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This article first appeared as "5 steps to maximize nondues revenue" in Association TRENDS.
By JEANNE SHEEHY
Nondues revenue programs should be a component of any association’s long-term strategic plan to advance its mission and recruit and retain members. Unfortunately, this economic climate is forcing some assn executives to learn that lesson the hard way.
How can associations develop and manage successful nondues revenue programs? Success includes developing an integrated plan, conducting research, exploring and testing different programs and evaluating those programs. Ongoing feedback is critical to ensure that your program continues to meet demand.
• Start with a plan. Don’t confuse nondues revenue programs with quick fixes or “add-ons.” Rather, build nondues revenue strategy into your organization’s overall plan from the start. As with other components, integrate nondues revenue programs within the overall organizational plan to advance the assn’s mission and serve (and attract) members. Think long term; typically nondues revenue programs will not generate results overnight. They will grow and evolve.
• Do your homework. Identify what your members need first (and what they are willing to pay for!) – and then build a nondues program to meet those needs. You might convene a focus group or conduct a survey to identify and prioritize those needs.
For example, the National Assocaition of Long Term Care Administrator Boards wanted to make the assn’s review process for continuing education easier for providers and reviewers. (NAB is the leading authority on licensing, credentialing and regulating administrators of organizations along the continuum of long-term care.)
The solution: NAB developed and introduced an online, user-friendly system that leverages the Internet. The system allows users to complete and submit an application, and enables NAB staff and volunteers to track and review the information. In addition, with this system, secure credit card processing is available – as is a real-time database of sponsors and programs.
NAB did its homework and knew that providers and sponsors would pay a higher fee for a more efficient process. And, the program allows NAB to offer a “value-add” – links to provider Web sites (through an online directory) that give providers a marketing edge.
• Explore and evaluate options. Nondues revenue programs are not “one size fits all.” Tailor a program to meet your assn’s needs. There’s a wide range of potential programs – from meetings to educational courses, to affinity programs, sponsorships and merchandise, to name just a few. Evaluate and test all of your options before rolling them out to a wider audience.
As important, evaluate what you’ll need to make a particular program work. How do implementation costs compare with available budget? What is the time involved to launch and maintain a program? How does the program serve to advance the organization’s mission?
Nondues revenue options
– New products and services examples
Print & web advertising
– Current products and pricing review
– Certification capability
• Diversify. The current economic situation underscores the need for individuals to diversify their financial portfolio. Assns are no different. In fact, it has become increasingly important for assns to develop and evaluate diversified revenue streams on an ongoing basis. Today, as NAB continues to respond to the needs of its members and its own organizational growth, it maintains 15 nondues revenue programs. With this approach, the variety of offerings not only keeps members engaged, it prevents the assn from having all of its financial eggs in one basket.
• Track success. Before implementing its technology-based solution, NAB’s review process produced only adequate results. But in the first year of its new on-line system, NAB experienced a 67% increase in approved programs and generated a 61% increase in fee revenue. The new system provides password protected security and eliminates the need to input data manually into the database because data can now be retrieved from the original application. Revenue generated has more than paid for the start-up costs of the system.
Sheehy is VP and chief marketing officer, Bostrom, Chicago.