Chambers of commerce cannot live on member dues alone, right? Non-dues revenue must be part of the equation.
The industry average is that dues make up only 44% of a chamber’s budget. That leaves non-dues revenue to make up the remaining 56% of the average chamber’s revenue.
Non-dues revenue is a whole lot more scalable than membership dues. There are limits to the number of businesses in your community. Even if you could get 100% of them to join (wouldn’t that be amazing???), the revenue derived from that would be limited to the number of businesses plus the size of annual dues increases.
Non-dues revenue, on the other hand, is only limited by your creativity and ingenuity. If you’re feeling a little less creative these days, we have some great ideas for non-dues revenue for your chamber.
Non-Dues Revenue: 4 Categories
For ease of use–since this list is hu-uge (with 85! fun ideas)–we’re breaking it down into lists of 4 types of non-dues revenue:
- advertising/marketing and publication
- office ideas
Events have evolved over the past year or so with COVID and shelter in place orders. Our list of non-dues revenue-generating events can be done in-person, virtually, or as a hybrid opportunity.
However, if you go with a virtual event, keep in mind that you must give people a reason to tune in. There’s a prevailing mindset that virtual events are not worth the money. That is certainly the case if you’re hoping for a meal or bar service. But, if the point of your event is valuable content (and it should be), you need to stress that the value is still there and you do this by marketing the benefits/knowledge attendees will receive.
If you select a hybrid event, remember to find a creative way to involve your virtual audience. They’re not there simply as voyeurs. Include them in the fun. Take a note from what talent-based TV shows have done with their virtual audiences and voting, etc.
Ready to get your event-based non-dues revenue on? Let’s go!
- Online auction. You can locate your own things to be auctioned through sponsorships and donations or you can work with a company that will handle it for you.
- Physical team challenge around your community. Think of the TV show The Amazing Race as a basis for the challenge or “kick it old-school” by creating a field day event and pitting businesses or industries against one another.
- Golf tournament or golf outing.
- Taste of your city.
- Travel. When things open up, plan a chamber trip. You can do the planning on your own or work with a company that can handle it for you.
- Job fair or expo. Companies can pay to have a booth or review resumes.
- Mastermind group. Create mastermind groups for like-minded individuals.
- Industry-specific networking groups.
- High-value item raffle.
- Skeet shooting.
- Wine auction or grab bag. Set a minimum that each bottle is worth so no one worries about drawing a cheap bottle of wine.
- Burn box. This is a purging idea that came straight out of 2020. Sell cardboard “burn boxes” and invite people or businesses to place things in them they want to get rid of/purge from their lives. Give them some parameters of what cannot be burned. They can always burn “non-burnable” items in effigy by placing a picture in the box.
- Professional photo proofs. Everyone needs headshots whether for social media, their website, resume, or book cover. A good picture with professional lighting can be priceless. Secure the services of a professional photographer and have people pay to sign up for spots.
- Axe throwing outing. (The Tolland Chamber of Commerce called it “Throwing an Axe at 2020” – screenshot from their website)
- Business or franchise expo.
- Business after hours.
- Lunch and learns / educational sessions sponsored by a subject matter expert.
- Event sponsorships.
- _____ walk. Whatever your town is known for create a “walk” guide or signs that take people to different locations to view the items. For instance, you could do an “art” or “fountain” walk or a self-guided “historic homes” walk with sponsored sign posts or map.
- Bar crawl.
- Leadership class. This 9-month course grooms future leaders by exposing them to your major industries and introducing them to current leadership.
- “Best of” awards. Let the community nominate and vote on winners. Host an event around it. Sell tables and sponsorships.
- Speed networking. Charge to attend and sponsor.
- Paid educational opportunities. Offer free basic courses or webinars and charge for deeper dives into the information. Use the free course to entice people to sign up for the advanced one.
- Cornhole tournament. (here is a complete guide to setting one up)
- Specialized tours listing. Businesses would pay to be a part of a tour listing or guide for a specific need.
- Ribbon cuttings.
- Key Indicator Forecast series or economic forecast event.
- Wellness fair.
- Health and Wellness series like this one from the Birmingham Bloomfield Chamber. Note their timely topics.
- Vine and Dine event showcasing local restaurants, bars, vineyards, and/or distilleries.
- Farm to table experience.
- Artisan’s expo.
- Moveable feast. Every course of the meal occurs at a new location.
Want more? Here’s our big list of Chamber Event Theme Ideas.
- Chamber apps. While I don’t usually advocate using an app because of the competition and marketing it requires to get people to use it and stick with it, there are several apps out there now that can really help during COVID and reopening. The Parkland Chamber of Commerce launched one called Eat, Shop, Play and it has some cool functionality. Businesses that opt for a premium listing can add a favorite button. When an app user favorites them, the business can then send instant notifications to the user for things like flash sales, offers, and more. The chamber worked with a business called App My Community.
- Chamber M2M. Help members build relationships.
- Blitzr. Offer face-to-face, one-on-one, individualized networking for your members.
- Local currency. Local currency is a terrific branding opportunity for your community and local merchants can pay to advertise or increase the positioning of their listing on your participating merchants list.
- Certificates of origin.
- Affiliate or affinity programs.
- Data. If you have good data about your business community you may be able to monetize it and sell market intelligence or other data to someone who is thinking about moving into the area.
- A la carte membership perks.
- Line item. Add a special one-time line item to your chamber invoices such as a “technology” line item for computer upgrades. You might be surprised how many people add in a few extra dollars to help with a specific fund.
- Gobos. Gobos are small personalized lights that can be branded. The bat signal (from Batman) was a very powerful gobo. They can be used at events or on the side of your building or wall. You can get them on Amazon for less than $300. Then go to Etsy and search for “custom gobo” where they are around $5 – 15.
Advertising/Marketing and Publications
When it comes to this non-dues revenue category, there are both online and printed options out there.
If you chose to sell online advertising, you’ll need to build up a following or be able to show potential advertisers the traffic you can ensure they’ll get in front of. For print options, be prepared with print numbers, distribution, and demographics of recipients.
- Visitor’s Guides. These helpful guides come in many forms and can be standalone items or given out as part of a swag bag. Design them with individual travelers and conference attendees in mind. The Greater Lansing (Michigan) Chamber offers a digital or award-winning print version:
- Community guides. These are perfect for recent arrivals (newcomer) or relocation guides. Work with your economic development group to get it in front of companies and employees that are relocating into your area.
- Member directories. Most chambers provide a free basic listing and charge for premium listings or advertising within the guide.
- Ads. You can sell ads in a variety of places such as your newsletter, website, virtual event platforms (Blitzr and Remo have these options) event program/landing page, etc.
- Magazine. Highlight feel-good stories, economic development happenings, and the stories that make your community unique.
- Blog posts. Some chambers sell blog post space to subject matter experts who, in turn, create valuable content for a bio with a link.
- Community maps. There are companies out there that will produce a community map for you with highlights of your choice including businesses and attractions. Many feature coupon ads around the map border.
- Chamber pop-up book of the most memorable things in your area.
- Coffee table book of beautiful local images.
- Hollywood stars. Okay, we’re not all the Hollywood Chamber but you could use their idea and create your own “Walk of Fame.”
- Billboard sign along a popular road.
- Online meeting sponsors.
- Technology sponsors.
- Monopoly board game of your town.
- Commemorative bricks. There are many sites online that offer commemorative bricks. There are many sites such as this one (screenshot of www.bricksrus.com) which offer services designed to make it easy.
- Murals. Help put some artists back to work by asking local businesses if they would like to pay for a mural on their building.
- Local box of goodies. Businesses pay to be included. Make them available for holidays or mail order/people who miss your town.
- Niche publication for your main industries.
- YouTube video ads or logo placement on chamber videos.
- Economic development publication.
- Print calendar featuring local images and signature events. Sell advertising or coupon space.
- Chamber car signage. If you have a chamber car, you can sell advertising space on it.
- Email blasts.
- Chairman’s circle. Elite sponsorship opportunity for the highest level of visibility.
- Social media support/consultation.
- Event upgrades like VIP sections, meet and greets, etc.
- Job board listings.
- Capital campaign.
- Buyers’ Guide. Create a Buyers’ Guide for gift-giving holidays like Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, etc.
- Shop local website. Offer advertising and premium product placement opportunities.
- Co-working space. The Palm Springs Chamber of Commerce has two locations for co-working.
- Use of your conference room or office equipment.
- Answering service for members without offices.
- Shred event. Offer a twice annual shredding service and charge by the box.
- Brochures in chamber lobby. Featured businesses can pay for the placement.
- Video streaming. You can do the same as above but with video ads and business commercials/spotlights streaming in the chamber lobby.
- Web design services or interactive classes to set up a basic web presence.
- Insurance deals through a third-party affiliation.
- Chamber foundation.
This non-dues revenue guide is just the beginning of the opportunities out there. Some may, at first glance, appear that you are competing with local businesses. If you’re worried about this, consider partnering with them to help bring them a larger audience as well.
Want more non-dues revenue ideas? Think about what business people in your community need most right now and brainstorm how your solution might be leveraged to bring in additional revenue for the chamber.