Does Your Next Moneymaking Idea Already Exist?

By: Andrew S. Lang

The National Dart Association uses existing knowledge and technology to create a new revenue stream.

One positive result that can come from hard times is the creative use of existing assets and capabilities. When things get tight, savvy association executives take a hard look at the resources they have and find ways to repurpose them or simply expand their use.

The potential for extended use depends on a variety of factors. The first, of course, is what the assets are; they can range from skill sets to market knowledge, data, physical space, hardware and software, and so on. Also important is what members need or want—always a central issue—and what markets exist for the asset in question.

To give you an idea of how such repurposing can happen, I'd like to introduce you to the National Dart Association, located in Indianapolis.

NDA is a trade association of coin-operated vending-equipment companies that own and service electronic dart machines and promote dart leagues worldwide. If you have not seen one, these machines replaced the old steel-tipped variety of darts. Instead, they use soft-tipped darts, which are thrown at a target with electronic scoring. The machines not only bring in additional revenue for the bars, bowling alleys, and similar locations where the darts are thrown but also reduce insurance costs.

The Big Leagues

The members of NDA range from large national corporations to smaller family-owned businesses. All of them are, as you might imagine, interested in having as many league players as possible involved in the sport. NDA itself is equally interested since the majority of its income comes from its more than 53,000 card-carrying "sanctioned players" from eight countries that pay the bargain price of $8 per year (recently raised from $7) for the privilege to play in leagues and tournaments.

Participants in league play gain access to state and higher-level tournaments. Almost all of the state tournaments have been handled on a volunteer basis by the members.

According to Alyssa A. Pfennig, CAE, director of membership for NDA, the association has always managed its own international tournament, "Team Dart," which has been held for the last 25 years in Las Vegas. But other than the Indiana State Dart Tournament, NDA hasn't handled any other tournaments across the country.

Around the time the recession hit, NDA began getting inquiries from its members about the national organization handling more facets of state tournaments in both affiliated and unaffiliated states. It seems that not only were the member corporations feeling the economic pinch, but they were also frustrated with poorly organized tournaments. They wanted to effectively use the type of technology and back-office skills NDA could provide.

According to Alyssa, "Based on the management we had already been doing, we had both the tools and expertise to run the type of state tournaments going on around the nation. The expertise we could offer included online tournament entry, tournament classification using our tournament-management software, and also other resources such as promotions and marketing, et cetera."

A Growing Revenue Stream

As with all good associations, NDA was interested in solving this problem for its members. If it could do so without losing money, or better yet while making a profit, it was something NDA was even more interested in doing.

"Relatively little outreach was necessary on our part," says Alyssa. "We have received inquiries from approximately 10 different state tournaments and are currently working with five states in various capacities to manage or assist with their tournament."

She adds, "This is certainly not a large revenue source for us, but it is growing each year. Our first year was largely a break-even affair. However, currently we are netting approximately $5,000. The key is not how much we are netting, but that we are using existing technology and capabilities to meet an important member need without losing money for the association."

NDA proves that opportunities for the creative use of existing assets can be a moneymaker as well as a way to resolve a pressing member need. I'd love to hear your association's story if you also have accomplished this neat trick.

Andrew S. Lang, CPA, is with LangCPA Consulting LLC in Potomac, Maryland. Email: [email protected]

Andrew S. Lang