With many industries feeling the adverse impacts of the COVID -19 outbreak, associations and non-profit organizations are not exempt. Many of us are experiencing devastating revenue losses from canceled conferences, meetings and other large-scale events. According to the Professional Convention Management Association’s most recent Meetings Market Survey, revenue generated from association meetings and conferences account for roughly 35 percent of associations’ total annual revenue. 

While a request to Congress to include associations and nonprofits in the disaster relief stimulus bill has been made, industry leaders may need to consider other ways to mitigate these revenue losses.  Read on for some tips on how you can help your organization recover financial losses during this pandemic crisis. 

Postpone large-scale in-person meetings and events, rather than cancel. 

While it is certainly challenging both financially and logistically to reschedule a conference with dozens of vendors and hundreds of attendees, the financial implications of not postponing can be devastating for an organization. Work with your current venue(s) to evaluate rescheduling fees and/or consider a future date for your event.  It could help both your association and your venue partner. 

Transition in-person training programs, workshops and events to online webinars. 

Rather than canceling a training program or workshop, move it to an online webinar by using a software program such as GoToMeeting or something similar. This may enable you to provide relevant training programs to your membership without having to issue full refunds to attendees. 

Move board meetings from in-person to virtual. 

Use a video-conferencing software such as Zoom or GoToMeeting for upcoming board meetings and other important “face-to-face” communications. This option helps maintain safe personal interactions between board members and association leaders while many are working remotely and avoiding large gatherings. 

Develop a strategic plan to further diversify revenue streams. 

If a conference, convention or tradeshow has been your organization’s leading revenue generator, consider using this time to develop new strategic revenue opportunities that might include paid webinars, website sponsorships, online conferences and trade shows, continuing education programs for members and non-members, fees for conducting industry research studies, sales for industry publications, online resources or books, and even subscriptions to industry statistics. 

Use social media and electronic messaging to instill value and trust. 

During times of uncertainty, associations can play an essential role in connecting members and providing accurate information.  It’s a good reminder of the important work that associations do year-round. Be transparent about decisions your organization is making during this time, as well as regularly engaging them through social media and e-blast updates.  It is an opportunity to engage current membership, as well as demonstrate to your prospects and other customers how your organization can adapt in changing times to serve the needs of those in your industry.