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Did You Know? Associations Plan to Rake in More Revenue from Publications, Events and Continuing Ed

Non-dues revenue is often an essential component of an association’s operating budget, allowing staff to produce high-caliber member communications, events and continuing education programs. Symbiotically, those same operational areas are where association professionals report they want to focus on earning more non-dues revenue this year.

A quarter each of respondents to last month’s poll reported that they plan to improve efforts to earn non-dues revenue from publication advertising, live events or continuing education.

AA 2017 - Which Source of Non-Dues Revenue Do You Plan to Improve This Year

Publication advertising is a perennial choice for improving non-dues revenue earning potential because almost every association maintains at least one, if not multiple, formal channels of member communication. There are opportunities to place sponsored editorial or advertising in pretty much every type of publication: newsletter, magazine, member directory, show guide, mobile app – even SMS campaigns can carry the name and website of a sponsoring organization.

Publication advertising can take the form of sponsored text messages.

Publication advertising can take the form of sponsored text messages. Source: SlickText.com

Associations can earn revenue from supplier members wanting to place press releases or product reviews in member communications. Your communications department can open your newsletter or magazine to display ads that promote products and services relevant to your industry that members use for their daily operations. These types of industry-relevant ads are rarely seen as obnoxious or intrusive because they are another form of helpful information for members as they look to grow their business and improve efficiencies.

If your association has been thinking of adding or expanding advertising opportunities in your member communications but you don’t know where to start, check out the marketing and communications-related forums on ASAE’s Collaborate community. There are frequent discussions about the value of advertising in publications and recommendations for companies that can assist with this endeavor.

Live events continue to be a primary source of non-dues revenue that associations rely upon. There are many potential avenues within an event from which your association can earn revenue: sponsorships of speakers, socials or event supplies such as tote bags or charging stations; attendee fees; social extras such as pre-conference day tours or upscale dinners; and special workshops.

If your association relies on event revenue for a major portion of your annual operating budget, take a serious look at obtaining event cancellation insurance. Should your event need to be rescheduled or cancelled, you may be left without revenue you were planning to funnel into other important projects. This possibility is especially stark if the event in question is a major annual event that won’t happen again for another 365 days. Thus, says Lori Kinsey, CMP, of MPI Northern California, purchasing event cancellation insurance is a wise move. “Should ACE [MPINPCC’s Annual Conference & Expo] have to be cancelled, the financial impact to the chapter would be significant,” she said. “As ACE has continued to grow in size, scope, and fiscal impact to the chapter, the Board of Directors this year strategically aligned the event’s insurance needs with its level of revenue generation.”

Read further about MPINCC’s event emergency plans in Kinsey’s May 2017 Corner Office profile.

Continuing education can be a surprisingly large source of non-dues revenue for associations as well, and not just because of the fees associations charge members for course materials and instructor time/expertise. Patti Costello, M-CHEST, of the Association for the Healthcare Environment (AHE) recently shared that AHE’s Corporate Champion sponsorship program funds a large part of AHE’s comprehensive member education offerings. “Our Corporate Champion revenues cover most of our educational program costs. We make it clear to those sponsors that their dollars will be divested into our educational programs or our area of greatest need,” she said. Thanks to AHE’s generous sponsors, AHE’s members enjoy complimentary online education programs.

Read further about how AHE nurtures non-dues revenue sponsorships in Costello’s April 2017 Corner Office profile.

The remaining 26 percent of respondents plan to focus primarily on their affinity or grant programs in equal parts. Affinity programs can be a lucrative choice for associations and their members. Jeff Wilson, CMO of the Associated General Contractors of America, notes that AGC’s affinity partnerships with auto manufacturers such as Dodge and GMC give members access to significant savings on trucks and other vehicles they purchase for construction use.

“We know that approximately 10,000 of our members purchase or lease vehicles through our affinity partnerships every year, saving $500 to $2,000 per vehicle just for being an AGC member. Numerous members save more on vehicles than they are paying for dues to their local chapter,” Wilson said.

Approximately 10,000 AGC members purchase or lease vehicles through AGC's affinity partnerships every year, saving $500 to $2,000 per vehicle just for being an AGC member. Numerous members save more on vehicles than they are paying in dues to their local chapter.

Approximately 10,000 AGC members purchase or lease vehicles through AGC’s affinity partnerships every year, saving $500 to $2,000 per vehicle just for being an AGC member. Numerous members save more on vehicles than they are paying in dues to their local chapter.

He reports that AGC’s balance of dues revenue to non-dues revenue has flipped by a few million in recent years thanks in part to a focus on strengthening membership value through improved affinity programs. When your association has a program where membership makes economic sense and your association earns incentives for affinity program participation, it’s a winning revenue situation for all.

Did we miss one of your association’s preferred or profitable sources of non-dues revenue? Leave us a comment in the space below.

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