Back to Basics: Make Member Communication Useful, Accessible and Engaging to Earn More Revenue

By Stephen Cofino • May 30, 2018

Many associations today recognize they cannot rely on membership fees alone to sustain their business model. Achieving industry objectives, providing educational programs, and filling staff positions require sufficient funding. Thankfully, there are varied approaches to increase non-dues revenue (NDR) from member communication. Whatever the approach, the common principle in practice is: The more value your communication programs can provide to BOTH members and advertisers, the better positioned your association is to earn higher non-dues revenue.

Member communication platforms can range from an association’s official website, magazine, newsletter or directory, and serve as channels for advertiser support. In addition to giving suppliers and service providers a way to recommend their businesses, these platforms also give identity to your association. Keeping these platforms strong allows convenient ways to reach your members, while enhancing opportunities for advertisers.

Successful member communication programs will earn your association more NDR. Keys to running these communication platforms effectively are rooted in usefulness, accessibility, and strategy to engage your members and advertisers with these resources. Ultimately, a healthy member communication program provides value to your members, puts traffic and eyes on your advertisers, and earns more NDR for your association.

Ensure your member communication are useful resources

Our tools and resources help get us where we are trying to go. In the association realm, a desirable member communication program helps deliver on the promise to advance member interests. Usefulness draws on a clear and organized presentation of information and engaging content.

An association website that is well-kept, organized and easy to navigate will help your members gather information more efficiently. This provides value to your members, and the more frequently you can get members to your website, the higher value you can offer advertisers.

When keeping your members informed with articles written in the association’s official trade publication or newsletter, content is the crucial resource. Use content that is lively and timely when sharing industry news, best practices, upcoming events and legislative agendas. Print is still very much a useful resource when the content is relevant and engaging to the reader.

Good content keeps your members abreast of meaningful issues and developmental opportunities that are core to the dialogue of your association. Good content leads to higher readership levels and more engaged readers. When readers are more engaged, their eyes will be on your communication program for longer and more frequently. This brings more attention to the publication’s supporting advertisers and helps grow advertiser participation along with non-dues revenue returns.

Make member communication easily accessible

Accessible and readily-available member communication materials further ensure your members are engaged and your supporting advertisers are made visible. Circulation should reach 100 percent of the membership and supporting advertisers, unless there is cause to keep some content proprietary. When seeking higher communication visibility, associations should post these publications digitally on their website, LinkedIn and Facebook accounts. Digital editions allow virtual access to your materials, special digital sponsor opportunities and archived capabilities. It’s not a bad idea to keep extra copies of your publications on-hand, familiarizing new members with these materials as they join, or in the event a member had an incorrect address listed and never received a copy.

Strategically engage members and advertisers in your communications

We already talked about the importance of content to member engagement and subsequent advertiser visibility, but there are also a number of other ways to proactively engage members and advertisers. When approaching a strategy here, think about awareness:

  • How aware are your members and potential advertisers of the available communication programs?
  • Are these items discussed early on in the member recruiting process, and how do you keep the spotlight on your communication?
  • Do you have a team of internal or outsourced reps to steadily solicit the ad space?

When asking these questions, usually several strategies can be deployed. Associations that earn higher NDR in this area find creative ways to recommend their communication as important digests for their members while also backing their advertisers as key supporters.

Sharing notice about available member communication early in the member lifecycle is a good way to engage members and potential advertisers from the start. To keep the spotlight on your communication, take advantage of channels to frequently get in front of your members: quarterly/bi-monthly/monthly distributions, online and digital distributions, tradeshows and luncheons.

Left: A digital edition archive on a desktop monitor, and (right) on a mobile phone.

Engaging content can manifest in the form of themes for particular issues. This opens up niche advertising opportunities. Your supporters will be happy when given the opportunity to make ad placement alongside relevant content. For example, when discussing a topic such as ‘curbside appeal’ in the multifamily/apartment management industry, there are a wide range of vendors that could come together and showcase their solutions to enhance your property and community.

Other ways to specifically get advertisers more engaged can include presenting special opportunities like discounted ad placements for businesses with editorial submissions, or direct-mail offering to exhibitors for pre/post-show publications.

To earn more non-dues revenue from your member communication, ensure they are useful to members and advertisers, make them easily accessible to all, and strategically engage readers in your publications. These strategic steps will infuse more value into your communication programs and better position your association for higher non-dues revenue earnings.

About The Author

Stephen Cofino is an advertising sales consultant with Naylor Association Solutions.