I keep getting into a loop on a particular debate. Membership organisations with static income and rising prices need new revenue streams. Fact. Not all the traditional income streams of awards, events, conferences and annual fees are rosy.
But when is commercial a dirty word in an organisation that promotes value, service, tradition and ‘non-commercial’ practices? The fine line between offering members something new at a price or attaching third parties to your brand for hard cash and still looking independent.
It is truism that members will spot blatant selling of access to them and not necessarily see the wider need for funds to re-invest. Most members just see the outputs and not the angst that the internal management have in actually running a profitable business. And it is a business.
All parts of any organisation, whether internal, operational or improving services offered need to be re-invented at some cost at some point. And so back to the issue of what is acceptable to all the many stakeholders.
Assuming your organisation has the time and creative commercial debates, it can be quite lucrative to leverage what you actually have in a sensitive way. To do that you need deep understanding of them and a clear knowledge of the value you have locked up. What exactly would your members pay for now? Do you know what they are accessing elsewhere? Paying for content is not a new idea, but one gathering momentum as everything moves digitally and we start to have relationships and conversations, on multiple levels, rather than rely on internal channels that just push stuff out.
I think the key is to get someone to own it internally. Put it in the strategy well before you may think you need it. Scope every idea and sense check it with members and have a long look at what other commercial organisations are doing. No Man is an Island, so get some outside help as the usual dynamic is that they may well listen to somebody outside of the organisation, who has the same idea as you have.
If you do stimulate new revenues and smash the predictions, what a great problem to have. Long live the Surplus.