How to increase association revenue with event volunteers

Are you looking for new ideas to increase association revenue? Maybe you’ve tried refurbishing your online store, improving your professional education program, or personalizing the member experience, and you’re still falling short of your association goals. Well, search no further. 

Your association can increase revenue by boosting its efforts in volunteer recruitment and engagement. The truth is volunteers save associations money. The Independent Sector estimates volunteers are worth an average of $28.54 per hour.  

The Community Brands Association Trends Study found 59% of association professionals will invest in in-person meetings and conferences in the next year. To ensure your association gets an ROI on your upcoming events, it’s crucial to invest in your event volunteers.​ Relying solely on your staff for events puts your association at a financial disadvantage – it also adds unnecessary stress to their workload.  

Imagine what your association could accomplish with the power of an engaged volunteer program. Read on to learn how to mobilize your event volunteers and help your association increase events revenue to reach its financial goals. 

Secure sponsorships with well-connected members
Sponsorships are a key method for any association to financially support an event. When companies opt to become sponsors, they back the association event in return for prearranged benefits. These benefits can be discounted event tickets, speaking opportunities at the conference, or increased brand exposure. 

Having event sponsors boosts the credibility of a conference or event. Seeing other respected companies in your association’s industry back your event will encourage members to attend. Additionally, sponsorships are a great way to heighten event exposure through social media posts or email blasts. Some people might want to come to your event solely because they saw it advertised on their favorite company’s social media platform.   

If your association has well-connected members, it’s wise to secure sponsorships within their professional network, especially if it fits within your association’s industry. Here are three ways to leverage event volunteers to snag sponsorships: 

1. Be open to new sponsorship ideas. Chances are your event volunteers will have many ideas when it comes to new sponsorship opportunities. Empower volunteers to use their professional networks to find your association new ​event sponsors. Managing an events budget can be a challenge, but it doesn’t have to if your association creatively uses sponsorships. With more event sponsors, your association could reconsider its event strategy and lower the ticket price, thus boosting the number of event attendees and your revenue. 

If an event volunteer has a qualified sponsorship lead, ensure staff follows up. Try not to let your association get stuck in the past with “how we used to’s” or event checklists. Break the mold and increase your event revenue.  

2. Find event sponsors through email campaigns or a monthly newsletter. Promote upcoming event sponsorship opportunities with your existing members. Your members will be able to describe the merits of your association but take the time to outline the reasons why their company should secure a sponsorship. Ensure you cover these areas in your event sponsor promotion emails: 

  • Explain the benefits for potential event sponsors – will they receive discounted tickets, have access to attendee data, get brand exposure with featured logo placement, or have the opportunity to speak at a session?
  • Potential sponsors are more likely to agree to your proposal if you can show proof of success from previous events. Try sharing analytics or key performance indicators that showcase attendee engagement. You can also focus on data that demonstrates how well you promoted your event.
  • Another smart way to secure sponsors is to use testimonials in your email campaigns. Highlighting attendee testimonials helps potential sponsors understand that customers value your events. Try promoting testimonials from previous sponsors to build further credibility in your sponsorship program and assure companies of their ROI when they choose to partner with your association.  

 Remember, if you ask a company to invest in your association’s event, you’ll need to make them confident they’ll get something of value in return.  

3. Make sponsorships easy to purchase. Once a company agrees to your event sponsorship proposal, you want to make it easy for them to purchase a sponsorship. Perhaps in the past, your association had all potential sponsors call your association to negotiate agreement terms and purchase the sponsorship over the phone. This could be a time-consuming process, potentially wasting staff resources if the sponsorship didn’t pan out.  

Rather than conduct business over the phone, your association should consider detailing all sponsorship information on your event page. Include benefits for potential sponsors, KPIs, testimonials, and sponsorship price ranges. Finally, allow for potential event sponsors to sign their sponsorship agreement and pay online.     

TECH TIP: Use Nimble AMS and the Lightning Store to easily sell an event sponsorship. Selling sponsorships in the Lightning Store streamlines the purchase process and allows administrators and staff to track sponsors for events. 

Empower your volunteers to promote your event to their connections
Another fantastic method to increase association revenue is by utilizing event volunteers to promote your event. Do so by strengthening volunteering engagement within your group of event volunteers with an orientation about your association and specific training about the upcoming event. With thorough training about your association’s mission and goals, event volunteers have the potential to become brand ambassadors, representing your association in their professional networks.   

TECH TIP: Try the MyTrailhead feature to train your event volunteers. Your staff can easily design trails with engaging content like videos, graphs, and gamification features to convey crucial information about your association and upcoming events.   

After your event volunteers feel empowered to be association brand ambassadors, you can make it easier for them to promote upcoming events by providing the following resources: 

  • Give marketing collateral for event volunteers. Marketing collateral is digital or printed material including videos, graphics, newsletters, e-books, printed brochures, and posters used to promote an association’s mission, events, or services. Think about what marketing collateral best fits with your event strategy and how your event volunteers can best use the material to promote the event within their networks. Finally, produce the marketing materials and ensure your event volunteers have enough supplies for adequate promotion, or in the case of digital materials, know best practice tips about how to access and send digital promotional files. 
  • Offer event volunteers discount codes. Who doesn’t love a discount? A great way to empower your volunteers to promote upcoming events is to offer a registration discount code. When your event volunteers advertise your upcoming events within their networks, have them offer a discount code to all members who register early. Discount codes help to generate interest in events, ultimately bringing your association more revenue. Everyone wins with discount codes. 

TECH TIP: Use Nimble AMS to create coupon codes for event registrations — customers apply the coupon code at checkout in Community Hub to receive their discount. Set up deferred revenue tracking with event registration coupon codes for additional accounting functionality.  

  • Create a social media campaign for event volunteers. Support your less tech-inclined volunteers to promote your upcoming event on their social media by providing a ready-to-go campaign. Creating a ready-to-use campaign for your event volunteers includes preparing content like images, gifs, or video with related post copy that supports your event strategy. Ensure you make the content easy to post and you communicate with your event volunteers where and when you want it posted. For example, tell them you’d like the video posted two weeks before the event, the gif one week before, and the graphic a day before. Be sure you also promote any hashtags for your event volunteers to use and review all the information a month in advance of your association event.  

Engage non-members to increase event registration
According to the Community Brands Association Study, 57% of members are more likely to attend in-person events if a friend or colleague is also attending​. Given this statistic, it stands to reason if your association opened some events to non-members, then overall attendee registration would increase.  

But what steps can you take to boost your non-member engagement strategy? Try out these three approaches:

  • Task event volunteers with sending invites to non-members. The simplest way to engage non-members is to ask them to attend relevant upcoming events. Ensure the invitations are personalized by volunteers. Have your event volunteers start by inviting non-members from within their professional and personal communities.
  • Host a non-member party. ​Add a special non-member event to your association’s annual event list. The focus of the event could be professional networking, the value of your association, and larger industry trends. Consider having qualified volunteers speak about the benefits of membership at your association. Guarantee your event volunteers are ready to network with non-members and represent your association’s mission and goals. Have them listen to any non-member feedback about the event or discussion about professional interests as this can prove helpful in shaping your association’s benefits to new members. 
  • Follow up with non-members. Show your appreciation for non-members attending your event with personalized thank you notes — task your event volunteers with crafting a handwritten note. If you’ve captured any non-member emails, send a personalized thank you email with information about your association and a call to action about joining. Send your follow-up email within an hour after your event ends to have the best chance to convert non-members to members.  

TECH TIP: Utilize Nimble Create to design new or configure existing email templates to engage existing and non-members. Staff can easily build branded, personalized, and visually appealing emails and automate sending to save time.  

Involve event volunteers in session planning
To take some pressure off association staff, include qualified volunteers in the early event planning stages. Remember, volunteers have the power to increase association revenue. Partner with event volunteers in the following ways: 

  • Empower subject matter experts (SMEs) in event planning. SMEs can bring a wealth of industry knowledge to any conference or event. Allow qualified volunteers to create event agendas that resonate with current members. Because your event volunteers are also members, they’ll have insight into sessions or speakers that will drive registration and revenue. Listen to this wisdom and update your event accordingly. Not only will you empower your SMEs, but you’ll also free up staff for other crucial tasks.
  • Create a volunteer committee to review sessions. After your SMEs have created an event agenda and suggested session subjects or speakers, establish a group of qualified members to review all proposed parts of the event. Create a rubric or method for volunteers to rate the sessions and offer feedback, when necessary. If further work is needed to resolve aspects of the event, have the volunteer group collaborate with the SMEs to finalize details.
  • Have SMEs speak at conferences.​ Letting qualified volunteers speak at conferences or lead event sessions is a fantastic opportunity to further engage SME members. These members will view the opportunity as a professional perk and be more willing to continue volunteering at future events. Additionally, when other members see events advertised with their colleagues, they’ll be more likely to register to support their friends. Some members might even volunteer to work at events for the chance to speak at conference sessions.   

Are you ready to increase your association’s revenue?

Get started mobilizing your event volunteers and investing in an effective volunteer engagement strategy today. To discover more successful methods to boost association revenue, read the guide, How to Generate Non-Dues Revenue for Your Association.

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