Associations are being encouraged to increase their non-dues revenue by renting meeting space in their offices and facilities to outsiders.

It's not just a way to make more money. It's also an opportunity to become the premier provider of this service by offering quality space, paying attention to detail, and not surprising renters with sudden changes.

Hospitals, universities, government offices, social service agencies, and many other entities have rented out space for a long time, but they aren't in the business of doing that. They are just trying to make some extra money.

And they usually reserve the right to relocate renters if they need the space for themselves.

Here are some typical problems:

1. I drove nearly five hours to check out a small meeting room at a YMCA. The space was fine, so I took it. One week later, the Y called to tell me it needed the room for a meeting of its own and moved mine into a racquetball court.

I couldn't visit the facility a second time to see the new room. But my audience was composed of running event directors who were not accustomed to posh settings. I thought they'd be OK with the change.

When I arrived the day of the meeting, I discovered there were two steps in the corridor, so I couldn't wheel anything into the room. And the temperature setting was very low.

But I had registered more than three times as many people as I had anticipated and they wouldn't have fit in the originally selected room. The relocation seemed to work.

2. At another association, I booked a meeting in a hospital auditorium and was told that our continental breakfast would have to be served outside of the room. Food and beverage was not allowed inside.

On the day of the event, I found hospital personnel setting up the breakfast inside the auditorium. They said a fire marshal had visited a week earlier and had prohibited setup outside of the room. Nobody had bothered to tell me.

I had sold that inside space to an exhibitor. Fortunately, the company rep called at the last minute and said he couldn't attend. He promised to pay the association anyway, provided we distributed his product to attendees. We agreed, we were paid, and everything worked out.

3. Another time, I contracted for use of a high school auditorium and called the morning of the evening event to be sure everything was set. I was assured it was.

When I arrived, the room was being used by another group and nobody with authority was onsite. My meeting was shifted to a classroom.

4. That same organization rented space another time at a park district facility and arrived to find the room locked. The floor had been waxed for a district event the following day. A receptionist, the only employee present, directed us to another room, which was too small for our meeting.

So, we persuaded the janitorial staff to unlock the doors and we used both rooms - the larger one for the meeting, the smaller one for registration and packet distribution.

A parks official called us the next day to scold us for commandeering his staff. He threatened to never rent to us again. That was just fine with us. We had no intention of renting the place again.

If you decide to rent out your association space, be sure to treat the renters the same way you would want your association to be treated.