The new 2021 Association Annual Survey Results report suggests reduced dues revenue and declining membership in the year ahead. For associations wanting to stay ahead of the curve and generate nondues revenue, focus on showing value and creativity.
With 2020 defined by the pandemic, many associations are hoping that 2021 will have a different and better defining ethos. A new report from GrowthZone AMS, 2021 Association Annual Survey Results, looks at emerging trends, with the goal of helping associations best navigate what’s ahead.
So, what is it that associations need to prepare for?
“The trends we’re seeing so far, is that membership is dropping, and with that, there’s a correlation with dues,” said Amy Gitchell, senior marketing communications specialist at GrowthZone. “So, it’s going to be more important than ever to think through what those nondues revenue sources are and how you can leverage any opportunity for that.”
The good news, Gitchell said, is that, according to survey responses, associations have been finding innovative ways to keep the nondues revenue flowing. “What was surprising to us was the number of people both the on association and chamber of commerce side, who referred to what we’ve been calling ‘contract work,’ as a source of revenue,” Gitchell said. “Some examples of that were renting out parts of their building; grant writing and administration; management fees for major programs that were assigned by the government, lab testing, and marketing services.”
Another example of associations leaning into what’s working was the prevalence of one type of fundraising event. “Our support team and training team were hearing that people were having success with golf tournaments,” Gitchell said. She noted that associations were able to carry them out safely during the pandemic because they were outdoors and done with little contact.
In addition, Gitchell said that while some novel approaches are helpful, the real revenue drivers will be associations showing members and others the value they bring to the table. “It ties back into value proposition,” she said. “Organizations need to be clear on what their value proposition is, and how they are helping and aiding their members now.”
Many organizations did this by boosting their online education offerings and hosting virtual conferences. “They were able to generate revenue off of that, by having it online, and people were really enthusiastic about virtual events,” Gitchell said.
Associations also must be willing to adapt so the revenue flows. “This is unfortunately not as temporary as everyone was hoping,” Gitchell said. “What has worked in the past isn’t going to be as successful, because the game has changed. So you don’t have a choice. Adapt and survive. … Not everything is going to work, but the reality is not everything has worked in the past, either. If you don’t try it, you’ll never know.”
Adapting can be difficult, but she noted that organizations can lean on each other in this process. “Probably one of the most helpful things—and this is when it’s hard when there are no face-to-face meetings—is when association executives talk to one another and are having conversation about what’s working and what isn’t working,” Gitchell said.
What methods is your association looking at to boost nondues revenue in