Positioning Your Association in The Face of Declining Revenue Streams

Membership Nexus by Pawlucy FSAE 11-13

Improving non-dues revenue streams serving a dynamic membership de-mographic and keeping associations relevant is at the heart of all organizations looking top increase member value.

On September 26th & 27th, 25 association executives sequestered themselves over one and a half days to examine these issues. This group o f thought leaders made significant progress in the following ways:

  • Identified 12 ways to create member value from “golden handcuffs” to subscription membership to creating member and prospect profiles from the universe of members. (We share one idea in this article and encourage you to visit Tank to download the full white paper, which is a free benefit to members of FSAE.)
  • Identified four exciting new membership value-add items that you can use in your association. The one included in this article involves getting new ideas in motion.

One example of the member value discussion that we want to share includes both capturing new members and creating value for your vendor partners. The perceived lack of value from your suppliers and sponsors is the top reason they don’t return or sponsor your organization in the future. Limited resources force suppliers to make the most beneficial value decision for them. The question they most ask prior to sponsoring or joining is “will the dollars I spend with your association contribute to my company’s bottom line?” These ideas on Vendor Partner Engagement include multiple options for getting your vendor partners and sponsors more involved and more value for their membership.

 Vendor Partner Engagement Ideas


  1. Your vendor partners can help you stay in touch with your members and prospects. Who sees your members every day? Who collects data on a regular basis to improve their company sales? The vendor partners within your organization are already creating new interactions and actively collecting data within your industry and profession. Act ively engaging vendor partners to help you better understand your members and also help you “touch” your members more frequently in different ways is a golden opportunity. Negotiate ways in which your association can have access to their data so that you are better informed about not only current members but just as importantly, the prospects who you are not serving.
  2. Use your vendor partners to help you grow membership. Provide a succinct marketing piece about your association that speaks specifically to the needs of that industry or profession your vendor partner is touching. This could be more than one promotional piece depending on the supplier’s market. Make it specific so that you speak directly to the heart of your prospects through your vendor partner. Supplying vendor partners and sponsors with materials about your association that can be used as leave behinds is crucial — it makes it much easier to introduce yourself to the prospect association. Materials could be business cards, tri-fold brochures, etc., but should be something tangible as members and prospects are possibly seeing your vendor partners more than they are seeing you.
  3. Create a vendor-get-a-member referral campaign. For any new member brought on board by a vendor partners they receive either cash or promotional benefits within your association. Be creative in working with your vendor partners and the award system that is put in place. Also, don’t develop it on your own; get your vendor partners involved!

 The Association Kickstarter Program idea

Another example from the Think Tank session centers on association innovation and stimulating creativity in our members to generate new products and services in the industries/professions you serve: the Association Kickstarter Program idea. Every day our members work in their professions or industries and constantly strive to improve their workplaces, the industry or patient care. Every day they are imagining new tools and processes by which their job can be done better. How can we help them bring potentially profitable new products to market?

The Association Kickstarter Program idea allows members to submit new product improvements and inventions with a chance for your association to partially or fully fund the project while enjoying the revenue from product sales. It is a different way of  thinking and here are a few helpful tips that the Think Tank thought leaders brainstormed:

  • Market and promote the Association Kickstarter message that your association wants the members’ best ideas submitted and each year, the association will fund the top invention of a product or service.
  • Consider creating a separate for-profit company to act as a holding company for all of the new products and services that will be launched.
  • Consider partnering with organizations such as Edison Nation to help bring a new product to the launch stage if your resources are limited. Using an outside invention partner may also give you the ability to make it a turnkey reality much quicker than if you created it on your own. Sharing risk also means sharing profit.
  • Develop a Website to accommodate submissions from members on great ideas. Use Kickstarter as a model for your site. In addition, ensure all legal bases are covered and agreements are signed (i.e. ownership of product, licensing, use of your association’s brand, etc.)
  • Seek out a panel of entrepreneurs and potential co-investors to review the product (think Shark Tank ).
  • Select the winner at your annual event. Make it a big deal and a big splash celebrating a new product innovation.
  • Bring it to market with an expert in design and manufacturing. Use your association’s members as initial customers including you vendor partners that would carry your new product.

Imagine this Association Kickstarter as a program to generate non-dues revenue for the association through product sales. Innovation in the marketplace happens daily but members don’t know where to go to try to launch a new idea. Now they can look to your association. In addition to the great ideas generated during the session, we also concentrated on:

  • What a Think Tank is and providing FSAE members with the questions to lead Think Tanks within their organizations
  • Providing an overview related to optimal processes and results for associations
  • Economic, Societal and Generational issues
  • Universe” of members as a more realistic view of member profiles and needs
  • 2 Member Value areas
  • Four new potential products or services

[label type=”info” url=””]Download the Think Tank White Paper[/label]