Ask any business what it’s key objectives are and profitability will feature at the top of their wish list. While phrases such as engagement and employer branding are receiving increased recognition, these are immaterial if an organisation is running at a loss.
The same rules apply to associations. Even though the majority are non-profit, set up to support a particular profession, revenue is still a top priority in order to provide value to its members.
Until recently, membership dues – or fees – have been the primary revenue source for associations. However, in the current climate many are struggling to attract and retain members and, as a result, less money is coming in. Less money, leads to a reduction in services offered, which means fewer members… and so it goes on.
There are ways to break this vicious circle – the key is to find ways of creating non-dues revenue. While this isn’t a new concept, it has never been more critical to the survival of membership associations.
There are two types of non-dues revenue – income earned from advertisers and retailers interested in reaching your community; and money made from charging members additional fees for events, training, publications, branded merchandise and more. The added bonus with the latter is you also increase your relevance to your member by offering them a range of exclusive services.
Let’s take a closer look at how your association can drive non-dues revenue, without detracting from your brand integrity.
Most people join an association to be informed, educated and supported as they progress in their career. The key things you have to find out are: what information do they need and how do they want to get it? People will pay a premium for the right content.
Offer educational webinars as a freebie to members, and for a fee to those outside your association. In addition to being a potential source of revenue, webinars can position you as thought leaders within your industry – thereby offering greater value to your members and attracting new ones. It's also worth remembering that many companies will pay to sponsor good content so why not offer this as an option?
According to the 2013 Association Publishing Survey, 88% of associations consider publications to be an important source of revenue. A quality, free magazine delivered to members’ doormats is a great added service. You can charge a subscription to non-members. You can cover the costs of your magazines and printed material by selling ad space.
Produce material, such as online courses, videos or podcasts, which will help professionals in your field learn remotely. They not only have monetary value, but will also reinforce your association’s value to its members.
Career Centres and training
Creating an online career centre will position your association as the trusted source for professional development, ensuring you stay relevant in your industry. It’s also a great opportunity to boost revenue by charging organisations to advertise their jobs and courses on your website.
Madgex recently launched the Career Centre, which is a complete solution for association members, combining the latest job board technology, with information on courses and industry events.
Significant revenue can be created by holding conferences, workshops, seminars, breakfast meetings and more.
Events and conferences are the perfect place for vendors and suppliers to connect with your members. You can either sell them exhibition space so they can meet and greet, or offer a range of sponsorship packages including signs and banners, advertising in conference programmes, sponsoring seminars etc.
- Sponsorship - This is a major source of income for most events and also means you can keep the costs down for your members.
- Admission fees - Even if costs are covered by sponsorship deals, you can charge for admission if you attract the right speakers. Offer discounts to members to make them feel valued.
- Virtual tickets - Boost attendance and broaden your event’s reach by providing a selection of seminars online. If content is then shared via social media you will access an even wider audience. It’s also a great source of passive income, as sessions can be available throughout the year.
- Engage with members - Events aren’t just about driving revenue, they also provide the perfect opportunity to connect with your members, reach out to potential new recruits and promote your brand.
Sponsorship and Advertising
In addition to these services, advertising and sponsorship are a savvy way to bring in extra revenue. Your members are highly-skilled professionals, and businesses are willing to pay a premium to access them. Make sure you approach companies are relevant to your members and that fit with your association's values.
- Banner advertising - Your website is your calling card, so choose advertisers carefully and limit the amount of space you sell so they don’t detract from your own content. Banners can also be used on e-newsletters.
- Promotional flyers - If you send out welcome or renewal letters to members, or any other marketing material, advertisers can include flyers, brochures and leaflets about their company.
- Awards and scholarships - You can charge a premium in return for company-branded honours.
- Social media posts - This can be very effective, but tread carefully to avoid alienating your followers. Make sure sponsored posts align with your message.
- Discounts and savings - Negotiate special discounts for your members, with relevant suppliers – from life insurance to your weekly shop. Depending on the type of vendor partnership you create, your association will earn fees for referrals, a percentage of sales, or revenue from advertising.
If you are a professional association and would like to find out how Madgex can help you provide greater value to your members then please get in touch.