How a robust non-dues revenue stream helps you better support your members.

By Gretchen Kast

As an association, your goal is to support your industry across a variety of means: through education, resources and even legislative representation. While membership dues is the clearest way to fund these benefits, it doesn’t have to be the only way. More than simply generating more money, integrating sponsorship, exhibit and advertising opportunities into your publications and events can make it easier for your organization to fulfill that goal of supporting your members. Advertising and exhibit dollars can be invested right back into your resources—and help you create even more valuable membership programs.

Here are three surprising benefits of increasing your non-dues revenue:

1. Diversifying Your Revenue Streams Means Greater Financial Stability

As membership numbers continue to wane, it’s more important than ever for associations to have multiple strategies for generating revenue. Offering a robust program of marketing and exhibit opportunities is a valuable way to supplement member dues—and ensure that you’re not reliant on one financial stream.

Robust is the operative word there. Simply throwing together a few sponsorship placements may not be enough to really boost your association. Putting together a thoughtful mix of marketing opportunities and advertising programs (both big and small, across multiple platforms and events) gives you added security against potential market shifts and unforeseen changes. There are a number of reasons outside of your control that a sponsor or advertiser may choose to end their contract. But having enough diversity in your advertisers and exhibitors can help minimize that impact; losing one company won’t cripple your publication or event.

2. Better Support Your Members (And Potential Members)

Beyond just covering the costs of production, advertising and exhibit sales can also help take some of the financial burden off your readers or members.

While many publications still operate under a subscription model, a lucrative advertising program would allow you to either fully eliminate or off-set those prices for your audience. It also means that you can offer even more resources to your members without increasing dues. This creates more good will among your membership base and helps highlight the value of continued participation.

The ability to offer free or low-cost resources also gives your organization the opportunity to connect with new potential members. There are a number of barriers that can prevent certain professionals from investing in an association membership. Some people have budgetary constraints or concerns, while others may simply not see the benefit. More affordable publications or events allow you to engage with these people on their level, and hopefully start them on the pipeline towards greater engagement in the future.

3. Cover Your Costs & Re-Invest In Your Resources

Putting together a print magazine costs money. Not only do you have to pay for the physical materials, but the actual printing process as well, before you even get to shipping and distribution. Although many cash-strapped media companies have opted to pivot to online-only in order to cut costs, digital properties are hardly free when you consider the cost of hosting services and web development. And, of course, no matter how the publication is distributed, you will always have to pay your writers, editors, producers and content managers. (Even when they’re freelance. Preferably on time.)

The same goes for in-person events as well. From keynote speakers and social media managers to check-in staff, break-time entertainment and signage printers, there are a lot of people who have to come together to make sure a meeting or conference goes smoothly.

Taking the time to generate successful advertising, sponsorship and exhibit programs gives your organization the freedom to really invest in your resources. It allows you to not only hire but retain top talent, across all departments. It allows you to try something like “The Backyard” or opt for a more lavish social event. These things really make a difference, transforming your publications and events into must-see resources. This has a direct impact on your reach and engagement—which, in turn, can have a direct impact on your sales.

Content matters. Quality matters. And while a little bit of creativity and strategic thinking can go a long way, a steady non-dues revenue stream can help make even the most exciting ideas a reality.

Want to learn more? Get in touch today.