Build a financial sustainable non-profit with 3 key actions.

It's about diversifying your income sources, bringing focus in your priority areas and getting loyal members and sponsors.

1. Diversify your income

Do not only count on your membership fees or donations to close your budget. On top of that: develop a yearly flagship event that brings together your community (added value!) and generates a reasonable profit. Besides these two main sources, the following revenue streams can be established:

  • Become a certification body (and charge a small fee per certificate)

  • Develop an educational program - both offline and online (and charge a fee)

  • Apply for project grants (both private and public funders)

  • Become a publisher (and get paying subscribers or advertisers)

2. Focus your association on one key issue

You are much easier to sell when you keep your message simple: Do not try to get rid of all waste in the ocean - focus on removing all plastics instead.

Hence: keep a clear focus in the main priority of your non-profit: what is the problem you want to solve for whom? Next, all income generating activities can focus on your specific target group with a straightforward message.

3. Get loyal members and sponsors

Spoil your members and sponsors and make them commit for the long term. It will provide peace of mind for your Board (and in particular your treasurer).

For members: implement automatic payment renewal (meaning: membership fees are automatically paid every year unless the member explicitly opposes) and obviously: spoil them with actions that deliver added value.

For sponsors: start-up projects that run longer than one fiscal year. It will ensure in parallel their long-term commitment to sponsor your yearly flagship event. And obviously: clearly discuss and deliver sponsorship return.

Learn more: read about us on LAUREA's website. We are community builders.

Details matter in Conference Organisation

A key note lecture taking to much time to finish, a moderator not knowing how to handle a noisy audience, zero interactivity, an unfriendly security guard, a hostess at the welcome desk not knowing to point the direction of the plenary room, a serious typo in the meeting booklet, not enough food or high tables to eat, a mobile event app with complicated log-in, ...

There are many details that can go wrong in conference organisation that send your attendees home with a 'sub-optimal' learning and networking experience.

To avoid most of the pitfalls, there is only one solution: invest time in planning and working with your speakers and organising committee. Obviously, what we all lack is time and budget to do so.

Some key tips to 'square the triangle':

Motivated team

  • Get a motivated team of organisers and suppliers involved. Without motivation and passion, no good things happen.

Think concept

  • Think about your concept: What do you want to achieve? How to engage all participants? How to avoid 'one way communication' and truly make your conference an interactive learning experience? Put this concept on paper and get consensus with all persons involved.


  • Develop work streams that are managed carefully via planning & indicator tracking: programme elaboration, promotional campaign, registration management, venue management and audio-visual&technology are the most important.

Prepare your meetings

  • Prepare your project meetings and focus on the key points - with clear 'decisions to take' and minutes. Work via conference call if needed - it makes everybody comes on time and only speaks when relevant.

Be efficient

  • Use collaboration tools to share files, milestones, etc. - it makes it all more efficient.

Project file

  • Produce a clear project overview file that summarizes the entire conference into the smallest detail (including briefings for all suppliers involved). Its worth the effort.


Magic happens

Magic doesn't happen for granted - it requires motivation, passion and rigorous planning.

If you manage to do so however, the rewards will be yours: an event team & suppliers that deliver, a programme that works, an organising team that is satisfied and participants that truly benefit from an interactive learning and networking experience.

General Data Protection Regulation and Associations

My key takeaways from a deep-dive in the "GDPR":

  • Associations need to create awareness among their Board and employees on ‘data protection’ – fe. via the organisation of an information session.
  • Associations need to update the language of their current privacy notices to integrate active consent (at member subscription, event registration, the website,…).
  • Associations need to store their contacts in a structured database with clear identification of the source of the contact and the active consent of the contact.
  • Associations need to create a document that describes what data is collected of whom, how these data are stored and protected, what the purpose of the collected data is, what is being done with the data and whom has access to the data. This document should be available for all persons in the database (‘data subjects’.).
  • Associations need to include data protection rules in the contractual arrangements with suppliers in case these suppliers handle their data (fe: conference organisers).
  • Data subjects should have given consent to be included in the database. For Members this is evident. For past Members: can be kept in the database until they ‘unsubscribe’. For non-Members: ask for active consent to be stored in the database.
  • Data from Members, past-Members and non-Members that have given consent and do not unsubscribe, can be stored as long as needed. Other data (unsubscribers) can be stored for research purposes.
  • Associations need to assign a controller and identify the processors of data. There is no need to assign a Data Protection Officer as long as the association doesn’t have at least a part-time employee responsible for database management.

Need more insight? Send me a message and receive the full information package.

Grow your Membership in 2018 with 5 key actions

Your Members are your most loyal customers. In 2018, you can implement 5 actions to grow the number of Members of your association.

Offer a top user-experience on your digital channels

Members, as customers, are spoiled by the likes of and Amazon. They want a top user-experience when renewing their Membership, registering for an event or consuming digital content on your website.

Key action: invest in a digital platform (including website, membership management,...) and in a ‘rapid-response’ to questions by Members.

Provide relevant content

Members become Members because your association enables them to reach their professional objectives more effectively. For this, you offer unique learning and networking opportunities.

Key action: invest in the identification of the real learning needs of your target group and, next, organise effective educational activities/initiatives (be it live or online).

Offer possibilities to contribute and get visibility

Members become Members because your association is a means to increase the impact of their own work. As such, your society serves as a ‘megaphone’ for your Members.

Key action: develop an easy way for your Members to contribute with their expertise and get visibility (be it online or offline) – for example: “a 3 minutes free speech session” at your yearly event.

Communicate clearly about what you offer and the outcomes of your initiatives

What is the point of being a great association if nobody knows? You have unique educational content, expertise, networking opportunities, projects, events, … many of them seem ‘standard’ in your own perspective but they are not 'standard' for most potential Members.

Key action: invest in an updated ‘look’&’feel’ (logo, colours, letter type) and well-designed e-newsletter and website, use the communication channels your target group uses on a regular basis (be it journals, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.)

Make sure you are ‘fun’ and ‘a + on my CV’ to be part of

A picture with a smiling group of peers says more than a thousand words. Nobody wants to be(come) part of a society with unhappy people.

Key action: pay attention to ‘hospitality’, ‘friendliness’ and 'experience' when developing communication and events.

Keep it cheap – get your income elsewhere

Members make the calculation when it comes to Membership fees. Hence, your Members should be monetised not exploited.

Key action: decrease the overall part of your revenue coming from Membership fees by increasing sponsorship contributions, public funding, etc,…