Building a large association takes time, focus, and a lot of revenue. Fortunately, you can collect that revenue from a wide variety of sources. Associations use dues from members who gain valuable access to their works as the primary form of revenue. But you also don’t want to charge your members too much. Otherwise, younger professionals and small businesses might have a hard time joining, and frugal professionals can be scared away.
Conventional Sources of Non-Dues Revenue
So you do things that your members love and spread the word about your industry or focus in ways that build revenue as well. Conventions are the big attraction, bringing in many thousands of dollars and hundreds of members and vendors from around the world. But you can only throw so many conventions per year. Like theme park visits, your members can only afford to splurge like that a few times a year.
So other types of revenue are necessary, including ways to branch out into other spending pools. You offer professional classes for your members, host events. But there are also routes to revenue beyond the conventional. If you’ll pardon the pun. Today we’re here to look at 4 different approaches to association non-dues revenue.
Hosting Family Events for Members and Children
Conventions often throw events or host events for businesses in order to raise revenue. Award dinners, annual balls, and holiday parties are just a few of the ways you can use events to everyone’s benefit. But most associations overlook the potential of hosting family events. Many dedicated professionals put their lives into their work, and also want a way to share their work life with those at home.
Conventions help these worlds overlap because members bring their spouses, and sometimes their older children, to events. Family members may be able to look at the displays, meet colleagues, and learn about the real impact their relative has in the industry. You can continue this tradition by offering specifically family-friendly events.
Summer picnics, autumn fairs, and winter celebrations that include activities geared for kids and families are a great way to get your members to sign up for a larger number of events each year. The events are worth investing in for members because it’s also an excuse to take a vacation and enjoy quality time with their family. And network at the same time.
Offering Youth Programs and Career Training Classes
Another interesting source of revenue is to consider the future members of your association. Children just starting to learn industry-relevant skills, or high-schoolers and BA students making their first career choices. Parents (members and non-members) can be counted on to invest in their children’s future if you offer programs to help children launch on their career paths early.
Programs for younger children can involve day camps or after-school clubs with fun projects. Teach kids to program, build robots, and other skills that will encourage them to become talented professionals of your industry in ten to fifteen years.
For middle-schoolers and teens, consider offering real career training courses that might be listed on their first resumes or considered as college credits. Let them experience a taste of what working in your industry is really like. And offer them curriculum consultation to choose the right classes for a career-oriented trajectory. This can be a tutoring program, a paid afterschool activity, or even online classes students can sign up for.
And for early college students, the best options are at the extreme ends of engagement. College students benefit best from either fully autonomous online resources that they can study at 3AM, or from hands-on intern style experience in the field that can be listed on a resume. Either, they will likely pay for or donate their time to the association in return for a good reference or college internship credits.
Subscriptions for (Branded) Professional Supply Kits
Most associations turn to selling branded items. But usually, the choices they make are more like convention swag than of any real value. T-shirts, ball caps, and coffee mugs are only so appealing no matter how nice they are. But professionals always need business supplies. Of course, the ‘usual supplies’ varies from industry to industry. The focus of your association will determine the right package.
But you can always count on your member to need something. Maybe they go through photo-gloss printer paper like a whirlwind or hand out binders of information to clients like they were popsicles, thus are always buying more. While wholesale suppliers are the best sources of these supplies, many professionals are still stocking their own high-demand supplies.
Use your industry insights to offer a more convenient and prestigious source of business supplies. Brand things like paper and envelopes, clips and binders, and package them into intuitive re-supply combinations. If you happen to know that professionals in your industry fly through highlighters faster than graph paper, include a pack with one pad of graph paper and two packs of highlights. Doubtless, you get the gist.
Then offer a convenient subscription and re-order service online for these supply kits, and brand everything with a classy watermark-style emblem of the association.
Sponsored Social Media Posts
If you have a strong social media following, there’s also one more surprisingly under-considered option: Sponsored Tweets, Facebook posts, and Instagram Stories. Across all social media platforms, brands will absolutely pay for exposure. And the best part is that associations build their reputation on cross-promoting and positive networking.
Businesses that are already a part of the association can then improve their own exposure by becoming social media sponsors. The positive messages they share will mutually raise your marketing results and reputations and everybody wins. The key is to build a consistent sponsorship marketing plan. If all your sponsors share their message in a unifying format, your audience can enjoy them as a stylized series instead of a sequence of ads. You gain revenue, and your member-businesses gain exactly the kind of exposure they joined the association to get.
Building non-dues revenue for your association works better when you think outside the box. Everyone is prepared to fend off fundraiser efforts, but a festival event or a class for their children is a different story. Offer more than just your traditional conventions and dinners. And use your non-dues revenue building to also cultivate greater engagement with your members. For insights into promoting your association, contact us today.