If your association is like most associations, less than half of your annual revenue comes from membership dues. It’s likely that most of your association’s revenue comes from a variety of non-dues revenue sources, such as events, education, and sponsorships. You may, however, be overlooking revenue sources that are relatively easy to tap. We’ve brainstormed four of our favorite ideas for you.
First, take a few minutes and think about where your revenue comes from. Most likely it comes from three sources: members, non-members working in the industry, and vendors.
You may already offer a great member-benefits package that keeps members renewing year after year. You certainly don’t want to dismantle what’s working, so starting to charge for products and services they currently receive as part of their membership may not be an option. You probably also want your members to enjoy value in their memberships. No membership director likes to hear complaints that members feel they are being nickeled and dimed for services. Likewise, it’s not smart to give away benefits that members might be willing to purchase a la carte. Each association is unique in these areas, so take your association’s personality into account as you make decisions about what offerings are best as member benefits and what offerings should be priced separately.
You’ll also want to do the math to determine if non-member rates are at an appropriate level for your goals. For example, if your goal is to convert non-members to members, does your pricing structure help encourage non-members to join? Or do you rely on non-member fees to supplement your annual dues revenue, making it necessary to have a certain level of non-members each year? It can be a delicate balance to determine how high is too high when it comes to setting dues and other fees.
Finally, do you work from an accurate vendor profile? Do you know what your vendors value most? Is it relationships, industry information, member data, or something else? What product or service can the association provide that vendors would be willing to purchase, sponsor, or support? Your suppliers may be willing to support your programs to gain access to industry information and their prospective customers. Your relationship with your vendors and knowledge of their goals will help you determine what products and services your vendors will support.
Here are 4 ideas for generating more non-dues revenue:
- Industry Research
Associations hold large data sets gathered over many years, and the suppliers to your industry can use information derived from your data. You can convert your data into revenue by offering custom research, market intelligence, benchmarking, and data analysis. The higher the quality of the data and analysis, the higher the value. The higher the value, the more you can charge.
- Clinical, Legal, HR Forms
Medical associations with clinical members have known for years that offering the forms needed to run a practice are popular. Most medical societies, however, include clinical forms in their membership benefits. Could your association benefit by upgrading the practice information you offer and pricing it so the association and the clinical practice both benefit?
In non-medical associations, other packets could make sense. Consider offering packets including new hire forms, onboarding strategies for new employees, employee handbooks, or sample recruiting emails.
- Tech Training
Do you watch member company after member company create similar technology stacks? For example, does your staff know how to connect Salesforce and Marketo so they operate seamlessly? Is someone on your staff a Hootsuite genius or certified in using social media?
You can turn your staff’s expertise into specific training for your members. You can offer the service at a reasonable price and use your knowledge of the industry to tailor instruction for your members.
It could also be good for your staff members. Research tells us that ongoing education is a highly desirable job benefit, particularly for younger staff members. They can increase their own technical skills while they’re helping members solve problems.
- Professional Expertise
Does someone on your staff have expertise in running focus groups, safety inspections, medical coding, or other niche skills? Your members could benefit from your team’s expertise.
You can develop programs that, for a fee, allow members to evaluate their preparedness for a variety of regulations. Is your new safety manager a former inspector with the state or federal regulatory body? If so, the manager could help member companies get ready for their next inspection.
This idea can be useful with a variety of professional skills. The consultations can be conducted via video or in person. Depending on the need in your industry, this service can be helpful and profitable.
Let Your Mission Be Your Guide
As with everything you do, your association’s mission should guide your choices as you develop non-dues revenue. The process might, however, open new avenues for serving your members.
Emma is the Marketing Manager at Rhythm. When she's not thinking about all things content-related, you can find her traveling or shooting 35 mm film.