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Seven “EASY” Ideas to Build Upon For Your Non-Dues Revenue Now!

by Ron Worth, CAE, KCSAE Secretary

What a challenging time this has been to be in the non-profit industry.  COVID-19 has altered all aspects of our industry and makes budgeting and planning for 2021 even more of a work of art.  This article will highlight some ideas that you can implement now to potentially guide you and your team on innovative and creative ways to build support for that shaky budget.  But first, I would like to refer you to a previous KCSAE Program on Non-Dues Revenue by Teri Carden on September 10th, 2020, which is available in the KCSAE Archives.  I encourage you to watch the presentation as it was exceptional.

1 - Out-Source Your Key Staff Part-Time

All of us have extraordinarily talented professionals who work for us.  We can…. with additional effort….do two things at once.  While IAAO was working with our annual conference this year, we were in crisis mode given that the facility we planned to utilize was not available in Denver, as the convention center was a back-up COVID-19 facility.  A small, innovative group of key technology, membership, and meeting members took the initiative to met weekly to brainstorm on options for the association.  At the same time, they began the search for production companies that could assist the association with the effort.  In 16 weeks the conference fell into place and everyone on staff was involved in making it a total success.  One of the unique aspects of this experience was the discovery that we had most of the technology resources and professionals to do this ourselves.  We also determined that this service could be done for smaller associations.  While you would not want to interfere with your current member programs, I have found millennials today are ambitious, intelligent, and energetic about projects like this that they control and can shape.  Indirectly, you are also providing a vehicle for them to enhance their career route along lines that they want and desire.  Involving your staff in new projects works not only for event production but can work for Marketing, Membership Development, Financial Assistance, Meetings Guidance, etc.  You have a warehouse of talent you may not be fully aware of that can help build a terrific revenue base for  not only the present  but also the future.

2 - Package Educational Services

We all have a considerable amount of educational resources in our offices.  I have found that by packaging programs that support each other this can help you sell more.  It is also icing on the cake if you also have publications that relate to these topics and can be part of the package.  This simple step allows you to assist the buyer to a wealth of your information on topics of interest to members that they generally will not take the time to research.  Even better yet, you can initially allow a sponsor to be featured on the entry slide or cover page of the package.  Then make it easy for your members and Market, Market…. Market.

3 - Slice and Dice

Along the same line as above is the sheer volume of programming that is available from our conferences, magazines, libraries, and classrooms.  When you start dissecting the data and then organize and sell it to your members and industry, the results are literally amazing.  We all tend to think only in terms of our membership.  But when you also consider nonmembers in our chapters or those who attend our events, along with  the potential of even more “clients”  in the offices of our members, you can triple your prospective base of buyers.  In addition, reading/watching educational data in smaller bits and pieces is much more accepted in today’s marketplace due to social media.  It is also much easier to get someone to purchase a 5-page article for $5 dollars than a publication for $50.

4 - Membership packaging

In this current market, maintaining current membership levels and “hopefully” even enhancing them is a plus.  Membership is the gateway to all the services and resources you have to offer.  What better way to experience this then with a membership package?  With budgets under review, and usually reduced this next year, now might well be the time to office packaged membership for companies.  For example:

1 Member $X

3 Members $X 10% reduction

5 Members $X 20% reduction

7 Members $X 30% reduction

This same policy can be applied to member attendance at paid events and I have used this concept for annual conferences where we discounted chapter member attendance overall.  We are all focused on maximizing attendance today.

5 - Rent Out Your Extra Space

An innovative approach I have seen used by companies who have a nice conference room, and accessible parking, is allow it to be rented out.  In today’s environment, ensuring it is COVID-19 “clean” will also need to be established.  In addition, many of these companies have utilized their meetings departments to assist with the overall planning and setup/breakdown.  Professionals seem to be more agreeable to attending if the space is outside of their facility, unique and easily accessible.

One company I went to had set the room up like a living room with sofas, a mismatch of chairs and odd items scattered around, which created interest in the facility.  It also had a nice outdoor space, which is always well received.

6 - Mentoring

As we all remember, being new in any industry is frustrating.  Rarely does anyone have time to give you all the proper training you need.  Add to this the fear of asking a “stupid” question, being laughed about at the coffee machine, or not  knowing who to turn to with questions.  Mentoring is an especially important part of surviving as a new bee in this industry.  As a CEO, I would gladly pay someone to assist with the process of being a friend, guide, encyclopedia, guru, soul confessor and resource for new members.  This is an area that “could” be developed within your office and potentially outsourced to not only other associations but also the public.  Obtaining information on your direct job is easy, it is navigating the political and social fabric within our societies that can be the real challenge.

How often have you wished for a coach, or just someone you could honestly talk to outside of the office?

7 - Hold Your Board Accountable for Revenue

I know your first response to this is…. but that is not their job.  I have always felt there are three types of board members.  One, board members who provide financial help (ie $100,000 plus a year) in return for their support and recognition; Two, a board member who is “famous in your industry” and everyone wants to be them; or Three, worker-bees.  After 40 years in this industry, I have been fortunate to only have had hard workers.

Some of our board members are outstanding presenters or writers.  This can be bottled and sold if they are willing and available.  The Body of Knowledge that many of us have developed is an example of capturing this value and retailing it to an entire industry.  Their name is on the “book” for the life of the Body of Knowledge; they are referred forever, and you have an outstanding resource that can guide many generations to come.

Another way of maximizing the value of your board is to have them speak at internal and external events, if they are willing and capable.  I have found that this is especially true if you orchestrate the message being presented.  Yes, it does take time to develop these presentations.  But a powerful presentation about the value of your education, what it has done for their career, self-respect and financial advancement is worth it is weight in gold.  At IAAO we have set up a studio to control all outside communication and edit it.  I can not help but believe this industry member message, which related directly to the audience  helped us increase membership each year, build revenue, and strengthen the caliber of the professionals running for the board because they knew in advance that while they would need to  work hard,  we would be working alongside of them.


You cannot go wrong with any direction you go, but the name of the game today is to try new things and see what works.  Something always works, and   do not toss those.  Work closely with your team as they are brilliant……… if you will allow them to be.  They have experience with other associations or businesses; they want a successful career; and they want to see the organization grow. They also want to be a part of the solution.  Give them that chance.  Good Luck!

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