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Put your AMS to work

By Nate Brown

Most of us know that membership software is designed to make association processes easier and reduce manual staff work, but did you know that your Association Management Software (AMS) can help earn your association essential non-dues revenue? All software platforms offer a different mix of opportunities, and your AMS likely possesses several key mechanisms for revenue generation that go above and beyond basic member dues collection. AMS comprises a vital part of the infrastructure for most growing associations, so if you’re already going to have the software to assist with membership functions, why not truly put it to work for you? Let’s take a look at some of the options for turning your existing database into a finely-tuned engine for driving revenue. 

First, look to what is typically the most heavily-utilized module in your AMS – the event registration tools intertwined with the member database and website. The event module allows you to accept payments online for registrants interested in attending your events, but additional tools within the module could generate non-dues revenue beyond basic ticket sales.  For example, you can offer different pricing options for members, nonmembers, or even different types of members. Perhaps your “primary” member type can join the event for free, an “affiliate” member type can join at a reduced cost, and non-members have a higher cost to attend. You can then highlight that members receive a discounted rate, which allows you to provide a real monetary benefit to membership that can entice non-members to join, and collect some additional revenue along the way for those who opt not to.

Another option is offering upsell items to your registrants. These items can include physical items such as t-shirts or association-branded swag, supplemental literature, event sponsorships or exhibit booth sales.  Additionally, all sessions or breakouts held during your event can be included within the registration process, and those sessions can have an additional cost tied to their attendance. In the same vein as the overall event attendance described in the previous section, you can tailor these items and sessions by member type to help your association gain additional revenue while providing the best possible benefits to your members, potential attendees, exhibitors, and sponsors.

Beyond the ability to manage member dues, your AMS might provide “group” or “committee” modules which offer the capability of accepting dues from individuals joining committees, subchapters, special interest groups, subscriptions, or any other group established within your database. Each group can be tied to its own webpage within your association’s website, and may have the option to upload materials for the members of that group to download that present physical and tangible benefits for remaining an active member. Membership term lengths can also be assigned within each group, so that dues information for each group is able to remain up-to-date in real time.   

A third option for generating revenue through your AMS is through the online “member search” function, or online member directory. This is the module within a system that allows a member – or anyone visiting your association’s website, depending on your preference – to search for a member based on location, name or category. A number of AMS systems include the option to allow members to enhance their listing, which presents a monetization opportunity. Set a cap for the number of search categories under which a member can list themselves, then enable the member to exceed that cap for a predetermined cost per additional designation. For example, your association might allow each member to select two categories to attach to themselves, but if they’d like additional exposure through more applicable categories, allow them to purchase added designations within their member profile area.  Your member search may also have a “premier listing” option, which brings the member’s listing to the top of any relevant search for a fee. Lastly, you can establish a fee for the member to upload a picture or GIF to be attached to their listing. All these options provide the benefit of brand exposure and helping the member stand out in searches, which can valuable enough to merit additional revenue for your association.

If your AMS includes a website and content management system (as many do), it is also likely that it includes the ability to offer online advertisements. This represents one of the easiest ways to gain additional revenue within your AMS and offers direct exposure to your membership for companies that wish to get in front of them. You can utilize a third-party vendor to sell the ads and share the revenue with you if you want a “set-it-and-forget-it” approach, or your association team can sell advertising on your own through sponsorship packages to your affiliate members or other interested companies. Either way, your members are able to see ads that are relevant to their highly-unique set of needs, while your advertisers get targeted exposure to a desirable and focused audience, and your association gets to collect supplemental income for other critical association functions.        

One final element that can help your association earn revenue is the online job board. This module enables your members to advertise available openings at their company with the goal of filling those positions with members of your association or visitors to your website. Pricing levels are typically configurable on a member-type basis. For example, your association may offer different rates for primary members, affiliate members, and non-members.  In doing so, you can tailor your AMS-powered job board to provide free or reduced-cost listings for some members while maximizing the revenue potential for others member types (or non-members).

Once configured and shared with your members, these AMS features can provide your association with a form of passive income to help reach its operating and programming goals, all without increasing member dues.  The best part of all the options available to you is perhaps the simplest – they are all fully automated within your AMS. Once initially set up within your system, members will be able to access and purchase these enhanced member benefits at any time on their own, without a staff member having to be involved directly in every transaction. Try one or more of these AMS-fueled non-dues revenue-earning options and see how much more your AMS can work for your association. 

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