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How Do You Use Non-Dues Revenue?

By Kelly Clark • November 5, 2012

By Kelly Donovan

Most of the discussion about non-dues revenue focuses on how to earn it. What about the flip side: How are associations spending non-dues revenue?

This question led us to the Peach State, where two statewide associations, the Georgia Association of Convenience Stores and the American Institute of Architects Georgia Association have developed some creative ways of distributing association funds that help members upgrade facilities, represent their industry with the state legislature, give needed facelifts to their communities, go back to school and continue their memberships.

  • Many associations use non-dues revenue to help members and future members through scholarships, business grants and community projects.

  • Remaining flexible about how non-dues income is distributed is key to ensuring those funds are used for the most relevant and needed purposes.

  • The Georgia Association of Convenience Stores and the American Institute of Architects Georgia Association are two groups who creatively use non-dues revenues to enhance their membership experience.

Tell us how your association uses non-dues revenue on our Association Executive Roundtable page on LinkedIn.

Georgia Association of Convenience Stores

The Georgia Association of Convenience Stores (GACS), an organization of convenience store operators formed in 1973, works to promote and sustain convenience store (C-store) business through education and professional development, helping operators run more efficient operations and legislative initiatives.

Like many associations, GACS offers scholarships for college students. These 18 scholarships are funded entirely through an annual golf tournament and voluntary donations made in tandem with membership renewals. Unlike many associations, however, GACS’ scholarships are open to members, children of members and employees of member firms.

“Part of ensuring a well-rounded, educated and professional C-store industry is opening up educational opportunities to as many interested people as possible,” said GACS President Jim Tudor. “We offer more than $10,000 in scholarship money every year to members of our GACS family who want to pursue higher education in hopes that someday they’ll put that education to use bettering C-store operations.”

Those scholarships include the Brittany Schmeelk Scholarship, named in honor of the late daughter of a GACS board member; the Nancy Bivings Scholarship, named in honor of an 18-year GACS member; the Bill Hoskinson Scholarship, named in honor of a member and past chair of GACS’ Supplier Committee; and the Hayes Bryan Scholarship, funded in part by the McLane Company in honor of a former employee who also served on GACS’ Supplier Committee. The Schmeelk scholarship also pays for a full registration and guest registration, plus accommodations, at GACS’ annual conference, so the recipient has the opportunity to expand his or her mind (and contacts list) through professional workshops and networking.

Giving C-stores a facelift through the Lighting Retrofit Program

Out in the field, C-store owners are always looking for ways to make their day-to-day operations more efficient. With the green movement gaining traction over the past decade, GACS wanted to provide its operator members with funding to help make their stores more eco-friendly. The GACS Lighting Retrofit Fund provides low-interest loans to operators who want to replace worn-out lighting with upgraded, retrofitted fixtures. GACS members that receive lighting upgrades pay back to the fund their calculated savings over the first 18 months, as the savings accumulate through lower energy bills. The retrofit program gives store owners and operators the added benefit of a facelift for their C-store, as the new fixtures often shines brighter and cleaner than before.

GACS initially funded this program through a $450,000 federal grant. The program is so popular that dozens of operators have benefited so far, and with the initial grant money distributed and savings being reinvested in the fund, GACS expects the now self-sustaining program to continue for several years.

“We’re so pleased with how this has turned out, and how members who initially took advantage of this opportunity are investing in other members by contributing the difference between their old and new energy payments,” said Angela Holland, vice president for association services.

Supporting Community Safety Activities

An upgraded C-store needs customers, and customers won’t visit if the store is perceived to be located in an unsafe area. To address perennial safety issues and show support for their customers, GACS supports a number of community safety organizations at the local level, including Crime Stoppers, Fire Safety Week, Friends of Agriculture and other local nonprofits.

GACS also encourages individuals and organizations to support GACSPAC, a state level political action committee that makes contributions to state level candidates and members of the Georgia General Assembly who support the convenience store industry.

“We have built an active legislative agenda over the years to ensure that our members aren’t adversely affected by new legislation, and that the convenience store industry can continue to thrive in Georgia,” said Tudor. “Our individual members and member organizations are generous in ensuring that our industry will continue to have a lobbying voice.”

AIA Georgia

Over in Atlanta, the American Institute of Architects Georgia Association works to increase the public's general knowledge and awareness of architecture and the role architects play in the built and planned environment.

The Architecture Foundation of Georgia, its 501(c)3 affiliate, complements AIA Georgia’s mission by collecting and channeling funds for educational opportunities for architecture students, community construction and renovation projects, and awareness of the value of architecture and the beneficial role of architects. Money is raised mainly through donations from its members, although more public fundraising efforts are underway.

At first, the foundation’s main activity was awarding scholarships for students at the Georgia Institute of Technology's School of Architecture. The scholarship program now provides four to five scholarships per year for students attending Georgia Tech, the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) or Southern Polytechnic State University, Georgia’s three schools with accredited architecture programs. The money helps students in their final semesters of study pay for classes, books, supplies and even studying abroad—an important career-broadening experience for many budding architects. Over the past few years, thanks to matching funds from the national AIA organization, the foundation has given $7,500 annually to about one dozen students—and potential future AIA members.

“The primary purpose of these scholarships is to support the industry by giving a boost to our budding colleagues,” said Reed. “But by granting financial help to these deserving students in the name of the foundation, we also strive to encourage their future membership in AIA Georgia and a healthy roster statewide.”

Revitalizing Communities through Architecture

In addition to educational opportunities, the foundation has helped communities in need of money for architecture-related projects, such as Habitat for Humanity houses, public art and neighborhood revitalization. AIA Georgia members donate time, money and architectural expertise for projects, such as a student competition in 2000 to build a gateway sculpture at a neighborhood entrance.

“Our community grant program went on hiatus these past few years because of the sluggish economy and organizational restructuring,” said Reed. “However, we’re in the process of starting it up again with a renewed focus on local, ad hoc grassroots organizations that want to clean up their communities and help their neighbors through these difficult times. For the first time, some of the Foundation’s board members are not architects but accountants, business strategists and grant writers, and we’re excited about the diversified experience and business knowledge they can use to help us steer funds into more effective projects.”

With many community spaces suffering from neglect because of foreclosures and decreased tax rolls, the board is hoping to provide money to smaller projects aimed at cleaning up graffiti, fixing broken public property and other cleanups designed to refresh citizen pride along the lines of the “broken windows” theory.

Organizations that receive grants from AIA Georgia must partner with a local AIA chapter to complete their projects. “This way, our members have the chance to interact with each other outside of their firms and learn first-hand about revitalization or construction needs in their communities, while the communities benefit from our members’ time and labor as well as the grant money,” said Reed. “Architects by nature are used to bringing people together around creative solutions. Some of these volunteer efforts might ultimately help an out-of-work member find their next job.”

Supporting students as they finish their education, assisting communities as they work to maintain pride and safety in their environment, and helping current members sharpen their skills and improve their businesses—at Naylor, we couldn’t think of better ways to invest hard-earned funds.

Now it’s your turn: Does your association use non-dues revenue in a creative or philanthropic way? Send your story to Kelly Donovan or tell it on the Association Executive Roundtable LinkedIn page.

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