Improving Business Venture Innovation to Increase Nondues Revenue

Nondues Revenue July 21, 2020 By: Keith Skillman, CAE

Associations are lagging in several categories of business innovation readiness, but an ASAE Research Foundation maturity tool is primed to support paths to improvement.

New revenue-generation opportunities are always of interest, perhaps especially now. But how prepared are associations to venture beyond traditional nondues revenue sources such as advertising, sponsorship, and exhibit sales? The ASAE Research Foundation’s recently completed “Association Business Ventures” research sought to find that out.

The study focused on healthcare associations, where disruption driven by value-based payment and digital transformation of healthcare delivery is intense. However, the results, including a first-generation maturity model, should appeal to the wider universe of association leadership.

Room to Grow

The new research applied and validated a maturity model developed by the project’s principal researcher, Association Ventures. The model was used to assess participating healthcare association executives’ performance scores against eight areas of adeptness that support business innovation readiness. The associations scored at the mature level of readiness in only one area: diverse talent, where positive cultures and recognition of the value of diversity drove high ratings.   

In four readiness domains—operational agility, digital practice, catalytic leadership, and foresight governance—on average, executives scored their associations as lagging, or below the overall mean score of 66 percent. In the other three—engaged ecosystems, collective purpose, and empowerment culture—average scoring reflected early or progressing levels of maturity.

Key reasons cited for the scores:

  • Diverse talent: positive culture and recognized value of diversity
  • Operational agility: lack of process, metrics, and budget linkage to project management
  • Digital practice: digital and data platforms not embedded and viewed as a core resource
  • Catalytic leadership: external funds lacking for leaders to support innovators
  • Foresight governance: lack of attention to disruptive drivers and monitoring assignments
  • Engaged ecosystems: lack of co-creation of value with external business partners
  • Collective purpose: clearly known mission but innovation alignment lacking
  • Empowerment culture: constructive internal exchange valued but lack of testing ideas as a path to learning

Reference Points

While the scores reflected in the foundation study provide insights, the real value of the work is in providing associations reference points for improving their ability to create new value. With the maturity tool in hand, and some guidance, an association can make two comparisons: to peers’ mean scores and to a best-practice reference score reflected in the model.

This research is being captured in a series of briefs, beginning with an overall report on findings and the model titled Advancing Business-Venture Innovation: A Readiness Tool for Health Associations. That summary report will be followed by four others, which will dig into the eight readiness domains and include self-assessments.

Keith Skillman, CAE

Keith Skillman, CAE, is senior research and content advisor for the ASAE Research Foundation.