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January 23, 2009 

Non-Dues Revenue


While associations tighten budgets, association management companies (AMCs) and consultants have benefited by offering to fill staff positions and cut waste. What methods have been most effective? We dodged barricades and motorcades this week to hear the trends from some experts.


Bostrom is a DC-based AMC that turned 75 last year and provides full service management (including the staff and CEO) to 20 associations, says prez Randy Lindner. One pervasive trend is to diversify income through non-dues revenue such as credentialing and accreditation programs offered to members. Randy uses it himself when wearing his second hat as chief staff executive of the National Association of Long-Term Care Administrator Boards; he added academic accreditation and competency exams for long-term care administrators. When he took that job 14 years ago, the association had three primary sources of revenue. Now it has 15, and he says the diversity is essential because members inevitably lose interest.


Quick caveat: Credentialing programs are not for everyone. Randy warns against creating a curriculum without first gauging member demand and ensuring employers will value and pay more for professional education. Small associations have less financial incentive to create accreditations that benefit so few. As Randy puts it, "The program could become an albatross." Speaking of obscure animals, he's just back from Thailand after three weeks interacting with monkeys and monitor lizards. Above, he's joined by Joyce Williams and Claire Shanley.


Associations lag behind the commercial sector when it comes to online videos. (No, the American Beverage Association can't take credit for those "Diet Coke and Mentos" guys.) Mark Tobias, president of technology consultant Pantheon, says more videos are coming, and his office has seen a record number of requests for back-end technology to support it. A common request: Prove this accomplishes something. Pantheon (whose name means "Temple of the gods") has the analytics to identify exactly which point in a video motivates a viewer to respond, donate, or close the player.


In addition to video, online resume banks and continuing education courses are in demand as members insist on more value. With marketing manager Susan McDonald, Mark tells us associations often fail when procuring technology because they circulate RFP's out of habit, not necessity. Pantheon's advice: Use a personalized, scientific, goal-oriented approach, not a list of generic RFP bullet points. Using a data-driven philosophy (rather than tradition or hunch) is the subject of Pantheon's next white paper. For details, poke Mark here.

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Arent Fox
Cardinal Bank

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