How to Raise Non-Dues Revenue

While every association ultimately fails or triumphs on the involvement and loyalty of its membership, an association that relies solely on members' dues to operate may find itself floundering.

If your association struggles to find enough money to function and grow, the knee-jerk reaction may be to raise the dues. But this could alienate even your long-term members, and reduce applications to join, two things that will lead directly to failure.

Instead, you need initiatives that will fill the coffers without asking members to pay more to belong.

In other words, you need to develop new non-dues revenue streams.

Situation Analysis: The First Step

First, you must identify the real reason membership dues revenues are declining, if, in fact, they are. If your organization's membership decreases every month, you need to understand why.

In today's money-conscious world, with a wealth of free information and networking opportunities, association membership must bring something extra to the table. Does membership in your association cost more than it's worth? Does it deliver true value? Perhaps "true value" means lowering members' dues.

But whether you raise, lower or keep dues the same from one year to another, you still need to offer members access to benefits they won't readily find elsewhere, in order to attract and retain them.

It's here that you'll find opportunities to earn non-dues revenue.

Sponsorships May be the Low-Hanging Fruit

One of the most popular ways to raise non-due revenue is by attracting marketers from inside and outside your industry or profession who wish to target offers to your membership.

But attracting sponsors in today's climate means abandoning outworn sponsorship opportunities.

Gone are the days when "branding" opportunities merit a sponsor's investment in your association. Today's marketers believe in "results-driven marketing," which means your sponsorship opportunities have to deliver more than brand impressions. They have to drive brand engagement and consideration.

It's not enough to ask for money to offset the cost of food and beverage, say, in exchange for a sign near the coffee pot.

Your sponsorship opportunities need to provide sponsors ways to reach, influence and interact with your members that are different from and better than ways already available to them. Your sponsorship opportunities should therefore bundle:

  • * Use of your email list

  • * Ads on your website and in your newsletter or magazine

  • * Signage and other forms of recognition throughout your convention

  • * Branded, unique space at your convention's trade show

  • * Freedom to "activate" the sponsorship in a bold, imaginative, engaging manner, and

  • * Built-in performance measures

You Have to Sell Smarter

To succeed in sponsorship sales, it's not enough to design attractive packages. You have to learn how to sell them.

You not only need effective collateral material, but a solid routine for identifying, approaching and persuading fresh prospects week after week. And you need the people to handle those tasks. If you can't assemble a sales team with sponsorship sales experience, the next best thing is to hire someone with a background in IT sales. The keys are to find talented salespeople and empower them. You might even want to consider retaining a third-party partner to coach your staff, or to conduct your sponsorship sales.

Delivering Value is Critical

It all comes down to recognizing and creating value. Every association, no matter its purpose or size, must provide enough value to attract and retain members. And while their dues may be the association's lifeblood, the blood supply is getting scarcer all the time. That money alone is insufficient for growth. If you want to do better than "just getting by," you must learn how to leverage every facet of your organization to deliver value and increase non-dues revenue.

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