Association Connect

Association Revenue Strategy During COVID-19 Pandemic

By Samuel Hoffmeister | March 30, 2020

Every organization is feeling the impact of COVID-19. Associations are no different. But, just as with any challenge, COVID-19’s upheaval is temporary. Now is the time to ban together and share ideas and opportunities for making up for lost revenue in your association and start laying the groundwork for a strong future. Let’s take a look at some of the best ways you can start making up for lost revenue.

Make Up for Revenue Lost Due to Event Cancellations

Every association knows the importance of trade shows and conferences as part of their non-dues revenue (NDR) strategy. But with the federal restrictions on gatherings of 50 or more, probably the biggest hit to your bottom line right now is event cancellations. While nothing can make up for the time and effort you’ve put into a canceled event, there are some ways you can compensate for the loss of event-based revenue.

  • Event Insurance: Review your contracts and event cancellation policies to determine if you’re entitled to a refund of your deposit or if you could owe a cancellation fee. Every contract is different, but most include language relating to Acts of God, which should cover COVID-19.
  • Go Virtual: You may not need to issue refunds to event attendees if you shift your event to a virtual format. Webinars, podcasts, or other virtual platforms are all great options, just make sure that your virtual event is set up so it can only be accessed by people who have registered and paid their event fee. You can send a registration link or code via email to registrants to grant them access.

Even though canceling that annual meeting you’ve been planning since last year may feel like a devastating blow, we’re fortunate to live in a time when technology is available to help you continue making valuable connections with your members; and you can still offer virtual sponsored workshops for accreditations, which are, of course, an important revenue stream.

Focus on Non-Dues Revenue

With events temporarily tabled, it might seem necessary to raise member dues and increase recruiting efforts. But now is not the time to pursue those actions, as it’s more important than ever to support and appreciate your current members.

Aside from meetings and trade shows, there are countless other forms of non-dues revenue your association can lean on right now. Many associations are seeing success with sponsored emails, for example. If that’s not a product you currently offer, now is a great time to consider adding sponsored emails to your repertoire.

Other NDR tactics to add to your association revenue strategy include: 

  • Sell digital ads on your website
  • Offer ad space on your organization’s mobile app
  • Leverage your social media platforms, offering different advertising options as well as sponsored posts
  • Sell a member directory or event attendee list
  • Develop podcasts and sell banner ads or mentions in the podcast itself

You may already offer these products as part of your NDR, but if you don’t, now is the time to start.

Lay the Groundwork for Life After COVID-19

We all need to remember the COVID-19 pandemic will not last forever, and planning for the future is as essential now as it’s always been. It’s important to set the stage for your association to bounce back stronger than ever once the pandemic ends. Some proactive ideas include:

  • Review new event sponsorship opportunities possibly at a lower price point
  • Develop a campaign to recruit new members once the pandemic ends

These unprecedented times may seem overwhelming, but we must remember to have hope. Calmly assess your revenue streams to find areas of opportunity. Take advantage of digital platforms wherever possible, and continue to offer valuable resources and services to your members. Exercising smart decisions now will ensure your association comes out on the other side of COVID-19 stronger than ever. 

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