The Institute of Directors is preparing for a shake-up after a sixth year of sliding membership that drove it into the red.
The 110-year-old business organisation, based in Grade I listed premises on Pall Mall, is trying to broaden its appeal by wooing entrepreneurs to join and by exporting its skills in training bosses of the future.
The IoD has lost a third of its members since 2006, reporting a fall of 1,800 last year that takes its total base below 36,000. Spending on corporate memberships was cut in the financial crisis, and the members have yet to return.
The body, which speaks up for directors' interests and promotes good corporate governance and training with its chartered director qualification, last year made a £38,000 loss after tax. Its figures would have been worse if not for one-off Olympic events. The organisation hosted the Slovakian Olympic Association and Visa International during last summer's Games and also reported an upswing in its offices being used as a wedding venue. Simon Walker, director general, flagged "significant challenges" in the organisation's annual report. "Like other voluntary organisations, membership numbers have declined since the financial crisis began," he wrote. "We need to broaden our member base, enabling those who are beginning their business careers as well as those who have succeeded. We must attract a more diverse membership, including more women and younger entrepreneurs, including those starting up new businesses."
Membership income makes up 40 per cent of the IoD's turnover, with the rest coming from catering, training courses and its business centres.
It has faced stiff competition in recent years from employers' group the CBI, which has styled itself as the "voice of business", and has grabbed much of the campaigning limelight.
The IoD will draw down funds from its reserves to fund the recruitment drive. It has cash and investments of £15m.
Mr Walkersaid the IoD last month recorded membership growth for the first time in six years.He added: "It will take several years for this strategy to be fully implemented but I am confident the blend of tradition and opportunities for cutting-edge business development will ensure the Institute of Directors is as relevant in the future as it has been in the past."