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How to Generate Additional Revenue for Your Association


Associations are finding creative ways to generate additional revenue. Canceled or adjusted events, paused fundraising, and delayed membership renewals from 2020 and 2021 may have influenced the bottom line. However, there are straightforward ways to communicate your association’s value proposition to members and sponsors that will help boost your revenue.

Industries experiencing increased unemployment during the “Great Resignation” might see more traffic on their continued learning products. If you offer educational courses, keep members updated on availability and price. Your professional members with more time on their hands can grow their skills and earn credits to improve their competitive advantage when they find open positions they want. Association job boards will see increased member engagement in the form of job seeker registrations, resume uploads and job views. The key takeaway is to market available resources to your members.

Here are five creative ideas to help your association generate additional revenue:

1. Offer sponsorships

When you offer sponsorships, whether for conferences or annual association sponsorships, be selective about the companies that you approach to maintain your brand integrity. Your sponsorships should offer relevant products or services for your membership. If you want to take it a step further, host virtual or hybrid events such as tradeshows for members who can’t travel to in-person events and offer online sponsorships as well. You could even incorporate sponsorships in your live online events through rotating slides, a customized event interface, spotlight videos, and commercial breaks.

2. Help members enhance their careers

Whether it’s continuing education, industry best practices, or places to find job opportunities, membership associations can make a positive impact by helping members with career development. According to recent Community Brands research, career advancement is one of the primary reasons to join associations. You can enhance your members’ careers through a variety of ways including your association’s online career center, career events, and recruitment guides.

Haven’t taken advantage of recruitment guides yet? Connect your members with top employers within your industry with printed and digital guides. These drive incremental revenue by allowing employers to showcase their brand to your highly sought-after members. They can also include relevant career development articles, helpful resources, and more. Printed recruitment guides can help drive traffic to your career center booth at events while promoting your career center. Digital recruitment guides can be sent to your members and even include videos for employers.

recruitment guide

3. Find new revenue in publications and your website

Many associations’ publications are considered the go-to resource for information related to their industry. These publications are consistent touches throughout the year that reach a highly specialized and engaged audience. For 88% of associations, publications are considered a source of revenue, but there are expenses involved in producing high-quality content. Does your association send out an e-newsletter or publish a magazine? Help support those publications by offering advertising.

Additionally, if your organization produces multiple publications, you might consider offering one publication as a benefit of membership fees and charging a subscription fee for additional premium. Also consider placing a classifieds section in your publications to sell recruitment advertising. Aside from display and line advertising, offer sponsorship for any research you’re conducting. Companies will pay a premium to expose their brand to your members. Drop their logo on the research, include a boilerplate, offer a commentary, and include their name in promotion as a partner.

4. Explore partnerships with vendors

Your association could create a new revenue stream by partnering with vendors that offer products and services your members are shopping for. Earn fees for referrals, a percentage of sales, or advertising dollars, depending on the type of vendor partnership you create. Keep in mind, it is important to do an annual audit of these partnerships and programs to ensure your members still find value in them. Buyer’s guides, affinity programs, and discounts on services are great ways to explore vendor partnerships.

An online buyer’s guide is an extension of your brand; members will be able to find vendors and products they are looking for by visiting your association website. An affinity program can be both a bonus of membership and a new stream of non-dues revenue for your association. The key to a successful affinity program is finding vendors with products your members truly value. With discounts on services sold directly to your members, consider different forms of insurance such as pet insurance or professional liability insurance.

5. Harness the power of email marketing

email marketing statistics

As most marketers know, email marketing is one of the most effective forms of marketing for organizations on a large scale. Email is often used as an integrated part of other processes. There are very few ways to easily get a message across a large universe of users. Email is great at delivering segmented content, driving conversions, and providing attractive ROIs.  

Over the years, email marketing has become more of a science and it’s very easy to miss out on optimizing your resources and reaching your marketing potential. Email marketing campaigns that your organization sends to members and prospects can significantly influence your non-dues revenue stream. 

Think mobile

Offering a great mobile experience is simply a must-do these days; it’s all about reaching people in the way they want to be reached on the device they prefer. Some tips for creating mobile-friendly content: 

  • Keep content short and to-the-point so that those reading content, researching, or shopping don’t have to scroll through lots of text.  
  • Consider navigational issues. For example, buttons and links should include clear and concise instructions that mobile users can quickly grasp.  
  • Ensure your content (including images) scales and displays correctly on mobile devices.  
  • Break content into bite-sized chunks, paragraphs bullet points, numbered lists and subheadings to enhance viewability on mobile devices. 
  • Use appropriate font sizes, optimize line spacing, and use high contrasting colors so it’s easy to read. 
  • Test emails on multiple devices to ensure your emails look and work the way they should. 

Be interactive

The main purpose of interactivity is to entertain the reader – promoting engagement and preventing them from turning away from your email before reading it all. Here are some of the latest interactive email elements to include:  

  • Animated buttons and calls-to-action  
  • Rollover effects to showcase product offerings  
  • Interactive image and product carousels controlled by the user  
  • Accordion features designed to make long-format emails more compact  
  • Surveys, polls, and user-generated interactive content 

Get personal

The Community Brands Digital Evolution Study underscores the importance of personalization. In the study, 65 percent of members say they are interested in personalization, with 79 percent saying it’s very or somewhat important that their organization provide targeted, valuable content. Be sure to include messages and information specific to things like your members’ interests, career stages, and interactions with your organization. 

email personalization

Use A/B testing

A great way to know if your email messages are working is to test them. Create two different versions of an email, then send one to a subset of your list, and the other to a different subset of your list. Check after a couple of days to see which email performed better, and then send that email to the full list. Be sure to vary only one or two things in the email (such as the subject line or the image) so you can understand what element made the difference. 

How else can your association generate additional revenue?

Prepare your association for success beyond 2022 by leveraging creative revenue streams to diversify your portfolio. Keep open communication with your members about available resources your association offers. And, strengthen your value proposition with sponsors beyond onsite conferences to protect revenue.

Get our guide on diversifying association non-dues revenue streams.

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