Association Revenue: High-Impact, Low-Lift Opportunities



In our ever-changing landscape, associations face a challenge – how do you deliver more value to members while simultaneously increasing revenue? The solution lies in your ability to move beyond traditional revenue sources to diversify your revenue streams. If this blog provides one takeaway, it should be this: 

Innovation is the key to creating sustainable revenue for your association. 

Let’s delve into the world of association revenue, examine several non-traditional revenue streams, and identify strategies to capitalize on new revenue opportunities.

Association Revenue Streams

You already know the traditional means of boosting your association’s revenue, such as increasing dues, forming a new event, identifying new sponsorship opportunities, and offering certification programs. Here are some new ideas you may not have considered:

a) Advertising and Content Marketing:

Have you considered leveraging your own website and newsletters to offer advertising space to businesses targeting your member base? You can also create sponsored content opportunities where companies can contribute educational or informative content in exchange for exposure.

b) Exclusive Member Benefits (aka Affiliate Programs):

This is a no-brainer. Partnering with organizations in your industry that offer goods or services your members could benefit from, it’s a win-win-win. What we mean is, you win through commission, the partner organization wins through sales, and each member wins through exclusive discounts. You can also negotiate seasonal and one-time special offers with relevant vendors, service providers, or retailers, exclusively available to your members to keep the engagement fresh and exciting. The commission or referral fee from these partnerships can provide your association with both a non-dues revenue stream and a new value-added benefit to your members.

c) Product Sales:

Another opportunity to generate revenue, market your association, and boost member satisfaction is to sell association-branded swag such as apparel, accessories, or promotional items. These products can be sold online, during events, or through partnerships with retailers (another great opportunity to explore new partner relationships). It’s also a great way to give members an opportunity to show how proud they are to be members.

d) Industry Research and Reports:

Did you know that research can generate revenue? Industry research, surveys, and market reports based on the association’s expertise provide an opportunity for sponsorship revenue, membership revenue, and sales revenue. By offering your research for sale, you can create a new revenue stream. By offering it as a membership incentive, you can drive new membership sales. And the benefits can be cumulative. When our Chief Research Consultant began implementing custom-sponsored research projects for a leading association, they generated $100,000 in revenue in the first year. By year 6, their research had generated $1.5 million

e) Facility Rental:

If your association owns or operates a physical facility, consider renting out an event space, such as conference rooms or training facilities, to external organizations or businesses. This can provide a steady stream of income when the space isn’t in use.

Identifying and Capitalizing on New Revenue Opportunities

So how do you decide which opportunities are worth the time and effort to pursue? Many associations’ staff are already at max capacity. Start by choosing an opportunity that has a lower lift, but the potential for the greatest revenue impact. We’d recommend starting with sponsored research because you can work with a consultant who will do all of the heavy lifting for you, and the revenue can build upon itself year after year. Here are some additional  approaches to consider for these recommended revenue strategies:

1. Collaborate with Partners:

Revenue opportunities such as affiliate programs and member benefit programs are a great place to begin because both parties can work together to share the initial work involved in setting up the partnership. And we know that two teams working together to brainstorm ways you can collaborate is bound to yield many ideas to explore together. Joint events, shared resources, and co-branded initiatives can generate new revenue streams and expand the association’s reach, while the work is shared between the parties

2. Product Sales:

Working with a promotional products company to create and market branded goods is another low-lift effort for associations. Reputable promotional product partners like Madden Branded Goods, offer upfront research for products geared toward your members’ unique needs and interests, and can even set up a white-labeled custom online storefront. 

3. Affiliate Programs:

Another easy-to-manage revenue program is one that our sister company, Core Affinity, specializes in. Core Affinity does the heavy lifting for you in identifying potential partners that would align with both your association’s core values and also with your member base’s needs. With a portfolio of over 1000 brand partners, the pre-work has already been done for you.

4. Embrace Technology:

Associations can leverage technology to lighten the workload as you work on initiatives to diversify revenue streams. This could include developing online courses or webinars, offering virtual conferences, or creating digital platforms for members to access exclusive content.

Diversifying revenue streams is essential for the long-term success and sustainability of any association. We hope these ideas sparked some of your own. Your existing revenue streams, such as membership dues, sponsorships and events, publications, and certification programs, associations can create a solid financial foundation. But to continually build upon that foundation, and continually explore new revenue opportunities such as sponsored research, affiliate partnerships, and technology adoption. Innovation enables associations to adapt to changing industry dynamics and stay mindful of growth opportunities.

By capitalizing on these strategies, your association can continue to deliver value to your members while ensuring your own longevity in our ever-evolving landscape. For a free ideation session for your association, contact us!


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