Earning Revenue at Your Association’s Events – 4 Ideas

Piles of money leading up to a hand putting coins in a piggy bank

Written By:

AMR Letter Logo Small

AMR Management Services


Planning an event is a cyclical process. Your event outcomes are determined in large part by your initial planning, and your initial planning should be guided by the outcomes of past events. This means examining your post-event data is critical for improving your events, and associations should focus their analysis on key metrics such as audience engagement, audience retention, and return on investment. 

While the exact strategy your association will need to improve your events is dependent upon a variety of factors unique to your organization, there are a few methods for earning additional revenue at events that most associations can apply. 

Many events can raise funds through ticket admissions and concession sales as a starting point. To raise more from your events, this article will explore four monetization strategies, including how to:

  1. Make it a pledge event
  2. Add a peer-to-peer component 
  3. Sell branded merchandise
  4. Create a VIP area

According to association giving statistics, 29% of associations’ revenue comes from events, on average. With nearly a third of your potential annual earnings coming from events, your association has quite a bit to gain from expanding your approach to monetization and maximizing your events’ fundraising potential. Let’s get started. 

1. Make it a pledge event

If your association’s members like to challenge themselves, consider hosting a pledge event. Events that raise funds through pledges have participants complete an activity repeatedly over a set amount of time, see how long they can continue doing an activity, or how well they can accomplish a specific activity. Before the event, participants will collect pledges from their friends and family and then collect their donations afterwards based on how well they performed. 

Walk-a-thons and marathons are popular pledge events, but your association can get creative and create pledge events based around your unique specialities. For example, an association of coding professionals might host a hack-a-thon or code-a-thon and have participants raise funds based on how many lines of code they wrote. 

When setting up a pledge event, ensure your website contains clear directions for both participants and donors. This includes both when and where the event will take place, what types of donations will be accepted, and when donations are to be collected and submitted by.

To host your pledge event, your association can invest in fundraising software specifically for this fundraising method. However, many associations will be able to hold their event with just the tools they already have and a stack of professionally-printed pledge sheets.

2. Add a peer-to-peer component 

Your association’s current members are often your biggest advocates, and you can give them an opportunity to leverage that passion and support your association through a peer-to-peer campaign. Peer-to-peer campaigns are a fundraising strategy wherein supporters reach out to their friends and family on your organization’s behalf to request donations. 

To increase your events’ attendance and attract potential new members to your association, try hosting a peer-to-peer campaign in the months leading up to your event. During this peer-to-peer campaign, instead of just requesting donations, supporters will ask their friends and family to buy tickets to your event. 

Running a successful peer-to-peer campaign can be a significant amount of work. To launch your campaign, follow these three main steps:

  • Invest in a peer-to-peer platform. Peer-to-peer campaigns are successful because donors are able to give straight to their friend or family member through a page customized to them. To facilitate this, you will need to invest in a peer-to-peer platform that allows each volunteer to create their own campaign page. There are a number of different peer-to-peer platforms available, many of which have their own specialties, such as making the transition to the event itself smoother or adding incentives to give such as custom-made t-shirts. 
  • Recruit volunteers. Peer-to-peer campaigns require dedicated volunteers to find success. Start your search by reaching out to your current members and those who have volunteered for your association in the past. Include details about what your organization expects from volunteers and use data from past campaigns—and external research conducted on peer-to-peer fundraisers as a marketing tool—to explain the impact their support will have on your event and association as a whole. 
  • Support volunteers. Your volunteers will operate fairly independently during your campaign, but they can still benefit from routine check-ins and reliable support. Give your volunteers a way to get in touch with your association’s volunteer manager to help answer questions and troubleshoot any problems that might arise. 

At your event, the volunteers who helped out during your peer-to-peer campaign can finish up their fundraising efforts by collecting donations in person. After they submit the total they raised through donations and ticket sales, be sure to thank all of your volunteers for participating. You can even celebrate your top earners by recognizing them during your event. 

3. Sell branded merchandise 

Branded merchandise that’s comfortable to wear and has a stylish design racks up sales on your online store. However, many of your association members will likely appreciate the chance to see and touch your merchandise in person before committing to a purchase. Your events are the perfect opportunity to show off your t-shirts, hoodies, hats, tote bags, and other items. 

Many organizations and even individuals sell branded merchandise, but not all of it is of high quality. To create items your association members will actually want to buy, try following these three steps:

  • Partner with a merchandise provider. To mass produce enough merchandise for your members, you’ll need to partner with a merchandise platform. Different providers will have different sales models, such as bulk ordering or print-on-demand options. Each provider will also offer different levels of assistance, from those that are entirely hands-off to partners that provide extensive assistance during the design and production processes. 
  • Design your merchandise. Designing attractive merchandise can be a challenge for associations without a graphic designer on staff. When creating your products, consider who your core audience is, what style trends are currently popular, and how you can show your association’s brand values through your design choices. Try partnering with a merchandise platform that provides design templates and other assistance. 
  • Sell at corresponding events. Some pieces of merchandise may correspond with various events your association was planning to host anyway. For example, if your association has a 5K, marathon, or any other activity that involves exercise or outdoor activities, you can likely sell a significant amount of branded water bottles and hats. 

If your associations ends up having merchandise left over after an event, you can add it to your online store for members to purchase later. Or, you can thank your event volunteers and award top performers with your merchandise. This can be an especially useful strategy to make use of items branded to specific events—for example, your association might add the name and date of an event to t-shirts—that cannot be easily sold later. 

4. Create a VIP area

If your association has a membership tier structure, your events can be an opportunity to demonstrate high membership levels’ value and encourage other members to move to the next tier by creating a VIP area. 

VIP areas setup and content will depend on the event you are running, but they will always be exclusive sections at your event where only a select group of members are allowed to enter. To create a successful VIP effort that is worth its value, be sure to:

  • Determine who is a VIP for each event. Entrance to your VIP areas can be dependent on membership tiers, ticket prices, or both. For instance, an association might make it so members in their highest tier always have access to VIP areas no matter what, whereas other members can gain access if they buy a higher-priced ticket. 
  • Create a private area. VIP areas are desirable because they are exclusive. At your event venue, designate a space that will be “VIPs only.” This can be an out-of-the-way lounge, a set of seats in the front row, dining tables in a prime viewing area for your live performance, or even a private chat room in the case of virtual events. 
  • Offer exclusive prizes and activities. In some cases, a VIP area will be special due solely to where it is located, such as front row seats at a lecture. However, in other cases a VIP area gains its value from what activities happen there, such as a lecture presenter having a private conversation with members in the VIP lounge after their presentation. 

When creating a VIP section, be careful to balance how you can make the price worth its value while also avoiding being outright unfair to non-VIP members. 

An example of a poorly implemented VIP section might be if an association holding an auction designated a select number of items that only VIP members were allowed to bid on. By contrast, a fairer version of this same scenario might be allowing VIP members to have a first viewing of items up for bid before opening the auction floor to all of your members. 

Events provide your members with value, from networking opportunities and skill development to fun and memorable activities. Ensure your association can continue offering high-quality events by improving your monetization strategies. To do so, raise more funds through peer-to-peer and pledge-style fundraisers or sell exclusive items and VIP passes. 

AMR Letter Logo Small
AMR Management Services
Association Management Services Company

AMR is an accredited association management company (AMC) providing a wide range of services including strategic leadership support, financial management, event planning, member relations, marketing, communications, program management, information technology services and general administration. Looking for help with your association? Get In Touch With Us Today!

All Posts By AMR Management Services