New Revenue From Education

By: Andrew S. Lang, FASAE

How one association's testing strategy pays off.

Do your members need continuing education credits? If so, Doug Kleine, CAE, interim executive director of the Society for Vascular Ultrasound, recently told me about an approach to revenue generation that may work for you.

SVU was founded in 1977 and today has a current budget of $1.3 million. It has approximately 5,000 members, most of whom are ultrasound technologists; physicians represent another 20 percent of members.

Both groups are required to earn continuing medical education (CME) credits. Physicians have more strenuous requirements, but they also tend to have the funds and the time to travel for education.

The technologists, on the other hand, generally have limited travel opportunities and lower salaries.

To assist the bulk of their members, SVU developed a simple method to provide inexpensive CMEs. In 1988 the society's quarterly journal began including a test composed of 10 multiple-choice questions related to a specific article.

Any technologist member could answer the questions and mail the answers, along with a $10 check, back to SVU. If a member answered 80 percent or more of the questions correctly, he or she was awarded one CME credit. The society would then mail a certificate of successful completion.

Kleine says this process became so popular among SVU's technologist members that the society now includes three sets of test questions based on three different articles in each journal. As in the past, members can send in answers along with $10 per test.

By the end of last year, SVU was steadily grossing about $26,000 per year from the tests. Kleine says the total cost of staff time and printing and mailing the certificates is about $3.50 per test. Based on the $26,000 gross for 2,600 tests given in the past year, that's $9,100 in costs to the society and a net profit of $16,900.

Kleine says that while the net income is useful, it's the positive response from various constituencies within the society that makes the tests so valuable. Staff regularly hears from SVU's technologist members about how pleased they are to be able to earn CME credits inexpensively without having to leave their desks.

Technologists can take the test online for free, but members seem to prefer the print format. "Maybe folks don't trust computers when it comes to CMEs," Kleine says. Regardless, he intends to raise the price of the test (which has not changed in a decade) and apply it to the online version as well.

Technologists aren't the only people who see the value of the tests: Article authors and journal advertisers appreciate them as well. Authors now know that their articles are being read. For advertisers too, the program provides a clear measurement of readership. And they appreciate that the tests are located at the back of the journal, where advertisements appear, driving a substantial portion of the readership to a part of the magazine that they might otherwise not visit.

A product that produces a good dollar and happy constituencies. Would it work for you?

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

Andrew S. Lang, FASAE