The Event Revenue Challenge Confronting Associations

Source : Boardroom

Author: Bob Mitchell

Bob Mitchell, from D.C. based consulting firm, Mitchell Partnership Alliances, reflects on how sponsorships for virtual events posed some of the biggest challenges for many associations in 2020… and how to tackle them in the months to come.

As we reflect back in the rear view mirror of 2020 and the impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic, across the majority of many organizations including associations, both core principles and structural norms were tossed around like a row boat in the middle of a tsunami. This includes where in the organization does a revenue growth mindset sit within a traditional mission driven or membership focused conversation.

This past year only provided a fleeting and incomplete snapshot of many association’s revenue challenges as well as a glimpse into exciting new opportunities. Primary revenue sources for many associations of various sizes, membership and non-dues revenue were already challenged pre-COVID-19 and now many are being required to completely relook at all facets of their operations for both short term management, mid-term growth and long term sustainability.

Events as non-dues revenue have included revenue primarily earned from sponsors in the form of vendors, advertising and suppliers interested in reaching a particular industry and community. A smaller percentage was received through registration fees.

The transition from physical/in-person to virtual exposed a broader association business model conundrum of both relying too heavily on membership growth (especially small to mid-size organizations), inconsistent and non-impactful efforts around non-dues revenue, no content strategy and an “one-off approach” to events a couple of times per year that focused primarily on a sponsorship value proposition of booth traffic, networking and low impact sponsored panels and lunches with many lacking both performance metrics and a long tail effect.

Although virtual events are more cost effective to produce than in-person, the time outlay and necessary over-head resources can actually be more, which puts pressure on organizations in this current period of time where many associations have experienced a significant decline in event sponsorship revenue.

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