Venue Rental Is About More Than Nondues Revenue for Pharmacists Association
The American Pharmacists Association’s headquarters, which sits on the National Mall in Washington, DC, offers stunning views and picturesque event space. By allowing others to rent the space, APhA is able to bring in nondues revenue and share the group's history and mission.
When most people see the original American Pharmacists Association building in Washington, DC, they just assume it’s another government building. Although it’s not that, it is the only privately held site on the National Mall, which leaves APhA with spectacular views of some of city’s most famed landmarks.
“As you can imagine, being situated right on the National Mall, our views pretty much cover the expanse,” said Todd McDonald, CMP, APhA’s director of meeting services and special events. “You can see everything from the Capitol to the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial. Into Virginia, you can see the Pentagon, the Airforce Memorial, and bits of Arlington National Cemetery.”
APhA’s office space comprises two buildings—the original Pope Building built in 1934 and a state-of-the-art headquarters building completed in 2009. The original building was designed by John Russell Pope, who was also the architect behind the National Archives, the National Gallery of Art, and the Jefferson Memorial. Because Pope’s style fits with the rest of DC, most people don’t take much notice of APhA’s building.
“When I’m conducting site visits to walk through the space, I often hear [clients viewing the space] say how many times they have driven by the building and never given it a second glance,” McDonald said. “They just assume, being right on Constitution Avenue, that our building is just another federal building.”
Rental Brings Revenue, Publicity
The organization began renting out spaces in the buildings in 2010, a few months after construction on the new headquarters building finished. The rental space includes indoor rooms in the buildings, as well as the most popular spots: an outdoor space on the sixth floor of the headquarters building known as the Potomac View Terrace and an open-air bilevel terrace on the ground level outside the Pope Building.
McDonald says the rental space not only brings in some nondues revenue but also provides an opportunity to let people learn more about APhA.
“It’s a minor revenue source when compared to the overall association budget, but I think there’s also a built-in public relations component,” McDonald said. “It allows nonmembers to come into the building and learn more about the association, its history, and its mission.”
And because most people assume it is a government building, they are curious to find out more, and staff are always willing to share.
To avoid conflicting with the business of the association, APhA has had to set some parameters. “We do have to weigh the number of events and the specifics of each event with the impact on normal business operations,” McDonald said. “To that end, we are primarily hosting events during the week in the evening or on weekends.”
The association also hosts some of its own events there, and members—just like nonmembers—always love the location and the views.
Like every other venue, COVID-19 wiped out the 2020 events season for APhA. However, things picked up in late 2021 and have been going strong ever since.
“The fact that the majority of our special events space is considered outdoors makes potential clients more comfortable proceeding with planning special events, even though there is some uncertainty surrounding COVID-19,” McDonald said. “We are seeing 2022 shape up to be our busiest special events season to date, and that trend is continuing into 2023.”
Advice for Other Associations
For other associations who have a great space they’d consider renting out, McDonald says to think it through because there is a lot of work involved in managing event space.
“It’s important to be prepared for the amount of work that will go into creating and growing this new business from the ground up,” McDonald said. “A lot of time and energy will be spent on everything from creating and updating an annual marketing plan, building and maintaining a new website, procuring annual city permits, vendor relationship management, conducting site visits and walkthroughs with confirmed clients, overseeing wedding rehearsals, recruiting and training event managers to assist with the onsite event management, and scheduling all the building services required to host each and every event.”
However, if an association is ready to handle events, McDonald suggests going for it.
“Hosting special events can add a new revenue source, and it can also be a great way to expose nonmembers to the history and mission of your association,” he said.
How does your association make use of its conference or meeting space for non-staff events? Share in the comments.