How to Increase your Non-dues Revenue and Build a Strong Revenue Stream
Updated: Apr. 1, 2019 | Categories: Revenues
We speak with hundreds of chapter leaders a week. Many of them sneer at the idea of their chapter producing revenue, and they remind us that they are a non-profit. However, being a non-profit shouldn’t mean you’re limited in what you can offer your members and guests. Yes, as a non-profit you may not have access to immediate capital like for-profit organizations. But a non-profit designation doesn’t mean you’re doomed to mediocre programming. It just means you and your board have to work a little harder and plan a little better for bringing in revenue from sources other than membership.
Winging it or playing catch up when you realize you need money for an event isn’t a sustainable plan. Nor is putting all of your hope in the income that comes from membership dues. It’s critical to put some structure around your finances and plan strategically for bringing in the income you need.
Here are some ideas for navigating the rough waters of non-profit revenue that could fit easily into your financial planning process:
Take a big picture approach to your events
Hold events people want to attend. Members and guests will pay to attend your events, but you can only charge premium prices if you’re holding successful, relevant events that provide the value they want. Get creative with the types of events you hold, to better engage members and prospects and get more people to attend. Perhaps your next networking event could be at a brewery or your next speaker could be on the hot topic of engaging millennials in the workforce. Your programming doesn’t always have to be hyper-focused on your industry. Often, chapters that focus their programming on a timely, relevant challenge all of the members face see record-breaking attendance at those events.
Set appropriate, tiered pricing for your events. Remember the Amex slogan “membership has its advantages”? Show the value of joining your organization by charging members and guests different prices to attend events. Give your members discounts and make that difference visible; put it in your marketing materials and on your website. That lower price will bring more members to your events and increase your revenue. And, your guests will see the privilege that comes with being a member.
Develop a solid, flexible sponsorship program with options. What do you need to offer that other organizations could pay for? In-kind sponsors can have a tremendous impact on the overall value you provide to members as well as to the chapter’s bottom line. Make some decisions and start your sponsorship program with the understanding you can adjust it as you learn more about what works.
Allow for multiple sponsors at a single event. Yes, it’s wonderful to have bronze, silver, and gold sponsors who return year after year and sponsor entire events. There are also some quick, easy, lucrative methods for getting multiple organizations involved in the same event. For example, instead of a single sponsor for your monthly chapter meeting, consider a sponsor for your registration table, a different sponsor for the food, and yet another for your handouts.
Offer swag you don’t pay for. Who doesn’t love free stuff? And what’s better than seeing quality items like pens, t-shirts, portable hard drives, etc. with your organization’s name and contact information on them? Connect with promotional product companies who can provide these items in exchange for exposure at your events, while your members get the fun extras they can never have too much of.
Consider opportunities for paid advertising & passive income
Have your member companies purchase advertising. Your members and guests are often the perfect audience for your member organizations. Those organizations would love the additional chance to get in front of them. Allow them to pay to advertise through your marketing channels, like ads on your website, in your newsletter, and on other pieces of collateral.
Sell promotional materials to members and guests. It’s great when you can get an organization to provide items for you to give away at events for free. But for those who cannot attend those events, offer those and other products for sale on your website and in your newsletter, and where it makes sense, bring them to sell in person at events.
Don’t forget your dues
Yes, increasing your sources of non-dues revenue must be a major part of your financial plan. But you can’t spend all your time on it and think that your membership will take care of itself. Place equal emphasis on your dues and membership renewals. Keep communicating with your members about renewing and make it easy as possible for them to do so.
Finally, have the right people in charge of your money, whether that’s a bookkeeper or an accountant, or just someone who is financially savvy. A strong overall plan for your finances is key to your chapter’s long-term success.