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Diversifying revenues: Why associations need to think differently

20th June 2024

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Start Leveraging existing assets Strategic Sponsorships and Partnerships Digital Engagement as a Revenue Driver Redefining Value Propositions The Next Generation Opportunity Final thoughts
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For years, associations have depended heavily on a core trio of revenue streams – membership dues, event fees and government funding. However, this conventional model is facing challenges. In today’s landscape, individuals are increasingly scrutinising where their dollars go, demanding a tangible return on investment. In addition, younger generations are prioritising different values and engagement preferences. 

To ensure enduring financial viability, associations must diversify their income sources while adapting strategies to align with the evolving needs and expectations of current and prospective members. 

One such organisation that has reevaluated its revenue models is Palliative Care Australia, the national peak body representing the palliative care community. Oliver Matthews from evexus recently sat down with Gretchen Irvine, the organisation’s National Business Development and Events Manager, to gain insights into their approach to exploring new revenue streams and piloting new strategies. 

Leveraging existing assets

One effective approach is monetising an association’s existing assets and content offerings. This could include selling advertising in newsletters, on websites and social media channels, as well as sponsored content opportunities across platforms.  

“Look at what people already come to you for and find ways to generate income from that,” says Gretchen.

“At Palliative Care Australia, for the first time ever, we’ve created an advertising and media kit which offers advertising in our newsletter, sponsorship of our webinars or podcasts, or a sponsored article on our website. We’re identifying the assets people can use to tell their stories. Our past two newsletters, for the first time, have carried paid advertising.”

Gretchen recommends conducting an audit to identify top-performing channels, resources and distribution outlets, then prioritising those with high engagement for generating new revenue streams. 

Strategic sponsorships and partnerships  

When exploring sponsorships, it’s crucial to prioritise companies and influencers that align with your organisation’s values. Establish clear guidelines to ensure that sponsored content adds genuine value for your members. 

“It is critical that associations maintain control over the message,” advises Gretchen. “Align with brands that resonate with your audience and uphold your organisation’s principles.” 

She emphasises, “Ensure any agreements with partners stipulate that content must be approved by you and remain relevant to your audience, ethos and principles.” 

Transparently differentiate between sponsored content and editorial content to maintain credibility. 

Digital engagement as a revenue driver

With members engaging more digitally, associations must leverage online channels to generate income through advertising, sponsorships, premium content and more. 

“Pay close attention to what your audience engages with online and what they want,” Gretchen advises.

Continuously optimise digital content and analyse metrics to understand audience interests. Then create tailored, revenue-generating experiences such as sponsored social media posts, website advertising, gated premium resources, virtual event registrations, and more. 

Redefining value propositions

“Understand why people are members – it’s usually to gain knowledge and connections related to their interests,” says Gretchen. 

Conduct research to identify your audience’s core motivations, then repackage offerings accordingly. Options include adding premium content or service tiers, repackaging resources as paid offerings, or developing new products and services aligned with member priorities.

Effectively redefining and delivering on your value proposition is key. 

The next generation opportunity

Attracting younger members requires catering to their preferences and as Gretchen notes, “we must get smarter about communicating with this next generation in ways that resonate.” 

Millennials and Gen Z value experiences, work-life balance, diversity and transparency. To engage them, provide bite-sized, interactive, shareable digital content. Host engaging virtual events and innovative in-person formats like panel discussions or hackathons. 

It is also worth exploring flexible membership models like subscriptions and pay-as-you-go options.  

Final thoughts

As a final piece of advice, Gretchen says that when embracing changes in their revenue streams, organisations and associations must also “recognise that diversifying revenue streams changes your relationship with members. Manage that evolution through clarity and transparency.” 

Stay tuned for the next instalment of evexus’ Associate webinar series, coming soon. 

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