Associations are looking for new sources of non-dues revenue, members want increased value and companies are searching for meaningful partnerships. It can be challenging to find initiatives that meet each criterion, but affinity programs could be the win-win-win solution for everyone involved.

“We prefer a partnership where all parties win,” says Bobby Kurtz, Partner Sales Executive for the credit card service provider CardConnect. The company has partnered with associations through affinity programs since 2006. 

But what exactly are affinity programs and how can associations use them to generate revenue? Here’s a quick guide from a partner's perspective.

How it works. An affinity program is a partnership between a company and an association. The company offers exclusive discounts, products or services to association members, and in return the association promotes the company to its members. Members benefit from the discounts or exclusive offers, while the association receives a portion of the revenue generated by the partnership.

Credit card service providers, 401k partners, insurance companies and office suppliers are among the industries that offer affinity programs. In the case of CardConnect, Kurtz says the company can save merchants 10 to 40 percent on processing fees with partner preferred pricing. The affinity program partnership provides further benefits and savings to the association member while also producing a profit sharing residual for the association.


We think PAR’s association partners do some pretty great work! In our “PARtners at Work” series, we highlight the different ways they are impacting our association communities. This edition illustrates how CardConnect works with associations through affinity partnerships.

How to find the right partner. The key to a successful affinity program is finding the right partner. Associations can begin by considering the type of offerings its members would find valuable and then looking for a partner that can fulfill those needs.

Once an association finds a potential partner, it’s important to determine the credibility of the company, obtain references and discuss program specifics with the partner.

Rick Kallas is the Partner Development Manager at CardConnect and says the company tailors its affinity programs to the needs of each individual association.

“We currently work with over 150 associations and with each one we meet them where they are.”

In addition to lower processing rates, CardConnect provides association members with ongoing customer support, educational tools and the full support of the their business development team.

How to make the program successful. It’s important to develop a clear marketing strategy so the association members see the value in the affinity program. Because association profit sharing is directly tied to member usage of the product or service, it’s imperative for the association to effectively market the affinity program to members.

“The associations that are most successful with us find a way to actively promote us,” Kurtz says. “If you aren’t putting us in front of your members, it’s hard to give your members the benefits that we provide.”

CardConnect develops the program’s marketing material and content and the association decides when and how they want to market. The marketing plan often includes emails, webinars or podcasts. The stronger the marketing is the more successful the program will become.

“The only way our relationship grows is if we get help from the association,” Kallas says.

As associations search for more ways to engage long term corporate partners Kurtz says there is another benefit to an affinity program partnership: the potential for an investment by the company into the association.

“If an affinity program experiences success, then it becomes much easier for us to justify sponsorships and other investments. From the company’s perspective a sponsorship can sometimes feel like more of a donation. However, if there is a precedent of performance the pocketbooks open.”

With the potential for increased revenue and member value, affinity programs are a valuable strategy for associations to consider in today’s competitive landscape.

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CardConnect Partner Program

Since 2006, CardConnect has partnered with associations to offer their members the value added benefit of wholesale credit card processing rates, coupled with personalized customer support. CardConnect currently partners with over 200 associations across the nation and provides merchant services for over 240,000 businesses. For more information, contact Rick Kallas.