Two Association Leaders Share How They Deepened Member Engagement While Growing Non-Dues Revenue

Launching a sponsor-driven Resource Library helped two national associations grow non-dues revenue, add member value, and improve sponsors’ lead-gen.

Three perennial association goals are to find new ways to provide member value, drive sponsor engagement, and grow non-dues revenue. While each can be challenging on its own, executives at two national associations successfully found a path to accomplish them all — simultaneously.

Moustafa Abdel-Kader, senior director of business development at the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC), and Jack Gonzalez, senior director of marketing and sales at the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), spoke at a recent roundtable discussion about how they managed the feat.

Associations “don't always have the resources, time, or know-how to be able to launch a new product,” Michael Palacios, president of Lead Marvels, noted during the discussion hosted by Teri Carden, founder of Non Dues-A-Palooza.

So how did ACC and APTA do it? Each association partnered with Lead Marvels and introduced a custom Resource Library for its members.


Non Dues-A-Palooza Expert Series: Drive Deeper Member Engagement While Growing Non-Dues Revenue

Also known as a Content Hub or Knowledge Hub, a Resource Library is an online platform that hosts curated thought-leadership content primarily supplied by third-party sponsors. The corporate sponsors pay a fee to participate in the Resource Library and receive leads in return, thanks to a contact form readers fill out to download content. There is no cost to the association, and the program can be fully managed by Lead Marvels.

APTA’s Resource Library provides a member-sponsor connection

APTA represents 1,300 public and private organizations in the public transportation sector. In his 20 years with the association, Gonzalez was consistently busy with plenty of projects, events, and other outreach activities. But then COVID-19 hit, and trade shows, sales meetings, everything shut down. As a result, APTA needed help to connect its private-sector members with the transit systems where they make their sales.

“They couldn't get out to visit their clients. We really needed a way to be that connector,” said Gonzalez. “Lead Marvels’ solution was one of the ways we could do that. It not only connected those folks together, but it also allowed them to become thought leaders in the industry by participating in the program. We saw that as a very valuable member benefit.”

Through APTA's white-labeled Resource Library, its members now have access to a multitude of industry-specific white papers, e-books, industry reports, on-demand videos, and recorded webinars. In addition, APTA and content sponsors can access a dashboard to monitor trends, see what type of content resonates with who, and how much revenue the Resource Library generates each month.

“There's a lot of content and information that they can use to better refine their strategy, their approach, and their messaging to their members,” said Palacios of the dashboard.

Even with the pandemic shutting down other opportunities, Gonzalez had one chief hesitation about introducing a Resource Library: Will the platform cannibalize sponsors' marketing dollars, hurting APTA's print publication revenue?

“The reality is, both have grown,” he said. “There have been no issues. . . . It quickly overcame any concerns after the first couple of months, and we saw what revenue we were bringing in and the reaction from our members.”

ACC’s Resource Library meets sponsors’ pay-per-lead requests

To serve its 45,000 worldwide members, ACC works with more than 120 different legal vendors and law firm sponsors. In 2019, many of those sponsors were consistently asking for pay-by-lead opportunities. At the same time, members were requesting more content from sponsors, said Abdel-Kader, who’s managed all of the association’s non-dues revenue for about 13 years.

The two requests dovetailed nicely with the capabilities of a sponsor-led Resource Library. The only issue, Abdel-Kader said, was ACC already had its own internal resource library. He wondered if two libraries would confuse members or hurt the existing library. The organization avoided any confusion by simply giving a more specific name to the sponsor-driven library, calling it the Partner Knowledge Center.

“Overall, it's been really great. From the member perspective, I think they appreciate getting some of this content that they don't usually have access to,” said Abdel-Kader. “There's so many legal providers and sponsors out there that our members aren't aware of.”

He also appreciates the turnkey nature of the platform. Sponsors who don't have the internal infrastructure to build their own landing pages and capture leads are happy to rely on Lead Marvels. “It's really easy for them. It's kind of a no-brainer. I tend to push it a lot to startups and smaller companies that are trying to build their prospect pool,” added Abdel-Kader.

Recurring non-dues revenue with no cost

Lead Marvels follows a simple revenue share formula. For every dollar generated, the association gets 40%, Lead Marvels gets 40%, and the party who introduced the program to the sponsor gets 20%. The latter is typically a member of the association’s sales team or the Lead Marvels sales team, Palacios explained.

That formula translates to more than $845,000 in non-dues revenue for ACC in its first 36 months with Lead Marvels and $171,000 for APTA in 18 months.

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Growing Non-Dues Revenue with an Online Resource Library

With APTA’s bread-and-butter revenue streams of conferences and expositions on hold during COVID-19, Gonzalez wasn’t sure what to expect heading into the program. However, the association’s board was quickly pleased. Gonzalez was also happy that the Resource Library takes up very little of his time, mostly to hit ‘send’ on Lead Marvels-generated emails to promote its content. “For 20 minutes a week, I become a hero with our CFO. That's how good it is,” he said.

Abdel-Kader agreed. “The cool thing is, once you get this platform up and [start] seeing revenues coming in, you start thinking about how can this program work with some of the other offerings that we're doing,” he said.

“It’s kind of a no-brainer”

Regular weekly promotional emails and prominent website placement ensure ACC’s Partner Knowledge Center gets a lot of traction, said Abdel-Kader. To make the most of it, he started thinking about how to work ACC’s own events, webcasts, and other activities into the Resource Library. He brainstorms the possibilities on regular update calls with the Lead Marvels team.

“We tend to throw ideas around for potential new things that we could be doing that we aren't offering through the Hub that we should look into,” Abdel-Kader said. “I think there's a lot of potential for growth, which we're excited about.”

Palacios summed up the benefits of introducing a Resource Library for both ACC and APTA. “Providing this online Resource Library accomplished three things. One, it brought real value to their members. Two, it provided a new marketing opportunity for their sponsors. And three, it grew non-dues revenue with minimal effort on their part.”

To learn more about how this white-labeled turnkey product can benefit your association — at no cost to you — schedule a no-obligation demo today.

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