Associations and Money: How to Generate More Revenue in a Changing World

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For most associations, increasing revenue often comes down to increasing memberships or completely altering the way the organization operates by decreasing costs. While some changes will inevitably have to be made to keep up with a changing world, there are ways to increase revenue without completely reshaping your association.

While non-dues revenues are different from membership revenues, they shouldn’t be viewed as totally separate from one another. In fact, many of the best methods for increasing non-dues revenues also enhance memberships. By adding additional or improved revenue streams, members find more value, and the association benefits from a raised profile, increased membership, and more engaged members.

Consider the following options when looking to expand your association’s non-dues revenues. You might just find that everyone connected to your association will benefit from these changes.

An Event to Remember

For most associations, events represent the largest non-dues revenue generator. Between registration fees, exhibits and sponsorships, events can bring in a significant amount of revenue. Each of these elements can be improved with some carefully planned initiatives. By thinking creatively about conferences and other events, associations can increase traffic and registration, while providing better experiences for their members.

There are countless ways to improve these events. You can work on improving the event offerings, recruit better speakers, and design more useful and relevant workshops to make your events more attractive to attendees. With more and more conferences going online, this is a great opportunity to supercharge conferences with shorter and more creative online sessions.

One useful method that might accomplish several of your goals all at once is to better integrate sponsors so that they are not only sponsoring but also have an opportunity to share their subject matter expertise with members. Try to develop a mutually beneficial relationship with some sponsors in your industry by inviting them to join your event planning committee. They might be able to add value to your event and your attendees by adding creative elements that you may not have thought of. In turn, your events can offer more varied sponsorship packages, which can increase revenues in more ways than one.

Incorporate More Learning

Many associations incorporate continuing education as part of their offerings for members. There is room to supercharge learning opportunities that go beyond standard continuing educations courses. For example, you can offer special workshops or create training courses on industry-adjacent topics. You may also consider offering a special learning package to provide semi-regular training, such as learning labs where members can join cohorts to work on issues together. These new options may provide additional revenue without encroaching on the membership offerings.

Another creative way to generate more learning-related revenue is to offer live stream access to in-person workshops or event training. This will make it easier for members to attend training at events, while also increasing the headcount and involvement in these programs. Try connecting all attendees, those in-person and online, to allow for interaction between the two groups and enhance the experience for everyone involved. This can be done through an online forum or an integrated learning platform that offers both on-demand and live sessions.

Make Time for Non-Members

Associations that see non-members as an important part of the association are the ones that stand to benefit the most from this group of visitors. Every visitor to your association’s website should find some value there. While you want to make sure that the bulk of the content is available to members only, keep some things accessible in order to advertise what your association offers and help turn those visitors into members.

One option is to offer training courses that non-members can access for a small fee or even for free. While these should be as widely accessible as possible to make the largest impact, a one-time fee or free courses shouldn’t replace the need for getting a membership. This is just a simple way of increasing non-dues revenues, while also giving potential members a taste of what membership can bring.

Job Board Access

For many members, job opportunities represent one of the primary reasons why they joined an association in the first place. While job assistance and career development are often built into a standard membership, associations can offer different levels of support for additional fees. Consider, for example, offering enhanced job board access that provides maximized exposure of job postings and searches in addition to one-on-one coaching, mentoring and resume writing workshops. Consider partnering with employers as this can work for both employers and job-seekers looking to improve their odds of finding the right job or person.

Your association might also set up a special program for certain members whereby recommended opportunities are sent directly to them based on their preferences and payment plan. This program might also allow members to engage with the employer/applicant more thoroughly. They may gain access to more information about the posting, such as employer information or a more detailed job description.

Bolster your Online Store

For obvious reasons, an association’s online store presents one of the largest opportunities to increase non-dues revenue. While increasing the amount and quality of products and services offered in the store can drive profits, associations can generate more interest in the store by creating and selling season- or event-related goods and services. Furthermore, associations can package relevant products or combine past products with newer items or to create a renewed interest or give a second life to older goods.

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