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4 ways to increase your association's non-dues revenue

4 min read
Jul 25, 2023

For many associations in search of more revenue, a membership drive is a natural place to start. After all, more members equals more cash, right?

A robust membership program is essential for associations, but don’t miss out on that other important category of money: non-dues revenue. 

Dues-based revenue is fairly simple. The amount you make from dues depends on the number of members you have and the cost of a membership. One thousand members, paying a $75 membership fee = $75,000. Ten thousand members = $750,000. Easy. 

If you want to grow your dues revenue, you’ll need to either raise your prices or attract new members, or both. 

Non-dues revenue, on the other hand, is a little more complicated. There are many ways to grow this number that aren’t as directly dependent on the number of members you can handle.

Non-dues revenue also helps diversify your revenue, stopping you from putting all your eggs in the membership basket. This can make your association more secure, sustainable, and flexible. 

Below are four ways to get started developing your non-dues revenue.

1. Digital sponsorships

Sponsorship is more than putting companies’ logos in your conference program. Ideally, it’s a mutually-beneficial partnership between your association and your sponsors that makes sense.

Your sponsors want to get in front of your audience because they think that audience will be interested in their products or services. 

Just like you can serve targeted display ads to your email list, digital sponsorships allow you to create retargeting packages so your sponsors can reach your audience, too. 

You might need to explain the value of retargeting, but luckily, the data is convincing. Click-through rates for retargeting ads are 10x those of standard display ads. 60% of viewers notice and consider purchasing products from retargeting ads, and retargeted prospects are 43% more likely to convert than those served standard display ads.

This makes sense when you consider the relevance of your sponsors to your audience, and vice versa.

Imagine you’re running an association of candy sellers, and you host an annual convention. Your sponsors might sell wholesale candy, candy boxes, or candy-making supplies. Your convention attendees are a ready-made audience with a high likelihood of being interested in those sponsors and their products. 

Whether you offer digital sponsorship packages solo, or as part of a larger sponsorship package, this can be a simple and steady stream of  non-dues revenue. 

2. Partner invites program

Another mutually-beneficial partnership opportunity, a partner invites program helps your partners use their influence to promote your events. This can result in non-dues revenue from more event attendees and an increase in the perceived value of your sponsorship packages. 

You provide your partners with marketing collateral to promote the event. Each partner gets their own registration portal and is incentivized to drive registrations.

The incentives can vary from discounts to extra tickets to sponsorship upgrades or even larger exhibition booths. Your partners also benefit by providing value to their audiences along with making your event more successful for everyone.

3. Content resources

Are you an association that doesn’t put on an annual event of some sort? No problem! You can still develop new streams of non-dues revenue. 

Can you provide research, guidance, or resources that your members need? While some of that may be included in the cost of a membership, there are possibilities to create new content “extras” that are of extra value. 

You are a trusted source of expert and vetted information for your members. Consider marketing toolkits, educational webinars, courses, lunch and learn sessions, and guides.

In our association of candy sellers example, the association might offer a webinar on new techniques in candy making, a guide with fifty examples of eye-catching window displays and how to create them, or a content calendar for social media for candy stores.

The key to making these kinds of offers attractive to your members, and feel like a helpful resource instead of a cash grab is to:

  • Create things your members actually want.
  • Survey your members and find out what kinds of resources are most interesting to them.
  • Focus on practical, actionable information.

Don’t skimp on resources you’re charging money for. You want people to think, “I can’t believe this useful, wonderful resource only cost $XX!” not, “I paid money for this?!” 

People will get the most out of resources that help them do things they want to do like grow their business, improve their professional skills, or learn how to do something new. Make sure your resources offer plenty of practical advice, not just theory. 

4. Advertising and sponsorship opportunities

Sponsorship and advertising aren’t just for events. If you look around, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to promote partners or sponsors. 

Consider renting out ad space:

Again, the best sponsorships are those that are beneficial to you, your sponsor, and your members. In addition to ad space, look for ways to partner with your sponsors to provide value to your members, such as:

Meeting sponsors

Allot space in your membership meeting for a short presentation from a sponsor. The sponsor gets an interested audience, and your members learn something new. 

A targeted email from your sponsor to your members

Rather than an ad, offer your sponsor the opportunity to speak directly to your members in an email.

Use this offer sparingly, and make sure the content is truly relevant and interesting to your audience. Also, be clear that it’s sponsored to avoid any confusion. 

Social media promotion

If your association has an active presence and audience on social media, promote sponsors in your organic content. 

Grow your non-dues revenue, grow your association

Building up your non-dues revenue has many benefits beyond just dollars. It can give you a cushion to weather a downturn in membership, or a delay in members paying dues.

It’s an opportunity to build deeper relationships with your partners, make your association more financially stable, and provide greater value to your members. 

 

About the author:

Megan Donahue is a communications consultant, writer, and nonprofit nerd. She's the host of Love & Robots and fascinated by the intersection of nonprofits and technology.


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