By Marcela Olson, AOE Customer Service Manager
One of the biggest challenges industry associations are currently facing is revenue loss. Historically, associations’ revenue relied almost totally on membership dues. In fact, in 1953, a whopping 96 percent of revenue came from dues. Today, dues comprise only 30 percent while events, sponsorships and expos round out the top three sources of non-dues revenue. Because these sources have been all but eliminated in recent months due to the pandemic, it is no surprise that more than half of today’s associations anticipate tapping into at least a portion of their reserves to offset their current revenue loss. With the future unclear, most do not anticipate returning to events, conferences or expos until 2021 at the earliest.
While the concern about revenue loss this year is very real, it doesn’t have to be inevitable. There are actions associations can take that will not only improve the bottom line but also benefit their members. Community Brands recently shared four ways to boost associations’ non-dues revenue. Here is what they said:
- Face-to-face events are not happening right now but that does not mean associations cannot offer an alternative to their members, vendors and sponsors. A digital vendor guide, for example, can provide your members with a one-stop resource to research relevant products and services. The guide should include a list of sponsors organized into categories and allow vendors to place ads, links and videos which, in turn, create a new source of non-dues revenue. In addition, offering a digital vendor guide to members will help position your association as their industry vendor resource.
- Members overwhelmingly consider job opportunities to be among the top 10 most important benefits offered by their association. In fact, a primary reason for joining a membership is career advancement. An online career center is a great way to add value for your members and connect them with employers who need them most. What association would not want to be the main source for hard-to-find talent for employers? In addition, a career center can drive more revenue for your association by offering employers the opportunity to promote their jobs.
- Creating a recruitment guide that connects members with top industry employers is also a great way to support your members when many need it most, promote your initiatives and generate revenue through employer advertising. At the same time, you are demonstrating significant value to your audience which can, in turn, lead to an increase in new members.
- In addition, hosting a virtual career fair is a great way to enhance your relationships with members by introducing job seekers to potential employers in a live, online forum. Those who conduct virtual career fairs have benefitted by extending their reach, engaging more members and generating more revenue.
These are just a few examples of what associations can do to finish the year on a higher note. By acknowledging the challenges we are facing, and rising to them through innovation and adaptation, associations can look forward to new opportunities and even better relationships with their members.