Could NFTs Make Sense for Your Association? (And What is an NFT, Anyway?)

The blockchain-associated concept of NFTs isn’t just a get-rich-quick scheme for meme-makers. They can be a way for associations to boost engagement and build publicity.

Nonfungible tokens—better known as NFTs—have been hard to avoid this year.

A blockchain-based form of asset certification that verifies a digital object such as a photo or video to be original, NFTs have made a big splash in the digital world in 2021, emerging at a time when collectibles of all kinds are drawing attention—and a lot of money.

You’ve probably heard the stories about the creators of popular memes making thousands or millions of dollars by selling their content as digital collectibles. What you may not know is that some associations have found success with NFTs, too: The National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) raised more than $200,000 for member venues during the pandemic, when many of them were closed.

But NIVA was able to leverage the interest of a music-listening public rather than just its member base. Can the benefits of NFTs apply to associations that are more reliant on their members?

Sol Marketing CEO Deb Gabor, who has been focused on the rise of NFTs in recent months, says there’s room for associations of all types to take advantage of NFTs as well. They just have to think creatively.

“The sky’s the limit with something like this, and associations and nonprofits can use these things to create brand ambassadorship, engagement,” Gabor says. “They can use it for activation. They can use it for fundraising.”

A Publicity-Building Tool

NFTs are hot right now, making them attention-grabbers for a wider audience. Gabor compares NFT engagement to the halo effect one might get for being early to a trending social network. It may be risky for associations without a branding fit, but it has the potential to become a massive asset for those willing to strike at the right time.

“This is a way for brands of any kind … to attract attention and create engagement that transcends sales of a particular product entirely,” she says.

A Way to Build Brand Affinity

Just as someone might wear a T-shirt with a logo on it or put a sticker on the back of their laptop, people often want a symbol that links them with brands they support.

This tendency ties into membership organizations, as people appreciate having an object that represents the value a membership has for a broader mission. “They have membership in these organizations because it’s part of their identity,” Gabor says. “It’s part of who they are.”

This also has a swag component, along the lines of what you might see at an event. Gabor likened it to the socks that her local NPR station gives to donors who support the organization.

“This is like the digital version of those socks that they give away. I’m going to make the donation anyway, but it’s a conversation piece,” she says. “Do I wear the socks? No; in fact I have a drawer full of them. But it’s something that keeps me connected to the brand long term.”

But Will It Work?

Will this approach work for your organization? Gabor recommends looking at your brand values to figure that out.

“When they’re thinking about getting into NFTs, they need to look at this just like any other marketing investment,” she says. “Make sure that it’s on brand, it’s on strategy, that it’s designed to attract the kind of people that they want to attract.”

She adds that using NFTs as a marketing tool requires work to be successful.

“It’s not an if-you-build-it-they-will-come scenario,” she says. “You need to take your brand to the people where they are, and then nurture them over time.”

But if you can pull off the nurturing, it has the potential to raise your brand both with your members and the broader world.

(gesrey/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

Got an article tip for us? Contact us and let us know!