A toothpick to Nancy Frede is much more than a stick in a piece of cheese. “Logos on toothpicks at a buffet — what a terrific sponsorship option,” she says. Then again, this is a woman who can't walk down the aisle of a local flea market without finding something that inspires new ideas she can bring to her association clients to help them increase their nondues revenues.

“Much of the association world is still stuck with the attitude that ‘because we're such and such an organization, exhibitors and sponsors can't afford not to be at our event,’” she says. “But associations can't afford to have that kind of arrogance anymore.”

She honed skills developed over years working in magazine sales when she took a position as director of marketing with the Massachusetts Association of Realtors in the '90s. And she got results: Budgeted nondues revenues from advertising, trade shows, and sponsorship doubled during her tenure. But she still wanted to do more. The watershed moment came when she went to a presentation by Joan Eisenstodt, president of Eisenstodt Associates LLC, Washington, D.C. “I was inspired by her passion for her work. She was doing what she loved. It became more important to me to develop what I love,” she says. So four years ago, Frede started Framingham, Mass.-based MarketSense (www.nonduesrevenues.com, www.boothcamp.com) to develop her passion for implementing nondues revenue sales programs, improving trade show presence, training people in sales and management, and providing educational events.

Sales 101

Frede's passion for the unlikely brotherhood of sales and nonprofits began with one of her very first jobs: doing telemarketing for the Leukemia Society. That's where she learned the basics: All marketing endeavors have to be rooted in believing in what you're selling and what you represent, and knowing your audience and customer base. “It's sales 101,” she says.

“Associations need to become more businesslike,” says Frede. “As the economy changes, an association in the right vertical market becomes a better option for a company to spend its marketing dollars. Corporations are just now discovering that there are lots of vertical market associations they can get into; but what they don't yet realize is that the right person in the association can develop even more marketing options for them on a state, regional, or national level.”

Part of what Frede does is go into an association and look at the entire picture, which can look fragmented because the people in charge of handling advertising, sponsorship, and booth space sales may be unaware of what each other is doing. “The structure may be mandated by the association's bylaws, but when we cut through all the politics, we can give organizations what they want: yearlong marketing programs, and one person who will disperse the money into the appropriate places.”

Another common mistake associations make is not understanding what their members really want. That means surveying, which can be expensive. But Frede has an answer for that dilemma: “Why not ask corporations that are interested in your membership demographics to pay for the survey?” Maybe an exhibitor would foot the bill for the survey if they got to include a couple of questions. “There are so many things you can do that don't cost a lot,” she adds.