The Challenge Associations Face in Expanding Non-Dues Revenue

During my 15-year career working for associations as an event professional, I was responsible for expanding non-dues revenue and building profitable partnerships. Our team was constantly exploring innovations to help capture and generate additional non-dues revenue. When our leadership would see large, off-campus ads from exhibiting companies and sponsors in the airport or on the side of a building, we wondered how we could implement some oversight and how we could earn a portion of those dollars.

I met the EMC Outdoor team after a few years of trying to implement a procedure to manage Out of Home sponsorships with our internal team. They introduced a way to unlock a sponsorship program that allowed off-campus media opportunities to our exhibitors and sponsors and created a new six-digit revenue stream we could use to support our mission and create programming for our members. My team was able to select the media placements and approve the creative messages contained in the ads to ensure they met our standards and served the membership appropriately.

EMC Outdoor became our official media buying agency and strategic partner. I witnessed how they took great care of our sponsors and provided substantial non-dues revenue back to the association. Then, I said yes to the opportunity to join their team and provide similar benefits to a broader range of association partners. As a Leadership Advisory Board Member for the Professionals for Association Revenue, I understood expanding non-dues revenue generation was an important priority for every association.

I’m excited to share how EMC Outdoor works seamlessly as an extension of an association team to expand a department’s expertise and capacity while delivering results directly to the bottom line and creating value for sponsors, exhibitors, and advertisers.

An image of conference attendees walking through a busy convention center

Expanding Non-dues Revenue With New Sponsorship Opportunities

I was responsible for identifying, vetting, and implementing new sponsorship opportunities and expanding non-dues revenue for my association’s large medical conference supporting 12,000+ attendees annually. I discovered EMC Outdoor through their LinkedIn presence and quickly learned they had supported association events and tradeshows using OOH advertising for over 32 years!

This expertise promised to help our team offer new sponsorship opportunities to industry partners by allowing sponsors and advertisers to target attendees throughout their journey to the event. The first year we partnered, our conference was in Washington, DC.

I worked with the tradeshow marketing team at EMC Outdoor to identify new sponsorships throughout the city, from the airport and Union Station to the Metro, rideshare, billboards, bus kiosks, and bespoke, creative, experiential marketing campaigns the exhibitors could utilize to drive attendee traffic to their booths and educational events like satellite symposia and product theaters.

A picture of media examples that the AAO conference used for expanding non-dues revenue

Preserving Your Existing Sponsorships

We were cautious to avoid cannibalizing the existing revenue from our annual event and partnered with EMC Outdoor to create a pricing and timing strategy to ensure success. The OOH advertising packages were introduced to existing sponsors, additional exhibitors, sponsors, and non-exhibiting companies.

I found it important to offer these off-campus opportunities to all potential advertisers. If the advertiser couldn’t afford a booth or sponsorship, they could potentially advertise throughout the city — working with EMC Outdoor as the official media buying agency of record for our event positioned our association to:

  1. Capture the non-dues revenue dollars.
  2. Control the message by approving the ad creative before installation.
  3. Approve the placements of the ads around the convention and along the attendees’ journey.
A diagram of EMC's process for working with associations to expand non-dues revenue

No Additional Work — EMC Outdoor Amplified Our Capacity for Expanding Non-Dues Revenue

We were a small three-person team, and sponsorship was only one of our responsibilities. Like many in the association space, our team wore many hats — registration, housing, exhibits, affiliated events, marketing, the list was long! Any new partnership had to minimize additional workload to protect our team’s capacity.

I trusted the EMC Outdoor team to utilize our exhibitor and sponsor list to become an extension of our team and market the new OOH advertising opportunities. It worked out because I didn’t know how to answer the specific questions the advertisers would ask about OOH media. It would have been difficult to learn the intricacies of every sponsorship, especially because our event moved to a new city each year.

There are millions of OOH opportunities in the U.S. with thousands of operators. EMC Outdoor has more than 10,000 hours of boots on the ground in the top twenty convention markets. A trusted, established partner helped our association navigate this new landscape successfully.

EMC Outdoor also worked with our sponsors to prepare custom proposals for every inquiry in a timely fashion. The tradeshow marketing team at EMC Outdoor provided white glove services to the advertisers, from the proposal to the invoice, fulfillment, and proof of performance. They also handled the collections in a timely fashion, and our association was able to expand non-dues revenue quickly and easily in the first year.

Over the last decade, EMC Outdoor has been able to deliver new association partners an average of $130,000 in the first year of partnership!

There are many factors that contribute to success.

  1. Start early so there is time to promote these opportunities.
  2. The city and available media play a role. We’re competing with Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, and other national advertisers for the media space.
  3. Competition, product launches, and the general landscape of available funds from your sponsors to reach your event attendees.
  4. Trust and effective collaboration between the association sponsorship team and EMC Outdoor’s tradeshow marketing team.

These variables determine the ultimate success. Imagine a new partnership that launches only six months before the event. Many advertisers will have already secured their sponsorships — some may be looking to make a bigger impact. Those sponsors are our targets.

Other advertisers may like the OOH opportunities but no longer have the budget so close to the event. Our strategic partnerships help associations expand non-dues revenue that grows year after year.  Companies begin to budget for conference OOH and invest advertising dollars to reach the association members who are their target audience.

What is the cost of expanding non-dues revenue?

Associations can partner with EMC Outdoor at no cost — a small investment of time, probably 5-20 hours in the first year. The cost of the OOH advertising includes an association fee we help you set. If it doesn’t work for your sponsors, nothing is lost.

Schedule a 15 or 30-minute call to explore this possibility and determine if there might be a fit.

Read more about Dana’s experience in the association community.