5 Profitable Association Holiday Events to Plan for 2019

Post by 
Karen Ashwin
September 10, 2019

Every professional association, large and small, needs a few alternate methods to raise revenue other than yearly dues. And to keep your treasury in good condition, forward planning your events months ahead of time is the key. Event management is important, and the classic way to grow association revenue is with an annual convention. The convention brings members together for networking, professional development, and a little fun among industry colleagues. However, you can only hold so many conventions each year, even if your association is large enough for a regional circuit. So how do you raise non-dues revenue outside of the convention scene? Surprisingly, there are many potential profitable association holiday events you can throw this year.

If you enjoy throwing events, then it’s important to remember that conventions are not the only kind of event you can throw. In fact, mixing it up a bit is the ideal way to get regular attendees to happily come back for another round. Today, we’re here to look at five revenue-rich seasonal events your association can plan for early this year so you can get your party planning and RSVPs all lined. This will ensure holiday revenue generation in ways that both your members and your treasury will love.

Profitable Association Holiday Events

The holidays are a wonderful time to host non-convention events because everyone is already in a partying mood. Starting around Thanksgiving, the Holiday cheer in the air has everyone thinking about going out, enjoying time with friends, and indulging a little with their holiday budget. Through effective event management and joining your members in their good spirits by hosting fun events, you can significantly increase your total annual revenue.

To help you get started, we’ve put together five different types of association holiday events that can be fun for the whole association if planned, announced, and hosted correctly. The best part is that depending on the size and enthusiasm of your association; you might even be able to use all five ideas for an ultimate pack of alternate revenue opportunities. Let’s get started.

1) Dinner and a Holiday Variety Show

The holiday dinner show is a classic way to bring professionals together to celebrate. The key is to make sure it’s no ‘rubber chicken’ event. The quality of the food and the acts are what make these events successful, setting your variety show dinner apart from the dozens of others going on in the same city.

Dinner shows are traditionally sold by the seat or the table (avoid ‘by the pate’ terminology). This gives your members the opportunity to bring their spouses or even their entire over-15 families to a truly wonderful high-class holiday event. Highlight the value of being at the show and offer more than just a mid-quality catered meal and a few carols. Make sure the food is delicious, the acts are wonderful, and that sitting at the table feels like more than just a paid meal.

With the right setup, you’ll get a great turnout the first year and an overwhelming turnout the second year. Especially if there are cocktails and a little dancing afterward.

2) Big-Gift Silent Auction

By early December, everyone who isn’t finished Christmas shopping is starting to get a little worried. Especially when shopping for people they want to gift with something big and unique. Whether it’s a landmark holiday with their spouse or their child’s first holiday coming home from college, it can be hard to find a truly wonderful gift. Your association can play into this by offering a fun silent auction event for mingling, drinking, and quietly bidding on some really amazing gift ideas.

A silent auction is not like a normal auction with shouting and flags. Instead, each gift is laid out like a presentation with a sign-up sheet next to it (or a tablet if you’re high-tech). On the sheet, people write their name and bid, topping the last bid each time. Whoever has the highest bid at the end of the evening wins.

The best part about a silent auction, besides the chance to make an incredible amount of revenue, is that you can offer anything as the gifts. It could be a complete luxury kitchen set, a destination vacation, a beautiful kit of industry tools, or even a special opportunity at your next convention. Get creative and, if your members are up for it, ask for donated gifts or gift ideas as well.

3) Heart-Warming Charity Drive

Everyone loves giving to charity over the holiday, but many people have trouble finding the right charity for their giving desires. It feels more special to give to a charity you can connect with than to choose one of the big generic options, and your association can offer something truly appealing for your members: A charity drive that relates to how your industry can help or special concerns members of your industry tend to have. Perhaps you are architects, and you fund housing for the homeless. Or you are veterinarians funding shelter dogs to be trained as support animals. No matter what the cause, it’s one of the most fulfilling association holiday events you can plan.

Whatever the charity, throwing a heart-warming charity drive event is a great way to get your members involved and donating around the holiday season. Simply make it clear what percentage of donations or revenue from event ticket sales go to the charity and watch the revenue roll in. Not to mention the increased member engagement as members are proud to be part of an association making a difference.

4) Formal Christmas Party and Mixer

Of course, never underestimate the importance of the classic Christmas party. Formal dress code, colourful cocktails, and an opportunity to get a little footloose with your colleagues is an incredibly popular tradition among professionals, and your association is in the perfect position to offer this experience. Not everyone’s company offers a great holiday party and even members who already have professional holiday parties to attend are often eager for more.

A perfectly classic Christmas party has a number of revenue sources. A great for-profit party is all about knowing what to make complementary and what to ‘allow’ your guests to pay for if they want more. Sell tickets that include a ‘plus one’ with a discounted rate for additional friends. Offer free snacks and set up a meal station where guests can also buy a custom plate that is cooked before their eyes. You can even be a hit by including a beer and wine drink card with each ticket while additional drinks and cocktails are included at a cash bar. Everyone will have a great time, and your revenue will come from their desire to splurge on enjoyment.

Group of friends celebrating New Year's eve and enjoying dinner and cocktails
Group of friends celebrating New Year's eve and enjoying dinner and cocktails

5) New Year’s Bash

Finally, don’t forget that New Years is a whole additional excuse to party. And everyone wants a fun place to go on New Year’s Eve either alone or with their special someone. Offering a New Year’s bash with your association is a great way to make your members happy and create another source of holiday revenue.

The difference with New Year’s parties is that rather than caroling and eggnog, you’ll want to plan for karaoke and cocktails. New Year’s is all about the glitter and glitz of fresh new idealism. And, to a certain extent, getting all the ‘sinful’ activities over with before the new year begins. Provide sparkly party hats, cocktails that are more visually impressive than they are potent, and an enormous midnight event everyone will enjoy. Don’t just watch the NYC ball drop on TV, do something with glitter and music in your venue.

New Year’s revenue is most likely to come from a combination of drink sales and professional photos. Everyone loves New Year’s photos, at least until morning.

For almost any professional association dealing with event management, the holiday season is a great time to build additional revenue outside of annual dues, and there are many different types of association holiday events worth planning. And the sooner you start planning for the next holiday season, the better. Simply give your members an opportunity to have a good time, donate to charity, and party into the night and they will gladly splurge a little into your pockets for charity, entertainment, and drinks.

For more great ideas on how to turn events into fantastic growing revenue sources for our association, or for more information on our event agency or marketing manager, contact us today!


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