Whether it be selling native advertising on your website, allowing the sale of your member directory, premium job postings, online education and certifications, or sales of industry-specific books and whitepapers, the possibilities are endless for your organization when it comes to instituting a new line of revenue that goes beyond membership dues.
The first question that needs to be answered is what exactly is non-dues revenue. In layman’s terms, NDR is any additional revenue source that an organization implements outside of the traditional membership dues model. That seems obvious, but outside of the standard NDR programs, such as event sponsorships, most associations don’t have other programs in place that help to contribute to the bottom line.
There are two types of NDR programs:(i) revenue from advertisers and vendors who want to reach your audience and (ii) any additional revenue accrued from charging your community for purchasing added benefits. These benefits can include fees on top of conference registrations, whitepapers, certifications, webinars, continuing education credits, and branded swag items. Adding a mixture of both to your association’s monetary stream can kickstart your NDR program and allow for passive income accruing to your organization.
Two types of NDR programs:
1) Revenue from advertisers and vendors who want to reach your audience
2) Any additional revenue accrued from charging your community for purchasing added benefits
Take advantage of the strong talent pool of industry professionals that are in your membership. Many associations take advantage of this valuable resource already, but it’s easy to launch a career center and forget about it or fail to promote it to members or their companies. Most association management software (AMS) companies offer a job board that you can include in your subscription package. Once launched, associations charge any company that wants to post a job opening on their career center a fee (daily or one-time).
Ask your association leaders who serve on the board or in various committees to develop online presentations addressing timely issues facing your industry. At a prior association that I worked at, the president made it a requirement for all members serving on the Education Committee to produce and host webinars multiple times a year. This can be a big draw if your industry demands continuing education credits for professionals to progress in their careers. More often than not, your association’s leaders are the big names of the industry and that alone will drive traffic, engagement, and increase registration numbers.
Advertising is one of the more tricky NDR programs to master because you do not want to sacrifice membership experience for revenue generation. You do not want your communication channels, website, or even your annual meetings to be flooded with other companies’ content and messaging that waters down your association’s messaging. One popular way to address this issue is to sell native advertising that blends into the content in newsletters, websites, and emails. The job board or online community are often two of the most popular pages on an association’s website and these webpages are a good place to start when reaching out to companies to purchase ad space. Sponsored guest blog posts can also be a successful way to dip your toe into the advertising pool as it requires minimal oversight while adding value to your community.
One of the best native advertising examples I have seen in the nonprofit space is ASAE’s Associations Now daily newsletter as they seamlessly merge banner ads and sponsored content in each edition. Consult your AMS to figure out how to implement sponsored content and increase your NDR.
Advertising is one of the more tricky NDR programs to master because you do not want to sacrifice membership experience for revenue generation. You do not want your communication channels, website, or even your annual meetings to be flooded with other companies’ content and messaging that waters down your association’s messaging.
Virtual learning and continuing education will always be around, and it should be a part of most association’s member benefits toolkit. With this added member benefit, should come additional fees associated with each course, accreditation, continuing educational credit, podcast, academic journal activity, and the list goes on. One hack that I have seen many associations profit by is recording and repurposing annual meeting sessions on their education management software (EMS) for members who are unable to attend annual events but are willing to pay a small fee to gain access to the session. After a few years, you will compile an archive of recorded sessions and that is when your association can drive huge NDR returns.
One of my favorite examples of a strong associational EMS is the Association of Academic Physiatrists’ (AAP) Virtual Campus. This media association allows anyone to view what their virtual library has to offer before gating the content for only members to take advantage of and earn CME (Continuing Medical Education) credits, something all physiatric doctors need to renew their medical license every few years. Not only does AAP offer CME credit courses, but they also offer exercises from their academic journals, certificates of attendance to their various annual meetings, CV building opportunities for residents, and podcasts from respected physicians in the industry.
Not only is this a simple way to raise brand awareness, but it is also a good NDR tool that is easy to develop and manage on behalf of your membership. Partner with Lands End or any one of the numerous vendors to create branded merchandise for another source of passive income. This can be especially successful when your association is going through a major historic milestone or anniversary as you can create limited-edition apparel and other products. But, don’t just go for the standard tchotchkes, think about what your members use in their daily lives and plant your logo on it.
Beyond event sponsorships like coffee sleeves, hotel room keycards, and wi-fi access, there are vast opportunities of other sponsorships your association can sell including social posts, webinars, podcasts, awards, scholarships, and videos. Make sure you are recording analytical data from each of these opportunities to better position yourself in front of potential advertisers.
Once an NDR program is implemented, the next step is to increase awareness of the new system in place. Creating a marketing campaign that highlights the benefits for your members to participate in virtual learning courses, purchase your 50th anniversary sweatshirt, or register for a webinar can be a great way to drive traffic to your association’s new offering and the website as a whole. It doesn’t have to be as in-depth as an automated drip email campaign, but it can be a simple social media campaign showcasing videos of how to use the new products.
Non-dues revenue can seem like a daunting and sometimes highly technical task to successfully get off the ground and run. And if you are a small-sized organization, then the hill can seem steeper. And with most membership numbers in decline with members aging out and younger generations strapped for cash or not seeing the benefits in joining associations, non-dues revenue is more important than ever. Not to mention, non-dues revenue can assist your organization in limiting membership dues increases year after year. Take a high-level look at your association and see where there is the most opportunity to activate a non-dues revenue program and run with it.
And with most membership numbers in decline with members aging out and younger generations strapped for cash or not seeing the benefits in joining associations, non-dues revenue is more important than ever.
*This post was written by a former member of the Beyond Definition team, Colin Hautman*