ACFO is launching a range of initiatives to help boost its membership and build on the value and services it provides to members.
Key to its recruitment drive is a new marketing group which will look at how the trade association can move forward.
ACFO members Gordon Lister, Julie Boyd, Nigel Grainger and Richard Baird met for the first time this month, and ACFO chairman Julie Jenner is confident they can turn the tide on dwindling membership.
“Their core purpose is to attract more fleet operators into the membership of ACFO,” explained Jenner. “Secondary to that, will be to think about enhancing the level of benefits and services we offer to current members.”
Jenner admits the trade association, which was formed in 1970, is failing to connect with large swathes of businesses involved in running cars and vans.
She said: “We need to make people aware of why ACFO is relevant to them and the job they do, because whatever we’re doing we’re not managing to get our message out there.”
Membership of the UK’s largest body representing the interests of businesses which operate cars and vans has been falling in recent years.
It’s currently around 650-strong, but with thousands more involved in fleet management, Jenner recognises considerable untapped potential.
She said: “It’s important that we are recognised as being the voice of the industry. We’ve got an excellent working relationship with HMRC, the Treasury, the DfT and the BVRLA, which importantly enables us to understand and unravel their policies and procedures. But it’s also helped us to influence policy, especially where advisory fuel rates were concerned.
“We were able to translate the concerns of our members, present them to the relevant people and ensure changes were made for the benefit of the industry.”
ACFO was credited with a change in the way advisory fuel rates were calculated and how often they were reviewed after HMRC announced a new formula and format in June. But it’s also the day-to-day benefits of ACFO membership that Jenner wants to publicise to a wider audience.
She said: “It’s somewhere where you can go to pick up tips and advice. Our regional meetings provide people with a great networking opportunity, while our free annual fleet conference is one of the biggest in the country.
“There is also a wealth of information members can tap into, with literature, presentations and our own document guides all available on the website.”
ACFO’s website was last updated in 2009 when the not-for-profit organisation was given a further revenue stream through online advertisers.
However, it will also be refreshed with greater functionality and streamlining of information to give members an even better resource.
Regional meetings will also come under the spotlight, as ACFO looks at how its nine regions are served and if there’s anything they can do to improve them.
“It’s important we look at everything we do and what we’ve done in the past, which proved successful,” explained Jenner. “For example, I want to look at providing seminars again for our members.”
ACFO’s last seminar was held in 2009 when there was Government reform of capital allowances. “We held two seminars where we brought together a group of specialists to unravel and understand what the reforms were all about,” she said. “They were a complete success; the feedback was brilliant and they’re the kind of additional benefits I want to offer members.”
The aim is to reintroduce a programme of seminars from 2012, with at least two each year.
ACFO has recognised the success of recent guides issued on licence checking and journey planning, with further publications planned for the future.
Last year’s ‘ACFO Best Practice Guide to Employee Driving Document Checking’, was requested by more than 3,000 non-ACFO members, while its recent publication ‘From A to B: The ACFO Guide to Journey Planning’ is proving equally popular.
Meanwhile, its newsfeed – a weekly roundup of industry news emailed to members – is also destined for a makeover.
The new-look report, which members will receive on October 7, will be presented in a more up-to-date format, similar to an ezine, while providing an opportunity for advertisers and a further revenue stream for the organisation.
“There’s a lot to do, but there’s also a real opportunity to improve ACFO for our existing membership, while making it relevant to those new members we want to attract,” said Jenner. “It’s an exciting time and I hope it will generate a greater interest in what we do.”
For further information about ACFO, its regional meetings and how to become a member, visit www.acfo.org.