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Adrian Sallis

Mar 21, 2024

Unlocking Non-Dues Revenue: Options for Associations


Many associations today face a common challenge: how to generate non-dues revenue. While membership fees are a key source of income, they may not be sufficient to cover the costs of operating the association or to fund new initiatives. 

In this article we’ll discuss several strategies associations can use to unlock additional income, ensuring financial stability and growth.

Strategic Thinking around Approach

Unlocking non-dues revenue for associations requires strategic thinking, careful planning, and a focus on offerings that provide significant value to members while generating revenue. To work effectively and efficiently, associations must take a strategic approach by:

  • Identifying potential revenue sources
  • Evaluating their feasibility, then
  • Creating a plan to implement them. 

This involves a combination of marketing, sales, and communication strategies to effectively target the desired audience, and being adaptable and open to new ideas in navigating this process. Before diving in, associations should consider their strengths, target audience, and available resources. Identifying achievable goals and prioritising initiatives based on potential return on investment (ROI) is key to working effectively by delivering value, and working efficiently by managing costs.

Collaborate with External Partners and Outsourcing

Associations can engage and collaborate with outside partners to assist with advertising sales, particularly for targeted niche markets where specialised expertise may be required. These partners can take a percentage of the sales to cover their operating costs, meaning little to no upfront investment for the association.

Additionally, outsourcing sales of job postings, exhibitor space, or sponsorship can be a cost-effective option as it can help to free up internal resources. These outsourced sales teams can leverage their industry expertise and contacts to drive sales, allowing association staff to focus on other essential tasks.

Corporate Sponsors

While this topic deserves a dedicated discussion, just briefly, corporate sponsors can be valuable partners for associations. Sponsors can provide financial support in exchange for brand exposure and access to the association's membership.

However, it's important to strike a balance between the interests of the association and the sponsor to ensure that the partnership is mutually beneficial and aligns with the association's goals and values. Always look for sponsors that suit the association’s mission, goals and values.

Staff Play an Essential Role

Staff members play a vital role in the success of non-dues revenue initiatives. From developing new offerings to fulfilling products and sales, their expertise and dedication are essential for achieving revenue goals. 

Providing them with the necessary tools, resources and training can further enhance their effectiveness in this area.

Evaluate Member Needs through Surveys

Surveys are a valuable tool for associations to evaluate member needs and identify new or under-utilised sources of non-dues revenue. By understanding member preferences and pain points, associations can tailor their offerings to provide maximum value and generate revenue. 

Regularly surveying your members is invaluable, however consider the timing of this approach. Avoid surveying members during particularly busy periods to improve responses and reduce added strain on their workload.

Member Offerings: Value First, Revenue Follows

For offerings to be successful in generating non-dues revenue, they must provide genuine value to members. Long-term strategies for success involve continuously refining and enhancing offerings based on member feedback, industry trends, and market demands. 

Member offerings could include creating online courses and certifications for professional development, offering discounted access to industry resources, and facilitating member connections through events and online communities. These additional offerings provide valuable services to members while creating new income streams for the association.

This customer-centric approach ensures that the association remains relevant and competitive. Revenue will naturally follow as you cultivate loyalty and satisfaction.

Sell Branded Merchandise

One effective strategy for generating non-dues revenue is to sell branded merchandise. Not only does this generate income, but it also serves as an additional marketing channel for the association, increasing brand awareness and visibility within the industry. 

From t-shirts and mugs to office supplies and accessories, branded merchandise serves as a constant reminder of the association and its mission, strengthening member engagement and loyalty.

Diversify your Revenue Streams

Unlocking non-dues revenue is a multifaceted process that requires strategic thinking, collaboration, and a customer-centric approach. Diversifying revenue streams beyond membership dues is essential for associations looking to thrive in today's competitive landscape. Remember, unlocking non-dues revenue isn't a sprint; it's a marathon. By implementing these strategies thoughtfully, you can build a sustainable and prosperous future for your association, ensuring its continued relevance and impact.

Looking for new non-dues revenue opportunities? Intuto has developed the Association Academy to help you get started in education opportunities. Meet with us today to find out how the Association Academy can benefit you.

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