IACCA’s origins began in the 1950’s when a group of church and YMCA administrators recognized the need to dialogue about the unique nature of nonprofit conference center management. They formed a loosely-organized group called the “Fellowship of Conference Center Administrators and Camp Managers”. Lead by an elected Chairman and Secretary/Treasurer, membership invitations were extended solely to Executive Directors and the group was limited to no more than 40 centers. Gathering once a year at the annual fall conference, their goal was to enjoy meaningful fellowship, share experiences and ideas, and learn keener methods regarding personnel policies, equipment replacement, and infrastructure financing.
Over time, conference center administrators faced a rapidly changing and increasingly complex social and regulatory business environment. Many members of the Fellowship thought a more formal and focused organization was warranted. In 1970, a task group was appointed to begin to reevaluate needs. The group met over the next five years and in true camp fashion sitting around a burning birch log fire in 1974, the concept of the International Association of Conference Center Administrators was born. IACCA’s evolution from Fellowship was completed in 1976 when a revised statement of purpose was adopted, the enrollment cap was lifted, and membership was opened to all.
The challenges came early as administrators felt pressure from the implementation of the Federal Wage and Hour Act. However, IACCA proved its merit. In a collaborative effort with the American Camping Association, IACCA secured the support of Senators Jesse Helms from North Carolina and Alan Cranston from California in the sponsorship of a bill that exempted nonprofit conference centers from the provisions of the aforementioned labor law. The bill passed unanimously in the Senate in 1977.
IACCA assumed a more formal programmatic approach as its membership increased and reflected each centers’ multi-layered management structure. The need for education amidst all conference center departments was apparent. Keynote presentations and in-depth workshops were offered at each annual fall conference. Soon after, a certification program customized for nonprofit conference center professionals was created.
Reflection on decades of history and tradition fuels excitement for a growing and evolving industry. IACCA is strongly poised to educate today’s new breed of conference center leaders. Our personal and professional backgrounds are diverse. Whether our profiles originate in camp, church or secular experiences, we all uniformly embrace the professional nuances unique to conference & retreat center management and the altruistic value that our centers' bring to the world.