Non-Dues Revenue for Associations: 5 Ideas to Try Today

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Every one of the more than 66,000 trade and professional associations in the United States is different. Some focus on a specific industry, others on a job title, and some on a location. They all serve their members in unique and innovative ways.

But in 2020, they all share a similar challenge.  

Plenty of associations, including the National Association of Realtors, the United States Tour Operators Association, and the North Carolina Captive Insurance Association, either canceled their events altogether or moved them completely online. 

The revenue loss is staggering. Most associations consider events the biggest source of non-dues revenue. Each time their communities come together, they have an opportunity to generate money through:

  • Exhibit booth fees.
  • Program advertisements.
  • Meeting tickets. 

If you feel discouraged, that's understandable, but don't let your association go underground. With a little innovation and ingenuity, you can come up with new non-dues revenue streams that persist even after in-person meetings return. This means your association can weather the storm of the pandemic and come out stronger on the other side.

5 Ways to Boost Non-Dues Revenue for Your Association

This list rewards speed and efficacy. Any (or all) of the items we'll discuss here can launch with minimal effort and bring you big rewards. Pick and choose the things that are most likely to resonate with your members and potential sponsors. 

1. Accept Advertising

Look through your asset catalog, and you're bound to find spaces ripe for advertising. You could sell ads on your:

  • Website 
  • App
  • Printed newsletter
  • Email updates

You may believe that consumers hate and distrust all forms of advertising. Researchers disagree with you. As long as the ads are honest and valuable, your members aren't likely to grow offended by their presence.

Reach out to your trusted sponsors, and highlight this new opportunity. If space remains, ask your members to chip in for an ad or two. 

2. Accept Ads on Social Media

Give a sponsor access to your social media channels, and you're likely to build lifelong loyalty. 

Follow a few best practices if you choose to sell social ads:

  • Use video. Entice your sponsors to create video ads, as moving pictures capture attention more than still shots. 
  • Disclose the relationship. Mark the ad clearly, so consumers don't feel duped by your ad space sale. 
  • Watch the comments. About half of consumers believe liking a customer comment or responding to a note is helpful. Don't let the opportunity to connect pass by. 

3. Consider a Virtual Event

You can't come together as a group in person, but you still have important lessons to impart and conversations to hold. Transform your in-person event into a virtual opportunity that people can attend from the safety of home. 

Ticket options are plentiful, including:

  • Event passes. Allow devoted members to join the event when it starts and stay with you all day long. Give sponsors ad space within the live event, so they can share their messages with attendees. 
  • Speech recaps. Busy people may be unavailable on the event day, but they may still want to learn. Sell bundled videos of your event, and give sponsors more options to advertise here. 
  • À la carte speeches. Perhaps one keynote speaker captures a member’s attention, or just one session seems right for a busy person. Sell tickets to that one recap, and offer your sponsors the chance to buy space within that specific video. Consider offering sponsors bundle advertising deals if they choose to buy ads in more than three videos. 

Virtual events do take some serious planning, and you'll need to share a touch of marketing materials. User-generated content about your last event can be very helpful here. But there are plenty of revenue options within this idea that are too good to pass up. 

4. Educate Your Members

On an average day, more than 5 percent of adults ages 25 to 34 participate in some kind of educational activity. Why not let these people learn with you?

Scour your sponsor list, and look for industry professionals with something critical to teach your members. Give them a chance to hold a virtual class, for a fee. Let them record a quick video about their lesson plans, and watch the ticket sales begin. 

Don't let this opportunity end when the class is through. Record the course, and you can sell it on demand later. Your sponsored speaker keeps generating interest, and the ticket sales keep delivering revenue to your association. 

5. Host Online Networking Events

Your association brings together people with a shared passion. Help them connect by holding a virtual networking event. Use icebreaker games, bingo, or some other quick task to connect people, and then let the conversations flow. If chatter stalls, use industry-specific questions to guide the group back into conversation. 

When the talk is through, share the guest list with all participants, so they can keep talking on their own time. Snap a quick video recap into your email message, and don’t forget to sell a sponsorship space. 

Networking events are tried-and-true revenue generators. At some outposts of the Chamber of Commerce, for example, some organizers charge $10 for non-members to attend an event like this.

Learn to Love Member Feedback 

Implement all of these ideas, and your members will notice. They'll see far more advertisers than they saw in the past, and they may hear more from you, as you entice them to join your virtual events. 

Remember that your members are also exceptional sources of non-dues revenue ideas. Use surveys to solicit their feedback on what you're doing now and what you should do in the future. Call your long-time members and ask for their counsel. Listen to each conversation carefully and adjust accordingly. 

You might get complaints. Those tend to stem from unmet expectations, experts say. If you get a stinging comment, reach out for more details. You could find a solution buried within the note.

Anyone Can Create a Beautiful Video 

Many of the options we've explained involve a video component. Don't be intimidated. 

You don't need fancy equipment, talented directors, or actors to make a video that wows the world. With your smartphone, you can create authentic videos that inspire action. And with our platform, you can entice your members to do the same thing. In no time, you'll have all the content you need to make your new plan a reality.

Leading associations are using Gather Voices to collect more video than ever before. Want to see how it's done? Request a demo using the form below!


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