With the limited time and money of a small staff association, it’s easy to get tunnel-vision when it comes to what to spend your time and money on. So when it comes to events, programming tends to be very purposeful and not particularly risky. You need your attendance to be up, your members to be happy, and your goals to be met.

But what about that younger member who suggests a networking happy hour or that member who thinks that a fundraising bake sale at a local fair is a great way to contribute to a local cause? It’s easy to table those events or just discard them altogether because they may not garner the level of interest necessary to be an asset to your group or they don’t seem to have anything to do with anything.

The Value of “Non-Association” Association Events 

But that’s not necessarily the case. Events that appear non-goal-oriented could wind up being strategically brilliant. Here’s how:


1)   Fun

Many professionals, particularly millennials, are expecting a certain level of enjoyment to come out of their spare time, and that includes the hours they spend engaged with your association. Not that you particularly want to have the reputation that your association throws the best parties, but a different type of event focused on an atypical type of entertainment (for your association, anyway) could be refreshing for your members who may need a break from business as usual.


2)   Family Friendly

Non-traditional events are a great way to open up to your members’ family and friends and show that you mean what you say when you support your members’ work/life balance. Take a pot luck lunch at a local park, for example, as a networking event. Kids and spouses are welcome, the entertainment takes care of itself, and it leaves such a positive feeling for all involved.


3)   Appeal to the philanthropic

Many association members have giving spirits, but find that they may not have the time or money to contribute as much they would really like. When it comes to priorities, their careers and families may trump charity when it gets down to how they spend their time. This is where you can make it easy for them to help out and still scratch that itch of being able to network and meet people in a positive career sense. If you can find an event that’s a natural fit for your association and your members’ skills, that’s great! For example, a nurses’ association can offer blood pressure screenings and some information about living a healthy life at a local event. But if there’s not an obvious volunteer opportunity, help is always appreciated even if it just means warm bodies and helping hands. If you have runners in your group, perhaps a relay team is a good idea, and speaking of running many large established races have charitable sponsorship. Your association can hand out water and cheer runners on as they earn money for a charity.


Many associations find that their “networking” events don’t necessarily have the turn out that their skills-related programming has. Honestly, your association may run into that problem or perhaps it will have the attendance but not your “regular” attendees. That’s okay! Manage your expectations and set backup plans.

Also consider that despite all of the benefits of “non-programmed” events, they might not be the thing for your association’s members right now. Before you commit to fund raising or making a deal with a local restaurant for a networking event, consider asking your members if they even have any interest. Maybe they don’t, and what you’re doing right now as far as programming is working. As always, it’s all about how your members will receive your efforts! 

For more on planning events of all shapes, sizes, and purposes, download our free event-planning guide for small staff associations! It’s chock-full of helpful hints, tips and tricks, and things you may not have considered. Click below to download today!