Blog posting date icon
min read

Affinity Programs for Associations: What You Need to Know

Is your association looking for a new way to bring in revenue and provide more benefits to members? If you said yes, an affinity program might be for you!

Holiday Shaped Cookies on White and Grey Textiles

Is your association looking for a new way to bring in revenue and provide more benefits to members? If you said yes, an affinity program might be for you. According to Growth Zone’s 2018 Association Annual Survey, one of the top 10 struggles associations face is a lack of funding. In addition, half of annual revenue income for associations is made of non-dues revenue. When it comes to affinity programs, they can be a great success for associations.

However, if neglected they can also be frustrating, time consuming, and worst-case scenario- an all around fail. You want your association’s affinity program to work out for yourself and your members alike. So, how can you create a successful affinity program? What are the best practices in order to gain the most from your affinity program? First, let’s go over exactly what an affinity program is. Then, we can go over how to conduct a successful affinity program for your association and its members. We’ll also include some associations that do a great job with their own affinity programs.

What is an affinity program?

We’ve been talking about the benefits of an affinity program, but one question is still left to be answered: What is an affinity program? According to the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE), an affinity program is a type of business partnership. A business will offer a special rate or a type of service to an association’s members. In return, both organizations will see an increase in revenue. It’s important to know what type of revenue stream affinity programs bring in. Instead of a short burst of revenue, these programs will create a steady stream of income. This income, if the program is taken care of, should gradually increase over time. This creates a reliable source of non-dues revenue for associations.

While creating revenue is one benefit of an affinity program, it’s not the only one. Affinity programs provide value to your members. By offering members a new set of discounts and services from businesses they enjoy, it adds a new element to your association. What member wouldn’t want to get exclusive offers delivered to them? Now that we know about the benefits of creating a successful partnership with another company, where do you start? What companies should your association partner with? How do you become an affinity program superstar? First, you need to find a company that works for your association.

How to find a great business partner.

So, you want to start offering affinity programs at your association. Have you secured a business partner? Without a great business partner, your association’s affinity programs will not strive forward as expected. It takes a strong bond with a business who has similar values to make a successful partnership. You want to choose a partner that has a similar mission as your association. A company that strives towards the same goals and believes in similar morals will work well as a business partner. Think about it, you wouldn’t want to create a new partnership with a company that has entirely opposite beliefs, would you? A great example of a good partnership for an affinity program is the one between the American Public Gardens Association and Better Homes & Gardens. The two organizations have come together to bring their members a great offer.

When someone joins American Public Gardens Associations, they get a free one-year subscription to the magazine service. This partnership works well because both organizations have a similar mission in mind. American Public Gardens Associations and their members work to conserve and improve public gardens. On the other hand, Better Homes & Gardens inform readers on top gardening practices and other tips on keeping a great garden. As an association looking to start an affinity program, your first step should be finding a business that works well with your values. Once you have that mutual partnership, you can move forward in creating a new revenue stream and pleasing members.

Create offers members care about.

Even if you have an amazing partnership with a great company, your affinity programs will not generate revenue unless they interest members. You want your affinity program to be a new experience to members. Your association and its partner should work together to create something that couldn’t have been done alone. For the Association of Nutrition & Foodservice Professionals (ANFP), they work with many companies to bring their members a multitude of valuable discounts and services. ANFP’s affinity programs vary from insurance benefits to travel services and even an Office Depot discount. There are many choices for members to choose and gain from. For example, let’s say a member of ANFP wants to take a trip somewhere. The affinity programs that ANFP offer allows members to find a discounted hotel. It also has partnerships with car rental companies, travel planning companies, cruise lines, and even a tour guide business. With ANFP, members can plan an entire vacation around their valuable affinity programs.

Your association can create affinity programs that provide discounts just like these. Study what your members respond best to. What are their daily lives like? What would help them live an easier life? Knowing these facts about members will help your association define a specific offer for its affinity program.

Promote your programs.

You’ve found a business to partner with and you’ve created some amazing offers for members. Now it’s time to promote your affinity programs. Without proper promotion, your affinity programs could have a problem bringing in revenue to your association and its partnering business. It’s important to get the word out about your programs before you launch them. There are many ways to promote your affinity programs. One way is to include the announcement in your newsletters. Let members know months in advance what they can look forward to with your association.Another way is to create an exclusive email campaign centered around your new affinity programs.

According to Hubspot, 86% of consumers look forward to promotional emails from companies they already have a relationship with at least once a month. In fact, 15% of respondents wanted promotional emails daily. Design an email that will catch your member’s attention from the start. Use a subject line that calls attention and demands urgency. Then, make sure your emails cover any important information about your new program. Make sure to create an email schedule for these updates in order to track any engagement from members. You can also keep your affinity program offers on your website, like the Connecticut State Dental Association (CSDA). Listing your affinity programs on your website is a great upsell to your association. Plus, it keeps interested members and audiences on your association’s site for maximum engagement.

Nurture your affinity program.

Creating a successful affinity program is great, but you want to make sure you keep that program alive for years to come. Be sure to keep in contact with your partner at all costs. Poor communication can be deadly for even the best affinity program. You also want to reach out to members and survey them on the effect of your affinity programs. You want to know if members are still enjoying your programs, or if they’ve lost their appeal.

Like any living thing, your affinity programs need attention and dedication in order to become durable, long-lasting sources of revenue. If your association is looking for a new source of income that doubles as a member engagement tool, try introducing affinity programs into your revenue strategy.