How Associations Can Boost Non-Dues Revenue in Challenging Times

*Updated on 1/25/24

At Americaneagle.com, we’ve been fortunate to work with some of the leading associations in the country and know the challenges that come with operating a successful association. Our focus today is on how associations can boost their non-dues revenue during uncertain economic times.

Everybody understands there’s going to be ups and downs when it comes to the economy. When there are slow periods or economic downturns, association revenue diversification is important. Associations must diversify their revenue streams to ensure financial stability and mitigate risks. Simply relying on a single source of income can leave associations vulnerable to fluctuations in that revenue stream. Smart economic strategies for associations can safeguard them from potential financial hardships and help them maintain a sustainable future.

Association revenue diversification brings many benefits, including:

  • Provides financial security
  • Fosters growth opportunities
  • Enhances member value
  • Strengthens the association’s overall stability and sustainability

By implementing a strategic approach to diversification, associations can weather uncertainties and position themselves for long-term success. 

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What is Non-Dues Revenue?

Non-dues revenue is income generated by an association that is not derived from membership fees or dues. It includes income such as sponsorship fees, advertising revenue, event ticket sales, merchandise sales, grants, licensing agreements, and other forms of revenue unrelated to membership fees. By diversifying income streams beyond membership fees, associations can maintain a strong financial foundation and effectively serve their members and stakeholders.

Exploring Effective Non-Dues Revenue Sources

Associations must explore various non-dues revenue streams to generate additional income and maintain financial stability, especially during economic downturns. Associations need to evaluate their target audience, industry landscape, and resources to determine the most suitable non-dues revenue streams available to them. Here are some effective sources of non-dues revenue for associations:

Developing Online Courses

Online learning, continuing education, and certification programs can be a valuable source of income for associations. Developing online courses, training programs, or certification courses can provide an important educational resource for members while generating revenue through course fees or certification fees.

Leveraging Sponsorship and Advertising

Offering sponsorship packages to companies can provide a significant source of non-dues revenue for associations. Various sponsorship levels, benefits, and promotional opportunities can be offered to attract businesses. Associations can offer advertising space on their websites, newsletters, event materials, and publications.

Creating an Online Career Center

Creating a job board platform or online career center where employers can post job openings specifically targeted towards association members can generate income through job posting fees or premium listings.

Customized Sponsorship Programs

Tailoring sponsorship opportunities to align with the values and goals of associations and non-profits is essential for building successful partnerships. By understanding the objectives and mission of both parties involved, sponsorships can be customized to create a mutually beneficial relationship. 

Grant and Funding Opportunities & Donations

Accessing grants and funding opportunities is an essential aspect for many non-profit organizations. Associations can actively seek grants from foundations, corporations, or government entities that support initiatives aligned with their mission. Also, creating avenues for members or supporters to make donations can provide an alternative source of revenue.

Monetizing Association Data

Associations and non-profits can leverage their data in various ways to monetize it and provide value to their members and stakeholders. Here are some ways they can do this:

  • Market Intelligence: Associations can analyze their data to generate market intelligence reports that provide valuable insights into industry trends, consumer behavior, and competitive analysis.
  • Benchmarking Data: Associations often collect benchmarking data from their members, which can be used to create valuable benchmarks for performance comparison.
  • Custom Research: By leveraging their data and expertise, they can conduct research studies tailored to specific needs, providing insights and recommendations that help inform decision-making and drive business outcomes.

Community Building and Networking Initiatives

Associations can create online forums, discussion boards, or social media groups where members can connect, share insights, and engage in discussions, and networking events such as conferences, seminars, workshops, or webinars where members can meet and connect with each other.

Hosting Events and Webinars

Hosting interactive events and offering them online for additional revenue and implementing webinars as a source of revenue and thought leadership is another excellent, non-dues revenue generator for associations.

Offering Premium Content and Discounts

Creating an online store to sell branded merchandise, industry-related products, or educational resources can serve as an additional revenue stream. If an association owns valuable intellectual property, such as copyrighted materials, trademarks, or patents, they should consider licensing these assets to generate income. Associations can publish industry-specific magazines, journals, or books and sell them to members, subscribers, or the public.

Online Advertising Optimization

Associations can leverage techniques such as audience segmentation, retargeting, and personalized messaging to optimize online advertisements and effectively target specific audiences, including their own members.

Member Retention through Direct Advertising

Direct advertising to existing members is an effective way to retain members. Here are some strategies that associations can use:

  • Tailor the advertising messages to address the specific needs and interests of individual members. Use data and insights from member profiles to deliver personalized content that resonates with them.
  • Highlight the unique benefits and value that members receive by being part of the association, highlighting exclusive resources, networking opportunities, professional development programs, discounts, and other perks.
  • Develop targeted offers and promotions exclusively for existing members and provide special discounts on upcoming events, training programs, or merchandise to incentivize continued membership.
  • Send timely and informative renewal reminders to ensure that members don't miss their membership expiration dates. Highlight the benefits they will continue to enjoy and any new offerings since their last renewal.
  • Feature testimonials from satisfied members who have experienced the benefits of association membership. These testimonials can serve as social proof and reinforce the value of membership to existing members.
  • Provide exclusive content, resources, and industry insights to members through direct advertising. This could include newsletters, whitepapers, webinars, case studies, or access to a members-only portal.
  • Engage members through surveys and feedback requests to understand their needs and preferences better. Use this information to tailor future direct advertising campaigns and improve member experiences.
  • Maintain regular communication with members through targeted emails, social media updates, or personalized event invitations, and keep members informed about upcoming events, industry news, and opportunities for involvement.
  • Actively listen to member feedback and concerns. Quickly address their needs and make improvements based on their suggestions. This demonstrates that the association values its members' opinions and is committed to their satisfaction.

These strategies, when combined with thoughtful segmentation and analysis of member data, can help associations effectively utilize direct advertising to retain members and foster long-term engagement.

Promoting Educational Offerings via Digital Marketing

When it comes to promoting educational offerings via digital marketing for associations, there are several strategies that can be effective:

  • PPC (Pay-Per-Click) Advertising: Associations can leverage PPC advertising platforms, such as Google Ads or social media advertising, to target specific keywords and demographics related to their conference registration pages or educational resources.
  • Email Marketing Campaigns: Associations can develop email marketing campaigns to reach out to their member list with information about upcoming conferences, workshops, or continuing education opportunities. Personalize the emails and include clear calls-to-action and compelling content to encourage members to register or explore educational offerings.
  • Social Media Engagement: Associations can use social media platforms to engage with their members and promote educational offerings. They can create dedicated event pages, share updates and highlights, and encourage members to share their experiences. 

Best Practices for Implementing Non-Dues Revenue Strategies

When implementing non-dues revenue strategies for associations, it’s important to follow several best practices to maximize their effectiveness. First, understand your member needs by collecting feedback and conducting surveys to provide valuable non-dues revenue offerings that align with member interests. Consider what exclusive benefits or resources can be offered to members to incentivize their participation, while also crafting attractive offerings that appeal to a broader audience. 

Associations should develop targeted marketing campaigns to promote their non-dues revenue initiatives. Tailor messaging and channels to reach specific audiences, including both members and non-members. Utilize email marketing, social media advertising, and other digital marketing strategies to engage potential participants and clearly communicate the benefits and value that participants will gain from engaging in non-dues revenue activities. Highlight how these initiatives can enhance their professional development, expand networking opportunities, or provide access to valuable resources. 

Seek opportunities for collaboration and partnerships with industry stakeholders, vendors, or other associations. This can help boost the visibility and success of non-dues revenue initiatives by leveraging shared resources, expertise, and networks. Continuously evaluate the performance of non-dues revenue strategies and make necessary adjustments based on feedback and data analysis. Monitor key metrics such as revenue generated, participant engagement, and member satisfaction to measure success and identify areas for improvement.

By implementing these best practices, associations can effectively implement non-dues revenue strategies and create sustainable sources of income while providing value to members and attracting non-members to join.

Tips for Executing Non-Dues Revenue Initiatives Effectively

Steven LaGow, Partner Director at Americaneagle.com, wrote an excellent blog on how to execute non-dues revenue initiatives effectively.

Here are some of the main points he included:

  • Selling doesn’t have to only mean tangible goods: When it comes to ecommerce, people usually associate it with physical goods. However, your organization can go beyond that and explore unconventional options. Conducting surveys to understand why members renew can uncover valuable insights. If seminars, continuing education resources, events, or similar offerings are highly valued by members, consider selling them to non-members. This premium content serves to introduce non-members to the benefits and educational resources your organization offers, while also providing an additional perk for members who don't have to pay for these items.
  • Design with high scan-ability in mind: To ensure a seamless shopping experience, prioritize the presentation of relevant information on your website through effective design techniques by avoiding large text blocks and instead use prominent calls to action, links, and contrasting elements with ample white space. By making information easily digestible, you remove obstacles for users, enabling them to find what they're looking for and make purchases effortlessly and repeatedly.
  • Always provide easy check out options: To optimize the purchasing experience, focus on two key aspects: simplicity for repeat users/members and a guest checkout option for non-members. Take inspiration from Amazon's user-friendly approach, where the number of clicks to complete checkout is evident. Provide clear indicators of the purchase process's progress, such as the number of steps remaining. Additionally, offer guest checkouts to streamline the process for non-members who prioritize the product over membership benefits. After completing a purchase, present content that highlights the advantages of membership, like receiving the purchased resource for free.

Measuring Success and Adjusting Strategies

Measuring non-dues revenue initiatives for associations is crucial to assess performance and make informed decisions. Key metrics and tools to monitor success include financial indicators like revenue and ROI. Track conversion rates to gauge marketing effectiveness. Measure event attendance, participation rates, and engagement levels. Gather participant feedback through surveys and evaluations. Utilize social media analytics and website traffic analysis to assess reach and impact. Measure member retention rates and compare performance against industry benchmarks and regularly review and analyze the collected data to identify trends, patterns, and areas of opportunity. 

Americaneagle.com's Expert Guidance in Implementing Non-Dues Revenue Strategies and Digital Solutions

Boosting non-dues revenue for associations is crucial for maintaining financial stability. Selling branded merchandise and advertising, offering educational and professional resources, securing corporate sponsors, having events, and exploring event sponsorships are just a few ways associations can generate non-dues revenue.

Americaneagle.com has an experienced team of professionals who provide expertise and digital solutions for associations. We’d be happy to discuss non-dues revenue strategies and how we can provide associations with the tools they need to diversify their income streams and ensure long-term success.


About Author

Shawn Griffin
Shawn has been with Americaneagle.com since 1999 in a variety of roles. Currently, Shawn is part of our digital marketing and content team. In addition to editing and producing written company pieces, he produces copy for clients and he also helps to produce our radio and TV spots. He wants to make sure everybody knows that it’s truly a collaborative effort – between many, including the people he’s worked for during the past 20+ years!


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