staff continued to demonstrate their ability to manage operating expenses during 2017. The forecasted variance of total expenses vs. budget is less than one percent. The noteworthy year-over-year increase in expenses was a result of the Annual Meeting costs, which were higher in Barcelona than in Orlando, and the impact of our International Representative office expansion in Asia and Latin America.
As of September 30, the Reserve Fund balance was US $23.1 million, US $2.5 million more than when we met at this meeting one year ago. This is over 100 percent of our operating budget, consistent with our goal for the reserve. During 2017, the Finance Committee has been diligently monitoring and reviewing performance with our investment advisors at JPMorgan. There is an expectation that the overall portfolio will continue to move with the relevant market indices and marginally gain value in the near term.
2017 marks the final year of the 2014–2017 Strategic Plan. In implementing that strategic plan, the CEO and his management team developed a detailed roadmap to grow membership, enhance educational offerings through educational events and online resources, further extend public policy and advocacy around the globe, and develop staff core competencies, all to solidify our Association’s sustainability. The team is well on its way to accomplish this implementation.
The 2018 budget will be presented to the Board of Directors today as well. Membership retention is budgeted to be comparable to this year, and Membership revenue is budgeted to increase one percent. For conservative budgeting purposes, we are projecting Annual Meeting attendance in Seattle will be in line with prior U.S.-based meetings. In addition to the unique programming that will be provided in May, we have an ambitious offering of meetings and other programs scheduled around the globe throughout 2018, including programs in London, Sydney, and Dubai. Revenue from our other meetings, conferences, and programs next year is expected to generate US $2.6 million, an increase of almost 9 percent over this year’s forecast.
We have plans to expand our legal resources, and public policy and advocacy. INTA’s representative offices in Europe, China, and Asia-Pacific continue their advocacy, membership development, and communications. Our Latin American Office was opened in Santiago, Chile, during the second quarter this year. Our Washington, D.C., office will continue to enhance our presence and effectiveness in Washington, with the support of two staff members, supplemented by expert lobbying and consulting support. We continue to be well served by our consultants in Geneva and Delhi. Underlying all of these activities is the dedication to grow our membership base globally, and consistently enhance our member benefits.
The 2018 budget includes projects which will result in a net loss as a result of the full year impact of the Latin America Rep Office, new recruitment, and investment in technology.
2018 will be an important year for INTA as we execute the initial year of the Association’s 2018–2021 Strategic Plan. As Treasurer, it has been an honor to work with the officers, committee members, the general membership, the staff—especially the staff—and the Chief Executive Officer, and I am confident in the continuing progress of our Association.
Although every effort has been made to verify the accuracy of items in the INTA Bulletin, readers are urged to check independently on matters of specific concern or interest.
© 2017 International Trademark Association