How can we increase non-dues revenue?
This is likely a question at the back of every association executive’s mind. One of the most valuable revenue-building tools all associations have in their arsenal is member communications. While there is no one-size-fits-all solution to the question at hand, there are a handful of strategies that associations can implement to boost their non-dues revenue from print and digital media:
1. Hire the right people for the job
You can’t do it alone. Finding what works for your unique organization is going to take the brightest minds in the industry to formulate, implement, and constantly evolve a strategy that works for you. Think about what it takes to produce a successful line of member communications products. Engaging and relevant content is probably first on your list, as it should be. What else? Marketing, production, IT and ad sales are probably next on your priority list. Seek out a team of experts in each of these areas and work collectively to reach your desired goal. I work with a team that includes content specialists, marketing specialists, sales professionals, and a wonderful group of tech-savvy individuals who can transition ideas on paper to reality online. Without them, none of what I set out to do would be possible.
2. Empower your team
When you have a diverse team of individuals with different backgrounds and skill sets, you open the door for new, innovative ideas to be brought to the table. Show your team that their input is not only expected but valued, and you will often find that some of the best ideas come about organically.
For example, I work with a group of sales professionals who are building relationships with industry suppliers every day. Because of this, they are uniquely positioned to understand the needs of our associate members better than most. Often times after a conversation with one of these vendor members, a sales rep will come to me and say something along the lines of, “Kira, I’m speaking with a company that wants more advertising exposure with the association. Based on what they are looking for, I had the idea to do (insert brilliant plan here). I’ve never seen it done before. How can we make it happen?”
Allow yourself to be open to these ideas and start with a “yes we can” attitude even if (or especially if) you’re presented with something that your organization has never done before. The scenario above is based on a real-life example that resulted in the creation of a new ad position on an association’s eNewsletter. By doing this we not only gave the advertising company the exposure they wanted but we were also able to create ad revenue for the association that was previously unavailable. It was a win-win situation and a great idea that I would have never thought of on my own.
3. Learn to manage constant change
Just as you find a place for Gen Y within your membership, Gen Z enters the scene. Before you start implementing changes to your member communications, evaluate your members’ needs. If non-dues revenue isn’t where you want it to be, chances are your member engagement isn’t, either. Why is that? Have changing member demographics impacted your print readership? Or maybe with advancements in technology your website isn’t quite up to snuff. If that’s not the case, perhaps your communications are cutting edge but you’ve left your more tenured members in the dust. Now more than ever, managing member needs is a balancing act. So how do you know what your members want? That leads us to our next tip…
4. Take it to the polls
Don’t know what your members are looking for? Ask! A simple survey to your members and allied members can make a world of difference. Utilize the marketing and tech professionals on your team to formulate insightful survey questions and use the responses as your guide moving forward. Need more info before you get started? Check out this article and this one for more about membership surveys.
5. When in doubt, enlist a third party outsourcing partner
Managing your member communications is a big job that not all associations have the resources or desire to complete in-house. If that is the case for your organization, consider the benefits of working with a third-party partner. The ideal partner will be well versed in all of the above (and then some) and have a team in place that will work closely to understand your needs and help you achieve your non-dues revenue goals.
No matter what communication channels you use to reach your members, these five pieces of advice will turbocharge your revenue-earning potential. Stick to these strategies to see better results in the short- and long-term.