By: Bennett Napier, CAE
Choosing Your Dance Partner
In the previous installment on this topic, the issues of structure related to non-dues revenue affinity programs were covered in depth. This installment focuses on picking the right partner to ensure long term value that enhances the association’s brand.
Communication is the most important element when working with an affinity partner. You must clearly communicate with the provider, your board and your members. Many providers may not have previously worked with an association and will require education on what we can and cannot do for them.
How Do I Choose?
- Does this program/service fit with the association’s mission?
- Is the company offering the program/service reputable?
- Will the association realize some potential net income by using this program/service?
- Do we, or our competitors, already offer a similar program/service?
I’ve Chosen to Establish a Specific Program. Now What Due Diligence is Necessary?
- Explore different programs within the same area (ie: T-Mobile, Verizon, AT&T, etc)
- Ask each program the same questions so you’re comparing apples to apples.
- Ask for references and actually contact those references.
- Ask other association executives for leads on additional providers.
Marketing Your Affinity Program
- Market the program, not the provider.
- Identify what delivery vehicles will be used to market the program.
- Coordinate your efforts – match magazine advertisement with your website, e-mail and mail marketing plan.
- Situate your association as the gateway to quality and value.
Communicate With Your Provider
A successful affinity program takes more time than you might think. They do not “work by themselves”.
- Send new members to your provider on a set schedule.
- Call your provider once a quarter to review your statements and ask any questions.
- Solicit feedback from your members – those using the program and those who are not.
Occasionally, you may receive a complaint from one of your members regarding the affinity program.
- Talk to your member to determine the nature of the complaint.
- Call your provider and ask questions – sometimes it’s just a simple case of misunderstanding how the program works.
- Assure your member that you value their feedback and the association will address the problem.
Generally, royalties are calculated on a quarterly basis. Make sure you understand what your agreed schedule is with your provider.
- Review your statements – did you receive your royalty check?
- Ask for a roster of members enrolled in the program – what percentage is enrolled?
- Ask your provider how your enrollment stacks up against other associations they service.
- Ask your provider for feedback on how to improve the program.
Eventually, you’ll need to end a partnership with a provider.
- The provider may offer other programs you are interested in – if the relationship was good; ask how you may continue to partner with them.
- Your provider should have seen this coming – make sure to provide feedback as to why you’re leaving.
- Review your contract with the provider to ensure you’ve met your agreement with them regarding termination.
Non dues revenue/affinity programs can be one of the most valuable elements of value an association can offer its members. Conversely, it can also spell trouble for an organization on tax related issues if not structured properly. Further, if a vendor has not been property vetted, third party service issues can negatively impact the association’s brand.
It is hoped that this second part in the series of this topic has provided a good overview of this important association management topic.