Advertising as a Source of External Non-Dues Revenue

for associations, creating a passionate advertising campaign as a source of external non-dues revenue is at the top of your list

Is An Ad Campaign the Way to Increase your Total Revenue?

Advertising as a source of external non-dues revenue can be a touchy subject for some associations. Revenue generators outside of dues revenue streams can seem like you are “selling out” your audience just to make some extra money. But dues usually only account for less than 40% of an association’s total income.

To make up the other 60%, your association is going to have to get creative. There are many routes and sources of external non-dues revenues. Consider this your call to action to thinking about advertising as one of those revenue ideas.

get creative when thinking about advertising as a source of external non-dues revenue

Advertising is Not a Dirty Word

First, we need to get beyond the idea that we don’t want to use advertising as a source of external non-dues revenue for your association. You have built a relationship with your members, and you don’t want to cheapen that relationship. But at the end of the day, we have to admit… money doesn’t grow on trees.

Like we stated before, we’re looking for 60% of our yearly external revenues to be non-dues based. So how can we think outside the box to meet that additional revenue target without sacrificing our integrity?

Advertising doesn’t have to be a dirty word if we can use it effectively. But how can we use advertising to our advantage while remaining loyal to our members and their wants and needs without losing our rectitude?

write what you know  and apply it to your advertising methods

Write What You Know

This turn of phrase doesn’t have to belong solely to the young creative writers of this world. This can also apply to our advertising methods. We need to keep in mind who our members are and what they want from our services. What is going to turn off your members is seeing an advertisement that doesn’t at all pertain to their interests or desires.

If you’re an association advocating for animal rights, you don’t want to display ads for a meat market. Like everything else in business, advertising is about knowing your customer.

discover what's best for your association: in-house vs outsourced advertising as a means of external non-dues revenue

In-House vs. Outsourced Advertising

This is the only real debate you need to have in your deliberations on advertising: who is going to do it? There is an endless supply of advertising agencies who have the preexisting knowledge and tools to help your association advertise as a source for non-dues revenue well and effectively.

But there is something to be said for using the people who are already under your roof to accomplish the task of creating external non-dues revenue sources. So, let’s explore some of the pros and cons of each, and what is going to be the biggest benefit to your members as well as your association.

In-House Advertising

One of the greatest advantages of using an in-house team to drive your advertising campaign is just what we spoke to previously. Your in-house team already knows your member base. You have a department that creates newsletters and uses your website and social media avenues to speak directly to your members and what they want. This research and knowledge are going to be invaluable to the process of advertising.

We already spoke to the point that we don’t want to blatantly advertise something that our members are not interested in, or worse, something they oppose. Instead, we can use the research that we already have on our members to give them something that they want. Or better yet, we can give them the idea of something that they didn’t know they wanted.

What creative connections can we make between the interests and needs of our members and the services and products in the world?

However, something that we want to keep in mind is the cost of this advertising. Do you already have an onboard team that could handle your advertising? According to payscale.com, “An experienced Advertising Sales Representative which includes employees with 10 to 20 years of experience can expect to earn an average total compensation of $46,000”.

This is the biggest deterrent for using in-house advertising for your association. If you don’t already have the time for it, hiring the right people could cost you substantially more than what you stand to make back on advertising.

So what’s the alternative? Outsourcing our advertising campaign.

Outsourced Advertising

The primary reason to outsource your advertising and pay additional fees for additional income is that they have the experience and the tools. Advertising agencies have representatives that know the game, and while they may not know your company, it’s their business to find out more about it. It can be a harrowing experience trying to navigate the world of advertising and doing it effectively.

Advertising agencies have the tools and experience to make sure your advertisements are going to be meaningful as well as effective. Another thing to consider is that these agencies already have so many pre-existing relationships with companies who are looking to advertise.

While our in-house team might have to start from scratch, an outsourced team only needs to match the knowledge they have with the information you give them about your association.

outsourcing your advertising to an agency can sometimes be the right option for your association

Hiring an agency isn’t going to be free, but it could very well cost you less money than if you were hiring your own team and starting from the beginning.

There are two main reasons why you wouldn’t want to hire an agency to handle your advertising. The first is the knowledge of your association. You might have an extremely complex or niche member basis that would be difficult for an advertising agency to comprehend and market to effectively.

The other reason is that it might cost more to hire the company than you could make on your end. It’s extremely important to intimately know what your budget and threshold for this process are, and perhaps more pertinently, what you would stand to earn back from it.

If you see that what you stand to earn in comparison to what you stand to spend is too risky an investment, it might be best to just delineate some of your current staff members to this external non-dues revenue project campaign.

make an association benefit a member benefit when finding means of creating external non-dues revenue

Making an Association Benefit a Member Benefit

Ultimately, our goal in advertising as a source of external non-dues revenue should be symbiotic. We want to earn additional revenues outside of membership dues, but we also want to stay on-brand in our ideas and values. Advertising can be a way to strengthen your financial status.

But perhaps additionally, advertising can be another way that your association interacts and maintains its relationship with your members. For more means of increasing your external non-dues revenue, check out this other blog!

Sponsorships: Hidden Gems of Incremental Revenue

optimizing sponsorships packages brings incremental revenue back to associations

Optimize Sponsorship Packages Maximize Your Associations Non-Dues Revenue

Maximizing revenue for associations is more than just searching for additional membership dues. Sponsorships are now more vital than ever for associations struggling to maximize their NDR. Within each association, there are multiple opportunities for additional revenue streams. Incremental revenue gains are created by adding value to existing products or services to increase exposure for your customers.  Maximizing your NDR (aka non-dues revenue) is an easily forgotten method of increasing total revenue.

To increase the amount you can charge for your sponsorship packages means optimizing your assets to increase the value of the packages to the sponsors through an increased audience, or additional exposure to a select group.

Types of Sponsorship Packages

Increasing value for sponsors exists in many forms.

A few examples of NDR are shown below:

  • Allow sponsors to access members at a conference
  • Display sponsor advertising inside an association newsletter
  • Display sponsorship materials at a networking event
  • Invite a sponsor to co-host a webinar
  • Display sponsorship messages on the association website
  • Post sponsorship messages to association social media sites

trade shows serve as a fantastic platform for your association's sponsorships packages

Sponsorship opportunities can be attached to virtually every interaction an association has with its members. By offering sponsorship packages, additional revenue streams are realistically achievable. It is vital to remember that something of value needs to be created for the potential advertisers, but more importantly for association members.  

The Challenge

In the 2018 update of the Association Communications Benchmarking Report by Association Adviser and Naylor Association Solutions, it was shown that 46% of associations surveyed “felt their ability to generate non-dues revenue (NDR) from their communications was a serious or significant challenge.” This is a 6% increase from the 2017 survey results where 40% of respondents indicated a significant challenge.

Communications should not be seen as an independent entity but as part of the associations offering to create maximum exposure for your sponsors.  

Developing Packages Sponsors Want

It is best not to introduce “different” advertising opportunities, but look at your current assets and create better packages for your sponsors.  It is less about introducing new advertising, and more about maximizing what you do offer.

increase exposure for sponsorships packages at association trade shows

We asked Pat Mersinger from the Red2Black Group about increasing the value of advertising packages.  

He went right for the trade show. He said when working with associations, they forget about the ramp up to show, and the post-show engagement. Offer a bell curve advertising package that will increase exposure on your website site, newsletter, and trade show schedule as the event gets closer.

Plus, after the event is over, maximize those sponsors in the post-show wrap-up, website, and newsletter. Instead of making it a one or two-day sponsorship, you can grow it to a 3-month sponsorship providing more exposure, ongoing lead generation, and additional advertising opportunities.  We did introduce any new products, but really maximized the products you are currently offering.


Website Maximization Sells Sponsorship Packages

maximizing content within an association's website and newsletter helps sell sponsorships

For your website and newsletter to have value, it needs to have content that is up-to-date and refreshed frequently. To persuade members to revisit an association site, the site needs to have new and interesting content posted daily.

For an association that is manually posting new content, this can be a huge undertaking. It is advisable in these cases to seek out an AI-based content curator. These curators use artificial intelligence algorithms to locate suitable content and also have the ability to customize content to align with the interests of association members.

A common practice for associations is to sell sponsorship inside the e-newsletter that is sent to its members. Newsletter sponsorships must be something that is of value to both the sponsor and the members receiving it. The sponsorship could be an ad targeting individual members with new job opportunities or educational offerings that further their industry knowledge. It could also be a posting for a new product or service where sponsors need to reach association members that are key decision makers. Since e-newsletters are sent to members on an ongoing basis, whether that’s weekly or monthly, they serve as a constantly renewed location where sponsor messages can be sold. This revenue channel is frequently overlooked, yet it is available every month of the year.

Like the web site example above, an e-newsletter is also a place where the importance of fresh, relevant content should not be underestimated.

Leveraging Outside Experts

selling sponsorships packages means leveraging outside experts

Associations are often under-resourced when it comes to managing marketing efforts such as email campaigns, website content and social media postings.

Since it takes additional resources to sell sponsorship packages, it is not surprising that the 2018 Association Communications Benchmarking Report indicated that advertising sales were the second most likely function to be outsourced.

This is primarily the case because the association sales team is focused on selling memberships or sponsorships for trade shows. They do not have time to sell advertising.

Organizations such as Association Revenue Partners (ARP) allow associations to outsource all their sponsorship sales to a group of experienced professionals. Professional sales teams like ARP are able to connect to organizations immediately and start selling. This means that an association’s staff can stay focused on members and shows, while the external sales team acts to drive additional revenue for the association.

Using a third-party sales team allows associations to tap into experts with a proven record of not only selling sponsorships but also in delivering ads that are visually stunning and conceptually interesting.

Don’t Leave Money on the Table

don't leave money on the table by ignoring the possibilities of sponsorships

Sponsorship packages are a stream of non-dues revenue available to every association. Virtually every touch point with members provides at least one opportunity to sell a sponsorship placement. These opportunities are also an additional avenue by which to provide valuable third-party products or services to association members and to increase member engagement. Don’t leave money on the table by ignoring the possibilities of sponsorships.


Reasons to Strengthen Your Association’s Social Media Presence in 2019

Reasons to Strengthen Your Association's Social Media Presence in 2019

Increasing Your Association’s Social Media Presence Needs to be a Key Goal for 2019

In this digital age, your association’s social media presence is a crucial part of not just your digital marketing presence but also helps to create a perception of your association as a whole.

Your association’s social media presence is something that can be used as a communication tool to engage with members you already have on the various social platforms. It can also be viewed as a strategy to interest potential members, like millennials who are digital natives and known for seeking information and communicating online. If done well, an association’s social media presence can easily translate into membership base growth, and retention, as well as increasing the effectiveness of the time and effort spent on growth. And more importantly, your association’s social media presence and engagement is something you can do which can be extremely cost effective in terms of ROI.

So let’s take a look at the reasons more associations are strengthening their social media presence in 2019. And also, let’s take a look at what they’re doing to achieve this.

so many people are connected to their phones, and engaging online, which is why your association's social media presence is more important than ever

Increasing your Association’s Social Media Presence Through Greater Visibility

Technology in today’s world moves so quickly, and so do our attitudes about technology. Not long ago we were told to be very cautious about the things we put on social media because potential employers or business partners could see them.

But that’s exactly what we want now. Your association’s social media presence is more important than ever. In a very real way, it looks unprofessional not to have a social media arm to your association. Your results on search engines can seem incomplete without having this badge of technological honor under your name. It validates your association as being one that embraces technology as opposed to one that looks like a dinosaur. Associations’ need to keep up with the times to continue to remain relevant to younger members who want to be part of something that they can relate to.

Visibility Includes “Housekeeping” Items as Well as Communication Through Social Platforms

Many businesses and organizations use social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram to stay in touch with their target audiences. But have you considered this is also another method of communication?

Social media platforms are a way for your association to advertise things like location, office hours, events, newsworthy members, and an overall way to speak directly to your audience. Having this high level of visibility is very important to your branding. For an association looking to maximize its ability to stay in touch with its base, having a social media presence is vital.

One more important aspect to consider regarding visibility and your association’s social media presence is that you need to make the social media itself visible. In other words, make sure that you advertise the fact that you are on whichever platforms you choose to utilize, but remember, the more the merrier. Add social media icons to your association’s website, and include them in all of your team’s email signatures. Also, include reminders for members to follow your association’s social media outlets through newsletters, emails, and other literature.

if your association's social media presence is not on your radar, it should be.

Let Social Media be an Advertisement for Your Association

Your association’s social media page might be the first place someone views your organization on the internet. Whether its a committed member of your organization or a new potential member, make sure that your first impression is a good one.

In a great article from Investment News discussing the importance of using social media platforms, they state that “clients and prospects look to your website and social media content as a way to get to know you better”. This is a great attitude to have when thinking about the kind of content you put out there to increase your association’s social media presence.

Consider the goals of your association when you are deciding what content to put out on your platforms. Let your organization’s goals and your social media presence’s goals share a common purpose. While inflammatory and flashy news articles might turn some heads, it’s ultimately not good for your branding and reputation in the long run.

Think of your social media presence as an extension of material that you produce for the members of your association. Your members are the individuals who follow you and care about what you have to say, but on a social media platform, you are also able to speak to a wider audience at the same time. While you are able to present your members with newsletters and emails designed specifically for them, think of your social media output as a way to deliver your association’s message to other interested parties.

Pay attention to what’s trending in the world, and find how it relates to your association and its values. This is your opportunity to stay relevant and do some free advertising.

utilize your association's social media presence to deliver your message to a much wider audience

Let Your Association Openly Communicate with the World

Beginning to work on your association’s social media presence can be intimidating. What your members, and potential members, want to hear from you might not seem obvious. However, the best part of social media platforms is that they are two-way streets.

While you should remain consistent on the quality and frequency of things you post, don’t be afraid to tailor your messages to your audience. The audience for every social platform is slightly different, but one thing remains consistent: people want to feel like they’re individually special yet inside a like-minded crowd.

If you don’t know what your members might want to share, ask them. You can create a poll as a way of giving individuals a strong voice. And they will inevitably want to utilize this voice. Post content that pertains to your association’s goals and values. Also, please note that you should be posting consistently, but that you can also give your message that extra personal touch. How? Well, by reaching out to the community at large.

when you association's social media presence is starting to grow, utilize tools to track its growth

Wrapping Things Up: Use Your Association’s Social Media Presence for Brand Building

Social media has proven itself as one of the most invaluable platforms for communication in the modern day. It’s used by individuals, organizations, brands, politicians, and everyone in between to help forward their agenda and communicate this world. Don’t let yourself be left out of the conversation.

Figure out a plan of action, and begin building your association’s brand through social media.

After all, this will strengthen not only your visibility and your web presence, but also your association as a whole.