21 May 2024

Recentering NACA's Role in Business

Developing members & environments eager to do business.

The 2022-2025 Strategic Plan outlined several business-related priorities for the Association to examine and make determinations about NACA’s role in facilitating business relationships and transactions, and how to best align resources to match member needs.

The Board of Directors, staff, and volunteer groups have engaged in many conversations, surveys, and focus groups with members across the organization over the last few years.

The Association has learned:

  • How schools book acts and services has significantly changed both in terms of what they are interested in booking as well as how and when those decisions are being made.
  • Students increasingly want to engage more of their peers before making purchasing or booking decisions so are less inclined to make on-site or impulse decisions during conferences. Students are more time conscious and are less inclined to be away from their campus for multi-day conference experiences.
  • More and more campuses have implemented restrictive processes that limit a conference attendee’s ability to enter contract conversations until after extensive review from in-house legal/risk management, fiscal, and/or facilities departments.
  • Campuses continue to experience budget reductions in programming and professional development/travel which impacts the number of individuals from one campus that might attend an event. Institutions that used to be able to fund all or most of a programming board to attend an event may now only be able to fund a portion of that board to attend.
  • Members are increasingly weighing the opportunity costs of participating in the formal Block Booking process versus the potential savings as many campuses prefer following up directly with associates instead of expending time and energy on forms and meetings.
  • Seasoned campus staff, who had the most Campus Activities and Association institutional knowledge, have left higher education in historic numbers as higher education has seen an unprecedented exodus of campus administrators.
  • Business is difficult to define, and everyone determines their return on investment from conferences differently. While a few associates define business purely as on-site contracts secured and Block Booking forms submitted, many more have developed a more expansive and inclusive definition incorporating relationships formed, leads generated, and conversations had with staff and students, in addition to contracts signed and forms submitted.
  • A number of associate members do not participate in the Block Booking processes, and as the diversity of the products/services offered by members has grown in recent years, many of these products/services are not served by the current process as it was built to primarily serve live entertainment.
  • Associates are creating their own multi-campus booking processes/deals to support their acts/services.
  • Block Booking relies heavily on economies of scale and in-person collaboration. When campuses are unable to commit to future bookings on-site or are unable to make decisions within the conference timeframe, having enough schools located near each other at a specific event to meet the criteria to form a block becomes increasingly challenging and unrealistic.
  • The memories of Block Booking operating in its best years have inadvertently created unrealistic and impractical expectations of booking success and savings that no longer match current realities or booking practices.
  • School, associate, and affiliate members expect the Association to continually evolve its services and offerings to meet the needs of today’s members while also anticipating the needs for tomorrow.

The Future of Business

As a result of this extensive review, the Board of Directors reaffirms that supporting business relationships between members is and will remain core to NACA’s identity and a priority for the Association but will evolve certain business processes to meet the needs of its members into the future.

The Association will:

  • Provide education, training, resources, and data to best prepare members to do business, improve professional competencies, and be knowledgeable about industry trends, programming best practices, and emerging topics.
  • Foster opportunities, spaces, and platforms for business connections to occur both in-person and virtually.
  • Allocate resources to provide opportunities for members to collaborate, network, and share information that helps associates maximize business and help school members easily find acts, services, and solutions while saving money.
  • Honor our founding purpose of bringing schools and entertainment together for mutual benefit and programming collaboration but will sunset the Block Booking process by eliminating the complicated levels of interest/commitment forms and the calling of Block Booking meetings at conferences.
  • Make improvements to NACA 24/7. This online Campus Activities database will continue to be the go-to platform for searching directories, sourcing programming, submitting and responding to calls for acts/services, expressing and reviewing geographical interest and contract requests, but the platform will shed the Block Booking commitment levels/forms.

The Board of Directors believes the Association’s time, energy, and resources can best serve the industry by focusing more on educating and preparing members to do business wholistically, rather than supporting the formalized processes of Block Booking.

What's Next?

NACA will help center an environment that is more eager to do business. As NACA furthers a less formalized process that’s more approachable, we will increase our efforts with education, engagement, and technology to better prepare both school and associate members to foster better relationships and create business connections.

Several new business-related initiatives have been underway the last few years and will be bolstered moving forward. Some of those initiatives have included:

  • Business-focused education sessions integrated into all NACA conferences.
  • Training for both school and associate members on NACA 24/7 platform.
  • Surveys to source data about industry buying trends and interests.
  • Spaces to collaborate on programming and calendaring, and for associates to better connect one-on-one with schools.
  • Webinars, panels, and chats on the higher education industry, DEIA, booking trends, business processes and best practices.
  • Increased volunteer and staff support for new member onboarding, resource development, and professional development related to business best practices.
  • Vehicles for advertising and sponsorship to better position associate members’ acts and services to potential clients.

NACA 24/7 will still be the go-to platform for searching directories, sourcing, submitting calls for acts/services, expressing interest, and reviewing nearby interest from schools, but will shed the commitment levels and forms. New tutorials, resources, and training will be developed and deployed as changes are finalized with the NACA 24/7 platform. The Association’s goal is to roll out the improvements this fall prior to the start of the 2024-25 conference season.

I'm a School Member. What Does This Mean for Me?

  • Less focus on submitting interest and commitment forms (SI, SD, CB, 3 of 5, 5 of 7) and participating in formal meetings during conferences.
  • Spend less time navigating Block Booking forms and processes and more time engaging with exhibitors and vendors on solutions to your needs.
  • More time sourcing what you need. 
  • Ability to directly contract when and within the price range that fits your school. 
  • Ability to leverage system-wide or nearby schools for a multi-campus promotional price. 
  • You can still express interest through the NACA 24/7 platform, connect with peer institutions on similar programming needs, get notified of nearby schools’ interests/contracted dates, but follow-up with vendors how you want to do so.
  • More educational opportunities to learn how to determine programming needs, source solutions, develop soft skills and competencies, and book acts and services with associate members. 
  • For those attending conferences:
    • New educational sessions and scheduled items that incorporate more collaboration, program calendaring, action planning, networking, and business-related sessions with fellow schools and associate members. 
    • School members can still expect to utilize NACA to save money through conference special pricing and deals within a 45-day window of an event.
    • Updated resources to assist navigating business at events like the Business Road Map to Engagement, Advisor Guide, and ROI Toolkit to chart out your conference experience and determine your programming needs and budget.
    • New spaces to collaborate with peers on programming needs and engage associates outside of the Marketplace and Block Booking meetings.
    • More accessible and tailored volunteer support for members doing business.
  • NACA 24/7 will still be the go-to platform for searching, sourcing, submitting calls for acts and services, expressing interest, and reviewing nearby interest from schools, but will shed the commitment levels and forms.

I'm an Associate Member. What Does This Mean for Me?

  • New spaces and channels at in-person events to collaborate and network with school attendees outside of the Marketplace and Block Booking meetings to leverage associate member expertise and industry knowledge.
  • Less focus on reviewing interest and commitment forms and participating in Block Booking meetings during conferences.
  • Removing Block Booking pricing and discounts from future showcase application forms and program books. More time promoting conference special pricing, multi-campus pricing model, and client development. 
  • New opportunities to highlight incentives for on-site bookings and/or conference attendee-only rates.
  • New opportunities to highlight multi-campus commitments. This may be a system-wide or radius approach.
  • More educational opportunities on higher education, students, booking trends, and conducting business operations.
  • New opportunities to advertise and promote acts and services.
  • Utilizing NACA 24/7’s school directory and interest mapping capabilities to generate sales leads and bookings to assist with artist routing.

Upcoming Webinars

For those who would like to learn more about how the Association will recenter its role in business as it continues to support business relationships and evolve business processes to meet the needs of members into the future, the Board of Directors will be hosting a couple webinars to review these strategic plan updates:

  • For School Members – Fri., May 24 at Noon ET
  • For Associate & Affiliate Members – Fri., May 24 at 1:30 p.m. ET


We appreciate your patience and understanding as this is a significant change for the Association and will take time to implement both internally and externally.

While we don’t have all the mechanics finalized, we value transparency and wanted to begin the conversation with members on these efforts to make business more approachable, simple, and easier than ever before.

The Association will be working throughout the summer and fall to reduce barriers, foster more connections, and make business more approachable; ultimately easier to understand for both school and associate members. Look for further information and updates later this year as we further our vision to create college communities where everyone belongs.

Courtney James
Chair, Board of Directors

Amber Shaverdi Huston, CAE
Executive Director