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Four Strategies For Associations: Thriving With Limited Resources

Regardless of their size, associations play a crucial role in fostering collaboration, knowledge sharing and professional development within their industries. However, the pursuit of financial sustainability can be particularly challenging for associations operating with small teams and limited resources.

Thankfully, I see how the current landscape presents promising opportunities for revenue generation through virtual events and the resurgence of in-person gatherings. Let's dive into the strategies that can help your association unleash its revenue potential.

1. Embracing The Inclusivity Of Virtual Events

Virtual events allow associations to transcend geographical boundaries and engage a broader audience. By removing the constraints of physical attendance, associations can attract participants worldwide, amplifying their reach and potential revenue streams. According to one survey, 93% of event organizers plan to invest in virtual events moving forward, highlighting digital events’ growing popularity and revenue potential. The global virtual events market size was valued at $114.12 billion in 2021 and is anticipated to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 21.4% from 2022 to 2030.

Hosting events virtually not only enables accessibility but also promotes diversity, equity and inclusivity (DEI). Requiring travel to events can present financial, personal-life and physical barriers to prospective attendees and additional obstacles to neurodiverse audience members. By allowing audiences to register for and access events virtually, host organizations can better accommodate a wide array of audience needs, tapping into audiences and networks they may have excluded by holding in-person-only events. According to a 2022 study, holding virtual events often results in increased attendance and a broadened scope of the audience who may have otherwise been excluded by an in-person format, embracing the inclusivity of virtual events enables the host to reach audience members who may otherwise be able to attend in-person events from a geographic and accessibility standpoint.

2. Diversifying Revenue Streams

Virtual events can offer associations various avenues to generate revenue beyond traditional membership fees. These include sponsorships, virtual exhibitions, paid workshops and premium content offerings. For instance, one of our association clients focused in the beauty industry organizes virtual conferences collaborating with independent brands, supply chain experts and regulatory professionals. By offering exclusive sponsorships and featuring sponsored sessions, you can enhance your revenue and foster meaningful collaborations within your industry.

Sponsorship packages and exhibitor opportunities offer associations another form of annual recurring revenue outside of membership fees. You can build these packages into repeated events, a series of events or an annual event. When the event host can provide a valuable experience for sponsors and show the return on investment, they’ll be far more likely to count on sponsors re-booking year over year.

3. Leveraging Regional Events

While virtual events are key these days, look to still seize opportunities with in-person gatherings. Associations with limited budgets can strategically host smaller-scale regional events tailored to specific geographic areas. These events can provide a focused platform for local members and sponsors to connect while generating revenue through registration fees and sponsorships. A study by EventMB revealed that almost 60% of event attendees predict moving to smaller, regional events due to their focused and intimate nature, making them an attractive option for revenue generation for associations with limited budgets.

I've found that hosting regional in-person events allows associations and other host organizations to be more strategic with their target audiences. Once the host has established where their target accounts and contacts are located, they can produce content and experiences tailored specifically to that audience segment in order to see higher response and turnout rates.

4. Collaborative Partnerships

Associations can forge partnerships with industry stakeholders, local businesses and event organizers to co-host conferences or trade shows. One of the significant advantages of collaborative partnerships is the ability to tap into new audiences that may have been out of reach otherwise. By leveraging the networks and contacts of partner organizations, associations can attract a diverse range of attendees and sponsors. This means more registrations, the opportunity to expand database contacts, higher attendance rates, and a vibrant mix of industry professionals participating in the event.

It's not just about the numbers, though. The American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) conducted a survey, and association professionals agreed that partnerships and collaborations are some of the most valuable strategies for driving revenue growth. That's a powerful endorsement.

When associations team up with other organizations, they combine their strengths and expertise to deliver top-notch events that attract attendees and sponsors. An added bonus is the opportunity for cross-promotion and shared marketing efforts. Each partner can leverage their communication channels, such as newsletters, social media platforms and websites to reach a wider audience. This integrated marketing approach creates a buzz around the event, drawing even more potential attendees and sponsors.

In addition to expanded marketing efforts, organizational partnership ideally leads to an expanded budget. Multiple organizations pooling their resources means they can provide their audience with an elevated experience, more memorable takeaways, and a likelihood for both sponsors to renew and audience members to attend more of these organizations’ events.

Growing Despite Challenges

Despite the challenges posed by limited resources, associations can unlock their full revenue potential by embracing the opportunities presented by online events and in-person gatherings. By adopting creative engagement strategies and leveraging digital platforms, associations can extend their reach, diversify revenue streams and foster meaningful collaborations.

Original Source: Forbes Business Council


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