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How to Use Your Association's Website to Increase Non-Dues Revenue

Navigating the complex world of advertisement hosting can be tricky. However, if done properly and with these tips in mind, it can also be a helpful revenue boost!

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One of the difficulties professional associations face is acquiring a steady income beyond just member dues. The perennial fundraising efforts certainly boost revenue, but there are other ways to increase non-dues revenue that requires little to no effort on your part like advertising.

If you have an established website that receives consistent traffic, you already have a platform from which businesses can advertise, and all you need to do is sell the space. But there are some snags that can occur if you oversell your space or if you sell to a business that does not share your association’s values. Your site can become an annoyance to your users, rather than a helpful tool, which would defeat the entire purpose of having a website to begin with.

Thus, we’re here to provide a few helpful tips on how to find advertisers and increase non-dues revenue without burdening your website or your audience. Let’s get started!

How to sell ad space on your site

There are a number of ways to go about selling ad space on your website, so before we dive into best practices, let’s take a look at these options. First off, you need to decide whether to sell your ad space directly, or through an affiliate. If you’re unsure of what that means, don’t worry – we’ll explain.

Affiliate programs

There are a number of advertising affiliate programs that exist to link you up with advertisers easily. This saves you the hassle of having to hit up people or companies yourself, but it also means that the affiliate takes a cut, and you don’t determine the pricing. Essentially, you sign up for an affiliate service or directory and then can choose which types of ads to run on your site. This is important because it gives you control of what your viewers see, allowing you to keep a close eye on your brand. One downside to this service, however, is that for the most part, you only get paid when a user performs a function (for example, visits the advertiser’s website and makes a purchase). This means that if the ad isn’t actually making money for your advertiser, it isn’t bringing in any revenue for you either.

Additionally, it’s important to note that some of these affiliates will only allow you to host ads if you have a certain amount of monthly traffic. If you have significant traffic, then an affiliate partnership can work for you and be quite lucrative. However, if you have a lower traffic rate, then the next option may be the route for you.

Selling directly

In this scenario you can control the pricing to ensure that the ads are actually creating a useful source of income for you, and you also can develop relationships with your advertisers to keep long-term business coming in. With this method, you would have to let potential advertisers know you have ad space for sale. You could do this by posting something on your site that tells visitors that they can advertise on your site and provides a link accordingly. But, you could also take a more proactive route by approaching companies or individuals directly.

For example, say you have a number of companies or individuals who have supported your association in the past, via sponsorship or donation. You could send out an email blast to all of these supporters telling them that you have ad space for sale on your site, and that you’ll give them a discount since they’re valued patrons of your association.

Similarly, you could develop a list of companies that have some sort of vested interest in your association (i.e., an industry-related business) and campaign to these organizations. Don’t forget that social media is a great outlet for reaching a wide group of people quickly, so don’t be afraid to get the word out about your advertising space on social outlets!

Now, in terms of how to charge for your ad space, you’ll need to have a pricing system set up before you sign on your advertisers. Many associations opt for a monthly fee based schedule, since it’s easy to bill and the money you draw in doesn’t depend on whether or not your advertiser makes a sale. Determine your prices based on where the ad is (prime ad space sells for more), and how often it will be seen based on your average website traffic rate. Then watch that increase in non-dues revenue!

Best practices for website ads

We’ve covered the basics of how to get the advertisers; now let’s go into some tips and considerations.

Make sure you have enough traffic to attract advertisers

Companies only want to spend money advertising if they are sure their advertisement will make an impression on someone. If your site doesn’t get much traffic, it won’t be a beneficial place for businesses to place their ads. Ramp up your SEO strategy and use supporting social media strategies to drive traffic to your site and show potential advertisers that their marketing will not be in vain.  

Only choose advertisers that will be consistent with your brand

The most harmful thing you could do to your site would be to host ads that conflict with your association’s mission and core beliefs. It’s your website, so don’t be afraid to be picky. Before agreeing to host an ad, make sure you know exactly who it represents, what it advertises, and what type of graphics and language it uses. You don’t want to send any conflicting messages or cause angst with current or potential members that may cause long-term alienation or lost memberships.

Don't oversell your space.

We’ve all seen those sites that look like virus-infested obstacle courses – you know, the kind where you have to click the little “x” in the corner of 12 shady pop-ups before you can actually get to the content you want to read. Don’t be that guy. Keep your space clean. You don’t need to sell every inch of your site for space. It will end up working against you, as you’ll lose traffic due to the lowered usability. Instead, only allow a few tasteful ads that don’t detract or annoy.

Additional advertising opportunities

Your website isn’t the only opportunity for advertising income. Your association newsletter is also a fantastic spot for companies to market, and all you need to do is make a little room in your layout every month. When seeking companies to advertise in your newsletter, approach businesses whose target audience is your membership base. This will ensure that not only are these advertisements benefiting the advertiser, but they also benefit your members, who will be viewing ads for products or services they may need. Even your association events are prime advertising spots.

Think about the booths, wall-space for signage, or otherwise wide-open slots that could easily be filled with banners, posters, or other advertisements. Similar to your website, you don’t want to completely saturate your event with advertisements. But, if you select your advertisers and the placement carefully you can provide relevant info to your audience while bringing in useful revenue for the association.

Navigating the complex world of advertisement hosting can be tricky. However, if done properly and with these tips in mind, it can also be a helpful revenue boost to keep your association going through slow times. Add advertisements to your catalogue of non-dues revenues methods and you’ll diversify your incomes streams and ultimately increase non-dues revenue.