Deriving non-membership income

Towards the end of 2018, we were delighted to announce that memcom is now the official, strategic partner of the Institute of Association Management. The IofAM, steeped in history stretching back to 1933, is the professional body for senior staff managing membership associations. The Institute runs regular seminars, training programmes and presentations and also provides reviews of relevant events which are geared to all levels to encourage the development of professionals in this varied sector.

Here’s a review by IofAM member, and retiring Executive Director, Richard Taylor of a presentation given by a fellow IofAM member Gordon Glenister, consultant and former Chief Executive of the British Promotional Merchandise Association.

Associations are not making the most of their opportunities to derive non-membership income from activities, argued Gordon Glenister, IofAM member, consultant and former Chief Executive of the British Promotional Merchandise Association at the final session at Associations Congress.

Almost all those attending the session admitted to not maximising revenue opportunities. While there was nothing new in the ideas, what was energising about this session was the message that associations need to package their member benefits more effectively and present these to members and potential supporters / sponsors in a highly targeted way.

Some background:

  • 47% of associations are not addressing demographic change
  • Associations have on average problems with 37% of their annual renewals
  • Only 5% are actively recruiting millennials

Additionally, very few have “agile” membership models and initiatives to improve member engagement and appeal to a diverse range of audiences, through the use of mobile, as an example. Membership models and Commercial Strategy Membership models are important because the lack of such initiatives is symptomatic of a wider issue where associations are not spending enough time and energy looking at other ways of maximising income. This means developing a commercial strategy which can incorporate processes and initiatives.


Examples are:

  • Removing barriers to membership
  • Align it to overall membership strategy
  • Decide whether membership management should be an inhouse or externally sourced activity
  • Introducing sub-brands to the main association brand. An example might be an education or events programme which would be run separately but could fit neatly into the overall brand
  • Managing member expectations. Surveys are a good way of engaging members and dealing with vocal members who could make excellent engaged members if given the opportunity
  • Have a well costed three-year plan. For example, education programmes can take over one year to settle in and may only bring rewards over a longer period
  • Have a means of measuring effectiveness of initiatives
  • Introduce a flexible approach to strategy and processes
  • Ensure that there are sufficient internal skills to deliver the initiatives


What do we hope to achieve? An example of what an Association might be able to consider for additional revenue could include the following relatively quick wins:

  • Magazines and publications
  • Greater engagement. Members may be willing to become more engaged and then pay for e.g. advertising
  • Additional revenue from web services such as webinars
  • Affiliation services: e.g. financial services organised through the association


Specific opportunities might include:

  • Income can be derived from magazine advertising, inserts etc.

  • Banners on websites
  • Own marketplace for relevant products
  • E-bay type services: buying and selling – taking a commission
  • Non-member or Affiliate programmes where the association has activities or assets which might be useful to third parties
  • Patron packages. These can attract huge sums, up to £10K for access to something special and exclusive. The good thing about these programmes is that because they are invitation only the dropout rate is exceptionally low
  • Promotional products. Associations can always do more in this area. Merchandising can be a problem and costly for smaller associations but activity in the busy autumn period can contribute substantially to amortisation of costs and generate income. A way to increase member involvement is to link promotional products to sales through charitable organisations with the association taking a percentage
  • Table top events or conference booths. Webinars can be set up but where distances are too great for members to travel, a group of members can meet in one location and join a session for a fee to attend the tabletop event.


For those associations which organise conferences, use of the following can generate additional income.

  • VIP and premium tickets
  • Conference stands
  • Sponsored Merchandise
  • Drinks events
  • General sponsorship – e.g. silver and gold sponsor packages

In addition to running your own exhibition, it can be more attractive to members to share an exhibition with a high-profile event manager. The BPMA earned a return by taking 25% of the floor space at a Marketing Week exhibition.

Some organisations will pay an endorsement fee for association with another organisation and rebates can be earned from member exhibitions where the member is keen to have a link with their association at their exhibition.

Licensing and franchising for established brands can earn substantial income. US organisations are especially attuned to these type of opportunities, earning fees from their overseas “Chapters” or affiliated organisations.


Other areas of income opportunities:

  • Education
  • Qualifications and Training
  • Profile on website
  • Listing in media
  • Web stores
  • Job Boards – fees can be tailored to audience size and level of job advertised
  • Mystery Shopping

Other ideas abound:

  • Where associations operate in specialist and technical areas, there is scope to make huge mark ups on sales of specialist reports. If these are own branded these can command an income of up to £500 each copy
  • Entire exhibition packages can be sold and these are increasingly attractive to exhibitors if the result is that it is easier for members to exhibit
  • “On a call” advertising for other events and activities
  • Digital memberships can be hugely profitable. They can be cheaper to manage than ordinary membership and considerably easier to manage and generate large increases in membership
  • Getting a sponsor to support a series of lunches is another way to increase member engagement as well as income

In short, none of the above in isolation are new ideas. However, very few associations pick and mix and consider a group of the above ideas as an overall package which could appeal to members. Not only can additional income be generated, but these activities can be used to boost membership and hence derive additional membership income.


The Institute of Association Management (IofAM) is the professional body for the senior staff responsible for managing membership associations. Interested in joining? You will have access to information, advice and guidance on all aspects of leading an association and the benefit of a supportive network of peers. Contact Cathy Whitmore for more details: