Affinity programs are a great source of diversified, non-dues revenue for associations and a useful tool for recruitment and member retention -  if done properly. Without thorough research and consideration though, an affinity program could end up bleeding your association of resources.

The resources (time and relational upkeep) it takes to implement and maintain a quality affinity program are only worth what your members can take from it. To avoid losing out on the full spectrum of added benefits an affinity program has to offer to both an association and its’ members, we have three tips to look out for when selecting and implementing the perfect affinity program for your association.

1. Form a partnership

When you chose an affinity program, more than cost-efficiencies are available to you. Most vendors offer their expertise with strategy and industry research as well as a host of other potential value adds.

In a recent article, David Frankil writes that sometimes vendors are treated unfairly. “In other words, we want your money but don’t really want you to bother our members,” Frankil writes. “That sort of one-sided approach would be toxic to any kind of business arrangement, much less an affinity relationship whereby definition you’re looking to work together closely.”  They are providing benefits to members and helping organizations generate revenue—and in so doing, contributing to the growth, success, and productivity of the association at large.

As with most partnerships, the relationship can be beneficial in both directions. Help your vendor grow and see value in your channel by allowing them insight into your association and the needs therein.  The better your provider understands your organization, the more they can adapt their program to generate revenue for your association (either with a formal partnership or in the form of increased participation at events and conferences, etc.).

When selecting your vendor, make sure it is an organization you can see yourself readily working alongside for years to come. Their program offerings, staff, and industry expertise should lend itself to advance your association's mission.

2. Pick your supplier benefit programs carefully

This is one of the biggest pitfalls we see when associations rush to implement an affinity program, resulting in a waste of time and energy. Luckily, this loss can be easily avoided. Simply don’t settle for generic or unrelated supplier programs.

The needs of another association and its’ members can vary drastically from what you and your members need. Your affinity program should reflect that. Do some polling and research on the spend your members currently invest in the most, and cater to that need. To prevent wasting time and effort peddling programs your members do not want or need, you should carefully consider whether members find the discounts enticing or useful. When you’re looking into affinity partnerships, make sure that you’re aligning yourself with vendors that benefit your association’s vision and the needs of your members, who are at the heart of your association.

3. Market well

Avoid losses with an affinity program: Market well

Similarly to Tip #1, cost-efficiencies are a definite bonus of the affinity relationship but not the only one. Some partners will offer help with marketing their programs, recruitment initiatives, and other added benefits. If an association sets up a stellar affinity program but does a lesser job telling their members about the use and allowances of the program, then it may never yield the benefits and bleed you of resources.

To avoid losing in an affinity relationship, take advantage of whatever help your partner is offering and market your program well. Consider an email campaign announcing your program and social media posts. Include highlights in your newsletters to your members. Don’t let your members miss out on the programs you have provided to help them!

At UNA Purchasing Solutions, we are dedicated to becoming a strategic partner to our associations and their members. Aiding them in the marketing process by providing them with customizable membership program packages and personalized email/social media campaigns for you to send to your members is one such benefit of our partnership, along with a host of others. All of this is included in the affinity program, for free, for any association wanting to grow and be more productive with their members.

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