Less is More: Non-Dues Revenue

Written by Garth Jordan on October 23, 2017

All associations want to maximize revenue in order to better serve their members.

Non-dues revenue channels can be a great opportunity for associations to broaden the range of services they offer, and to build relationships with other bodies in their industry.

But a deluge of products, conferences, and publications aimed at increasing revenue can distract from your organization’s core priorities - as well as diluting the overall quality of your non-dues revenue efforts.

When it comes to non-dues revenue, I’d rather pursue a share of mind than a share of wallet. Industry partnerships with vendors can bring new knowledge leadership to your association with a small set of carefully thought-through and custom-designed products to fulfil your members’ needs.

Members of your association want to see products relevant to their pain points. With the correct research, associations can narrow down their selection to a concise and targeted array of goods that will make members’ jobs and lives easier. However, with finite resources, you can’t afford a long, slow process of trial and error.

This is why I propose minimizing products to maximize results. Fewer products of a higher quality will return more to your association than an ever-growing range of offerings irrelevant to professionals. It takes strategic thinking to calculate which projects to throw your weight behind.

Cast a critical eye over the projects meant to be bringing in revenue at your association. Is 80% or more of your revenue coming from 20% or fewer of your products? Carve out projects, whether they are e-books, sponsorships, or conferences, that don’t fulfil the 80/20 rule. Following the philosophy of minimum input for maximum output avoids the dilution of business and highlights the best your association has to offer. Efficiency is key.

Review your non-dues revenue channels on a regular basis. This involves a coherent, cross-departmental effort to give staff a holistic view of what the association has on offer so that appropriate research can be conducted. Measuring popularity with a product experience score can reveal which products make your audience tick. After collating these scores, draw a line where you see fit to measure each product’s margin impact, for example by picking out the top ten generators of revenue in the past year. Find a way to cut products that fall below this margin.

If you direct resources towards making your top products provide the best experience possible, they won’t come up lacking when it comes to your members’ needs. Products must be more enjoyable, more discoverable, and meet the needs of your audience.

Self-reflection reaps huge rewards. Ask the hard questions about non-dues revenue projects: are they delivering products that don’t meet members’ needs, or don’t contribute the margin you need? If not, why not, and what can you do to change that? Don’t be afraid to admit that a project has failed.

Downsizing doesn’t have to be a dirty word. With the right approach, your association can maximize efficiency and excel with fewer products.

Does this topic intrigue you? Garth spoke on this subject at SURGE 2017, a free virtual summit we hosted November 7-9th. Click here to access the replay of the session.