As we’ve been following the discussion about non-dues revenue for the past several years, we’ve noticed that many associations saw the benefits of shifting their reliance on membership dues to other forms of revenue – not relying solely on membership fees to generate operating funds.
However, many associations just haven’t considered adding new revenue opportunities to their mix.
No association wants its members to feel as if they are just walking ATMs. Associations must maintain the balance between value and price. In fact, many associations bundle their member benefits to avoid just such a “nickel-and-dime” perception. They say, “For one low membership fee, you get this much in return.” But how often do associations review their bundled benefits? Is the association getting everything it deserves with bundles?
Examine Your Association’s Bundles
If it has been a while since you’ve examined the bundles of products and services you offer, it might be time to revisit them. Here are a few questions to ask about your bundles – whether they are specifically membership bundles or not:
- How much revenue does the bundle bring in?
- How much does it cost to produce items in the bundle?
- What value do members place on the bundle?
- Is the bundle anchored by one product and the others are just “extras”?
- Why were items added to the bundle?
- What would happen if you removed items from the bundle?
- Does the bundle require extra staff time to fulfill, costing you more?
Of course, the key question about bundles is whether or not you are giving away something valuable for free without getting any return. If you’re driving membership with a valuable benefit, that’s great, but would non-members pay more for it as a stand-alone offering?
Do You Want Members or Customers?
To be an individual membership organization, you must have members and they must participate in the business of the association. Although associations can receive a substantial part of its revenue from non-member sources, membership support must be maintained.
It's likely that most of your association’s activities are directed at your members. It’s also likely, however, that you have tiered pricing – lower prices for members and higher prices for non-members. Some associations view this type of pricing as part of their membership value proposition and use it to sell memberships. Others, however, prefer non-member participation because the higher fees charged to non-members generates more revenue.
You’ll have to balance the income from higher fees against the value of having members. What does your pricing structure really encourage – membership or customers? Or are you encouraging industry insiders to float in and out of membership when they need a specific product or service? Is it better to decline membership and buy non-member products when they’re needed? What is the value of membership in your organization?
Non-Dues Revenue Sources
Once you’ve determined whether you want members or customers – or a mix of both – you can start to examine your products and services. Here are some ideas for new revenue generating ideas. You can increase your revenue by employing just a few of these ideas:
- Annual Meetings: Add on-site workshops, premium access to VIPs, or special networking events for a fee.
- Sponsorships: Sponsors can gain visibility and branding opportunities in exchange for financial support.
- Sponsored Content and Advertising: Allow companies to advertise their products and services on your association's website, newsletters, or publications in exchange for a fee.
- Job Boards: Charge for listings on your in-house career center.
- Training & Certification Courses: Develop programs related to your industry. Charge a fee for access to the programs.
- Merchandise Sales: Create branded merchandise such as apparel, accessories, or educational materials, and sell them through your association's website or at events.
- Premium Content: Offer premium content, such as in-depth research reports, exclusive interviews, or industry insights for a fee.
- Affiliate Marketing: Partner with relevant companies or services and earn a commission for each sale or referral generated through your association's promotions.
Although associations share many characteristics, each has its own personality and history. As you review your programs and services, be wary of “we’ve always done it this way.” Tried and true methods may still serve you well, but they may also hold you back.
To make a difference, an association must have enough money to operate, but you should always keep your mission and service to your members in mind. Use your mission as the guiding concept behind programming and pricing decisions.
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.