Is Your Association Leaving Money on the Table?

A new report on nondues revenue from Avenue M Group offers some takeaways for associations looking to bolster their nondues revenue generators. Hint: It’s not always about adding something new.

Nondues revenue is something we write a lot about at Associations Now, especially as the ASAE Foundation’s latest edition of its Association Operating Ratio Report shows that membership dues are occupying an increasingly smaller percentage of an association’s overall revenue. Meanwhile, nondues revenue generators, such as tradeshow booth fees meeting registration fees, and publication sales, are filling the gap.

Avenue M Group recently released “Growing Non-dues Revenue: A Benchmarking Report,” [PDF] which queried 200 chief staff executives and senior association staff on the state of their own nondues revenue drivers.

What Avenue M found was not only interesting but also provides clear takeaways for associations who are looking to decrease their reliance on membership dues to meet their bottom lines. For instance, when asked what new programs are providing additional nondues revenue, 49 percent of organizations cited mobile app advertising; 32 percent cited custom research, panels, or focus groups; 21 percent cited social media advertising; 20 percent cited sponsored videos and/or podcasts; and 19 percent cited monetized market intelligence and data analytics.

But, by far, the most common sources of nondues revenue came more traditional sources: in-person conferences and tradeshows (75 percent), job boards (87 percent), and mailing list rentals (75 percent).

Since having diverse sources of nondues revenue is critically important for all associations, Sheri Jacobs, FASAE, CAE, founder and CEO of Avenue M Group, has some ideas for different ways to boost it. “The most lucrative [nondues revenue generators]—and what I mean when I say most lucrative is a lower initial investment, so you can have a higher return—is absolutely expanding your product line,” she said.

To do that, she recommends that associations take a good look at some of their existing programs, products, and product lines—whether that’s a conference, a job board, education, information, or data—and asking, “Where are we leaving money on the table?’”

For instance, in the case of conferences, associations have already worked hard to curate good content for their attendees. Why not get more mileage out of that prime content by repackaging it and reselling it? In the past, Avenue M worked with a healthcare association on pricing its repackaged content.

“They sell their education directly to members and customers, and they also sell their online and in-person education to individuals and companies who sell the education to practitioners and institutions,” Jacobs said.

While she says that selling continuing education is a great way to expand reach and earn additional income, Jacobs did caution that it needs to be priced right. “This starts with understanding the value of the education, how it can be bundled with other educational products, and the size of the marketplace (for bulk sales),” she said.

Another place where associations could be leaving money on the table is with their job boards. “Associations could earn additional money by offering ancillary services to job seekers and employers,” Jacobs said. Examples include career counseling and resume writing, as well as additional promotions for employers who wish to get their posting more attention (e.g., higher placement on the site, promotions in newsletters, and so forth).

Jacobs also suggests organizations work with the vendor who manages their platform. “Associations can recruit nontraditional employers to post on their sites,” she said. “Nontraditional may be employers from other industries who need to hire someone in the profession but are not usually targeted by the association.”

What are some ways that you get more revenue mileage out of your existing programs, products, and services? Please leave your comments in the box below.

(alfexe/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Emily Bratcher

By Emily Bratcher

Emily Bratcher is a Contributing Editor for Associations Now. MORE

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