Non-dues revenue is becoming increasingly important for associations across industries. In fact, a recent benchmark report found that this year, most associations expect this source to increase as part of their overall budget compared to previous years. In other words, the percentage of your budget sustained by membership dues continues to increase. That, in turn, makes growing your alternative sources more important than ever.
But how do you do it? Conferences and professional development opportunities are most commonly used, and rightfully so. They enable your organization to draw in members and improve their expertise through a trusted source. But these opportunities are not your only option. In fact, leveraging the data you gather from your members can be just as important as a part of your budget.
The Basics of Association Membership Data
Before getting into the individual tactics you can use to grow your revenue, an important disclaimer: data is a touchy subject. Your members likely joined your association because of an assumption of both credibility and expertise. The last thing you need is a loss of that credibility if you simply sell of their data to the highest bidder.
Instead, be honest about it from the beginning. If you use your member’s data, let them know about it and allow them to opt out as needed. If, for instance, you want to rent out an email list, give your members the clear option of not participating in this effort.
Another important step is to carefully choose your corporate partners. A nonprofit fundraising association, for instance, might look to partner with software platforms designed to improve their members’ daily efforts. On the other hand, an office product retailer might not be as relevant to this audience group. Opt in, and stay relevant – and the below tactics have the potential to be immensely effective.
Market Intelligence, Survey Research, and Benchmarking Data
As an association, one of your most valuable asset is the likely cross section of industry professionals that are part of your membership. Leveraging that data into revenue is most easily possible through paid market intelligence, survey research, and benchmarking data. More specifically, you have the opportunity to collect basic data from your audience, and present that information to anyone who might be interested.
This tactic might take the form of a paid research report that lives on your website. In addition to your members’ demographic data, consider running regular surveys that help you gauge the industry at its current state while also making future projections. Individuals and firms who want to understand your industry will find this type of information immensely valuable.
For this step, presentation and data accuracy matters most. Again, credibility is an important consideration. You have to believe in your data, and present that information in a way that’s easy to understand for your audience. The tenet of data storytelling becomes an important consideration.
Custom Research Opportunities With Industry Partners
While the above tactic remains relatively general, you also have the opportunity to get more specific. In fact, the same benchmark survey mentioned above found that 32 percent of associations now “offer vendors custom research opportunities such as survey panels, focus groups or interviews with members.”
This is a particularly interesting opportunity for potential partners who have large enough operations to support extensive, customized market research. It also requires a close partnership. Your association management will likely be in the position to organize the research, so you need to make sure that you have the survey capabilities in place while also working with individual members to find good cross-sections for focus groups and interviews.
The upside of this more intense and customized type of research is its revenue potential. Vendors who are looking for research tailored to their needs tend to have the resources to pay for them. While a generic report such as the one mentioned in the previous section will likely not garner much per download, it’s not uncommon for more extensive research to yield revenue in the 4 and 5-digit range.
Mailing List Rentals to Relevant Sponsors
Finally, you also have the opportunity to cut out the middle man. Especially if you have an accurate and comprehensive database of all of your members, you can work with sponsors and vendors on mailing list rentals for their marketing opportunities.
Here, the stipulations mentioned toward the beginning of this article come back into view. These types of initiatives can only work and benefit your association if you have member approval and buy-in. In addition, you also need to get your technology right. Inaccurate data or a lack of management capabilities can make it impossible to reliably rent out mailing list.
With the right technology, however, this has the potential to become significant. A comprehensive CRM, for instance, helps you track your member contact information. The right software even allows you to design emails yourself, further increasing the control you have over the type of content that actually goes out. Keeping control over any sponsored emails to your members can help you keep credibility.
Is Your Association Prepared for the Future of Non-Dues Revenue?
All of the above can be effective ways to leverage your membership data into non-dues revenue. They line up alongside professional development opportunities as well as association events and conferences to become a crucial part of your budget mix. However, they also have another thing in common: you need the right backend platform to make them possible and effective.
Manually managing your membership lists is difficult enough. Analyzing that list, finding common demographics, and collecting contact information in a way that maintains opt-outs is next to impossible. To be successful, you need to have the technology in place to help you make the most of your efforts.
Association membership software tends to be the answer. Its CRM capabilities help you collect, maintain, and analyze audience data, while also being able to distribute member surveys and sending out sponsored emails on behalf of vendors. With the right software solution in place, your association will be well-prepared for the increasing importance of non-dues revenue.