Before You Relocate Your Organization’s Headquarters, Bring Your Mission Into Your Move Strategy

Looking to move across state lines? Regardless of why you’re considering relocating, rooting the decision in your broader mission will set you up for success.

In an era when the workplace is becoming increasingly hybrid, you might want to change the location of your headquarters. You may even want to change states.

But what kind of decision-making should go into a call like that? We took a look at a number of associations that have moved over the past decade—some for reasons related to the pandemic, some not. What we found: Whatever decision you make about relocating, your reasons need to sync with your organization’s mission and overall goals.

Below, learn about the decision-making processes a number of associations used as they considered big moves, whether outside of the District or to another state entirely.

American Tinnitus Association

Where it moved: Washington, DC, area

When it moved: December 2017

Why it moved: Lower rent, desire to be near Congress and federal agencies

The association, which had spent nearly 50 years based in Portland, Oregon, had wanted to increase its advocacy efforts around funding for tinnitus research but was somewhat stymied by not having a direct presence in Washington.

As Associations Now reported in 2017, ATA Executive Director Torryn Brazell, CAE, had long considered moving—a possibility enabled by a staff that was largely remote. But it was the significant cost savings that may have tipped the scale. The expensive Portland area had a “white-hot office rental market, becoming even more prohibitively expensive as months ticked by,” Brazell said, and the numbers showed that the move would save the group $50,000 annually.

In an email exchange five years after the move, Brazell noted that many of the moves the association made in 2017 anticipated the larger shifts triggered by COVID-19. When the organization moved to DC, it created a collaborative space that allowed remote employees to come in as needed.

“We were fortunate in that we weren’t saddled with a large unused office space and unexpected expenditures for setting up home offices,” she said.

She noted that the organization recommended its staff members buy supplies ahead of a possible pandemic in February 2020.

“As someone who closely follows global trends and technology, I was relieved that the choices we made in 2017 shielded us from much of the financial upheaval of the pandemic, and enabled staff to work safely and continue to meet the needs of the tinnitus community,” she wrote.

National Club Association

Where it moved: Alexandria, Virginia

When it moved: March 2022

Why it moved: Work-life balance, mixed with a desire to be close to DC

The National Club Association, which represents the country’s private club industry, has long had a presence in Washington. But the pandemic revealed a need to emphasize work-life balance among its team—and by moving offices outside of Washington into Alexandria, Virginia, the organization aims to better strike that balance. Choosing Virginia as the new headquarters allowed the team to still be close enough to the action that in-person advocacy is an option.

“When the pandemic first hit, our employees began to work from home, both for their personal safety and so they could better balance family responsibilities with work,” then NCA President and CEO Henry Wallmeyer said in a news release. “The response was extraordinary, with the team more motivated than ever to serve our members and the private club community, and we’ve embraced work-from-home.”

National Kitchen & Bath Association

Where it moved: Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

When it moved: February 2022

Why it moved: Downsizing based on employee need

NKBA, which was previously based in New Jersey, moved to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, earlier this year. The organization’s CEO, Bill Darcy, cited a desire for a simpler, more collaborative space as encouraging the shift.

“When we thought about how quickly our world has changed in the last two years, the shift to a work-from-home mentality, the rapid embrace of everything digital and the emphasis on flexible space, I have to say a light bulb went off,” Darcy said, according to a news release. “We looked at our building and recognized that we didn’t need that type of space anymore … and discovered along the way that we needed to change how and where we operated to fit the new paradigm.”

Freedom Forum

Where it moved: Laurel, Maryland (for now)

When it moved: Early 2020

Why it moved: Shifting business model, temporary pandemic measures

The Freedom Forum, a pro-First Amendment organization, is famously known for the Newseum, a journalism-themed museum located within walking distance of all three branches of government. However impressive the symbolism was, the costly building dragged down the organization’s finances, leading it to shutter the museum and move to Maryland.

While the forum is based outside of the District at the moment, it does have plans to move back within the city’s limits. As explained in a blog post last fall, it chose to take its staff remote as a result of the pandemic, while maintaining a Maryland location that was previously used as a support building for the Newseum. The organization is working on a new headquarters to open later this year to a location that’s still within shouting (if not walking) distance of the National Mall.

International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions

Where it moved: Orlando, Florida

When it moved: 2017

Why it moved: Desire to be closer to important members, proximity to potential future employees

While many of the organizations on this list have accounted for a desire to be near the halls of political power, the equation was a bit different for IAAPA, which represents the $42 billion amusement park industry.

Washington is not known for its water parks, but Orlando is. And the association happened to already run its annual meeting, the IAAPA Attractions Expo, in the Florida city. But simply having a presence near Disney World and Universal Studios wasn’t the only factor driving the move, according to TSNN—from a recruiting standpoint it made sense too, as it put the association closer to employees who know the sector.

(Liudmila Chernetska/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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