Is Earning More Non-Dues Revenue an Obstacle Course for Your Association?

By • October 25, 2017

Brianna Martin, Naylor Association Solutions
Brianna Martin, Naylor Association Solutions

Two out of five respondents (41 percent) to the 2017 Association Communications Benchmarking Survey feel their inability to generate non-dues revenue from communications is a significant challenge.

This is a decrease from the more than half (54 percent) of associations surveyed in 2016 that felt generating non-dues revenue was a challenge, but it is still a significantly bigger group than the 11 percent who, in 2011, said they face obstacles of earning additional revenue for membership activities, programs, recruitment, professional development, or any of the other myriad things associations invest extra dollars into for the benefit of their members.

What are these obstacles? While our survey doesn’t address that directly, we did ask associations about their advertising, sponsorship and communications measurement practices, and found that:

  • Forty-three percent of associations offer some customization of sponsorship opportunities. The fact that this number is not an overwhelming majority, even when the general consensus among associations is that customization of ad opportunities at events and within publications leads to an increased number of sponsors and increased income, tells us that our peers are having trouble actually doing it. Customization takes more time, manpower, strategy and planning than a one-ad-fits-all approach. Not every association is in a place to take on those requirements.
  • Just 15 percent offer full advertising/sponsorship customizations for sponsors. Why? See above re: time, manpower, strategy and planning required to begin and maintain an advertising or sponsorship program responsive to clients and profitable for an association. Smaller associations, in particular, tell us they don’t have the time or staff to maintain such a comprehensive program. But don’t make the mistake of conflating comprehensive with “big.” Fun, unique and mutually beneficial sponsorships can start small. Sometimes it’s simply a matter of changing old, tired revenue streams no one is excited about anymore. To that end, we like this non-dues revenue and affinity products starter list from Tony Rossell. It contains ideas for sources of non-dues revenue that could apply to many trade and professional associations. Your association also might start by asking your current sponsors what they want. Which brings us to our third and final Benchmarking takeaway relating to revenue:
  • 17 percent of associations say they don't have the resources to address advertiser issuesAnother 43 percent of associations survey their advertisers/sponsors annually. It’s great that a plurality is asking their financial backers about their satisfaction with an association’s advertising and sponsorship program, but, as with the point above, the fact that this number is not a majority tells us that putting in the time, effort and resources to speak with benefactors – whether through a survey, in person, by phone or digitally – is a hardship for many associations that likely have other responsibilities. Indeed, 28 percent of survey respondents reported they do not have the resources to talk with advertisers and sponsors at least annually about what kind of return they’d like to see if they invest in an association sponsorship, and 17 percent said they do not regularly talk with advertisers because they don’t have the resources to address issues that might be raised from such a conversation.

What obstacles does your association face when it comes to increasing your non-dues revenue stash? Is there a small step your association could take to remove just one of those roadblocks?

Read more about issues associations face when it comes to earning non-dues revenue in our 2017 Association Communications Benchmarking Study.

Additionally, if you’re interested in hearing more stats from our benchmarking study, as well as recommendations to help you improve your communications, join us for a one-hour webinar in early December.

Register here today:

Less Talk, More Action: How to Turn Your Communications Shortcomings into an Actionable Plan

Association Adviser Webinar Series

Wednesday, December 6

2 p.m. EST

About The Author

Brianna Martin is a corporate marketing specialist for Naylor Association Solutions.