How Associations Can Boost Non-Dues Revenue During Slow Times

Most professionals working in the association industry have heard some combination of the following: "Our membership numbers are decreasing and we're struggling to find ways to add revenue." With the Coronavirus crisis impacting so many, this problem is more relevant than ever. 

It makes complete sense. Younger people entering the workforce have grown up on the internet and organizations are having a hard time marketing the value of membership against the seemingly endless supply of information the internet can provide. Moreover, our current environment has eliminated many of the in-person meetings and events that many members find valuable. So, how do we combat decreasing membership and boost revenues in other areas to compensate? Our suggestion is go to where your potential members are - and will be for the foreseeable future - and give them experiences they are used to.

If your organization doesn’t have one yet, an ecommerce website should be considered for any association. According to Digital Commerce 360, worldwide ecommerce sales topped $3.5 trillion USD in 2019, an increase of approximately 18% from the year before. This method of purchasing appeals more to modern customer selection and convenience preferences, so much so that in 2019, millennials made 60% of their purchases online. That number will only continue to go up. If you've gotten this far, you've surely asked yourself, "what can I do about this?" so let's get to that.

Here are a few things to keep in mind about an ecommerce presence for your organization:

1. Selling doesn’t have to only mean tangible goods.

I know when most people think of ecommerce, they think of goods: clothes, accessories, hats, trinkets, etc. Maybe those things make sense for your organization, but let's think outside the box. Often, organizations will do some sort of survey to figure out the reasons their members continue to renew. If those results show things like seminars, continuing education resources, events or things of the like, those are resources you can sell to non-members! That premium content is a way to expose non-members to the benefits and educational resources your organization provides, as well as providing your members another benefit in that they don't have to pay for those items.

2. Design with high scan-ability in mind.

You want to do everything possible to create an easy shopping process. It is important to make relevant information appear prominently on your site via your use of design. This means refraining from large text blocks, prominent calls to action and links, and contrasting elements with good use of white space. When browsers are able to process the information on your site more swiftly, it decreases obstacles to find what users are looking for and purchase; hopefully, again and again.

3. Always provide easy check out options.

This really means two things: a simple, intuitive way for repeat users or members to purchase and a guest checkout option for non-members. Think about how easy Amazon makes it to purchase an item you are viewing. Even disregarding the one-click purchasing, you are keenly aware of how many clicks it will take for you to complete check out. That same experience is one you should give your browsers. Help them gauge how quickly they can move through the purchase process with things like how many steps it takes to complete the process and which step your user is currently on. Similarly, allow browsers to purchase without making an account. Guest checkouts give browsers the option to quickly place an order if they value the product more than membership. Then, once customers complete their purchase, you can serve them content that talks about the benefits of membership - like receiving the resource they just purchased for free as a member!

As always, make sure you don't bite off more than you can chew. The task of creating and implementing an ecommerce site within your organization can seem daunting. With the right planning and preparation, coupled with a design focused on ease of use for your web browsers, you can create a nice niche of non-dues revenue for your organization. If you have questions about ecommerce best practices, or how you can begin the development process, contact today!

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About Author

Steven LaGow is on the Partnerships team as the Regional Partner Marketing Manager based out of Washington DC, specifically focused on the association and nonprofit markets. Having worked with these organizations for the last 5 years, he is committed to helping Associations and Nonprofits focus on their missions and providing their members and constituents the best possible web experience. In his free time, he loves attending Washington Nationals games, watching Manchester United, and all kinds of live music.

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