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Past Presidents Disagree With Folding NY Club Into DMA

Two past presidents of the Direct Marketing Club of New York responded negatively to a statement from Vito Fortuna, president of the Direct Marketing Club of New York that supports the idea of having the club become a “chapter” of the Direct Marketing Association.

In a letter sent to DM News last week Fortuna said “the current make-up of the club does not represent a cross section of the direct marketing industry,” and that “critics against the club becoming a DMA Chapter stress the importance of remaining an independent organization, but they fail to provide any solutions to the clubs most pressing concern: the continual decline of the existing membership.” He also added that while networking is a significant benefit of membership in the DMCNY, “it can not be the sole reason for our existence. Our commitment to education, training and mentoring is equally as important. Membership in the DMA will not diminish our status or identity, but will enhance them just as independent Realtors have benefited by joining such organizations as Century 21 and Caldwell Banker.”

Ralph Stevens, managing partner of MKTG Services Inc. and past president of the DMCNY, is vehemently opposed to the statements.

“I am aghast at the statements he is making. I find them almost repugnant,” he said. “If Fortuna doesn't want to do the job, let him resign. Let him not sell us out to some other organization. Let somebody who wants to do the job take it over. He took on the presidency to run the club, not to see its dissolution.”

He said Fortuna “doesn't sound like he is willing to go the extra step to keep this club going and to come up with the concepts and ideas to make it work. None of his predecessors have ever [had] this need, desire or mandate…He's not doing his job, which is basically what this is about, and he's looking for a way out.”

Last week, Fortuna also told the DMA that on the advice of an attorney a full vote of the club's membership is not needed to become a chapter of the Direct Marketing Association. The DMCNY board will vote on the proposal tomorrow.

“I don't think they should take a vote on the 26th. I think they ought to hold off on that before every other possibility is explored,” Stevens said. “I think we ought to get an opinion from an outside attorney on this.”

Stevens said he wasn't even sure if the club could be handed over to another organization.

“I don't know whether that's either legal or appropriate,” he said. “I think it's immoral, quite frankly. You take 62 years of a club's history and all of a sudden a board decides that they are going to fold it? That doesn't make any sense. There's got to be something in the bylaws that would prevent that from happening or that would at least address that possibility.”

'The Club has had these problems and these difficulties for 62 years,” Stevens said. “Why, all of a sudden, after 62 years is [Fortuna], at this point in time, trying to get this done. Something doesn't smack quite right about this thing. Maybe he has a hidden agenda of some kind.”

Another past president JoAnne Monfradi Dunn, who is also an advisor to the club, said that turning the DMCNY into a DMA Chapter would be unfortunate.

“If I was a paying member and someone made this change without asking me, I would not like that,” said Dunn, the CEO of Alliant, Patterson, NY. “I'm not convinced that we have a legal responsibility to take this to the membership, but I feel very strongly that we have a moral and ethical responsibility on the board to take this to the membership.”

Dunn added: “I have an awful lot of regard for the DMA, however, I think the mission of the Direct Marketing Club of New York and the DMA are very different. The [DMCNY] is our local, grassroots opportunity to network, to have affordable education programs. They are just two different functions. And to blend them together would be a disservice to the metropolitan area direct marketers.”

Dunn also said that the “breadth of experience on this board is somewhat limited, and they have not had a lot of years to see the trending that happens in an organization like this, so when they are experiencing some falloff in membership and some financial challenges, they may want to join the DMA. However, every single local club across the country has experienced a fall-off in membership because of the economic climate, and this club has had struggles before and is going to have struggles again, but that doesn't mean you throw the baby out with the bathwater. That means you get the board to work to fix it.”

Stevens also took issue with Fortuna's statement that the current makeup of the club doesn't represent a cross-section of the DM industry.

“Well, the makeup of the club never did,” Stevens said. “It was a cross-section of the DM industry in New York. It is a New York club. That cross-section hasn't changed since almost [since] the days the club was founded. It is predominantly vendors, it always has been, and there is a smattering of mailers and advertisers” Stevens said that he doesn't know how joining the DMA would benefit the club.

“Every company who has a representative in the [DMCNY] is probably also a member of the DMA,” Stevens said.

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