The Buy Local Fair is an annual event put on by the Louisville Independent Business Alliance. | Courtesy of LIBA

For the first time since it was founded in 2005, the Louisville Independent Business Alliance has taken a look at where the organization wants to be five years into the future.

In its first strategic plan, LIBA leaders have laid out goals and set marks for membership and budget growth, diversity and small business advocacy. The organization’s 11-member board approved the strategic plan in June.

“It’s something we have been wanting to do for a while,” said Jennifer Rubenstein, LIBA’s executive director. The organization leadership wants “to make purposeful decisions about where we want to spend our limited staff time and volunteer time.”

Rubenstein told Insider that the organization had enjoyed steady growth in its membership year-over-year, but LIBA wants to focus more on building up a diverse group of members in terms of the type of businesses. As of June 2017, 46 percent of LIBA’s more than 900 members are in service-related industries, and 66 percent are business-to-consumer companies.

LIBA also would like to increase membership among businesses in neighborhoods in south and west Louisville, where it has fewer members than other neighborhoods, Rubenstein said. The organization will make efforts to reach out to businesses in those areas, she added, noting that LIBA otherwise hopes to continue growing members organically.

“We feel like if we continue to do the right thing for our current members, we will keep those members and gain new membership,” Rubenstein said.

The chart shows the organization’s steady membership growth. | Courtesy of LIBA

LIBA’s strategic plan includes a goal of having a 90 percent membership retention rate by offering various services, such as two put forth in the master plan: creating an educational conference for members to network and gain tools that will help their businesses, and becoming more of an advocate for small businesses in media and government.

Rubenstein couldn’t provide more specifics about the organization’s future advocacy because they are still trying to define exactly what that will be for LIBA.

“We just know this is an area we want to explore more,” she said, adding that they won’t go as far as to hire a lobbyist. “We want to be sure that our lawmakers are educated why buying local is important so when they are making decisions that is in the background.”

LIBA also will continue to work to educate people in general on what buying local means through targeted advertising to specific neighborhoods, civic groups and institutions, as well as conduct an annual consumer survey to gauge awareness of LIBA and the “buy local” movement.

LIBA must better “harness” the power of its members to spread the message as well, she said.

“I am really excited about our membership engagement aspect of it,” Rubenstein said. “We could always be doing more to capitalize on that because these are members who are passionate about the ‘buy local’ movement.”

In the next several years, you won’t need to be a local business owner to become a member either. LIBA plans to launch “Buy Local Besties” memberships, which will allow people to support the organization and receive special perks throughout the year.

Jennifer Rubenstein | Courtesy of LIBA

“The ‘buy local’ message isn’t just about buying local, but it’s also about how buying local affects our community overall,” Rubenstein said.

According to a 2012 study, 67 percent of the dollars spent at locally owned businesses in Louisville is recirculated in the city in some way, versus 30 percent of the dollars spent at chains.

The addition of the “Buy Local Besties” and increasing business membership will help LIBA reach another goal of doubling its budget by 2021. The organization’s current budget is $300,000.

LIBA also wants to start its own 501(c)3 nonprofit, which will allow the organization to accept donations and open it up to grants that it’s not currently eligible for, potentially boosting its top line.