5 Ideas for Association Non-Dues Revenue

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If membership dues are the steady stream, non-dues revenue dues are the rainwater collection barrels sprinkled across your Association lawn trying to fill in the 61% gap the steady stream can’t cover. Sometimes the non-dues revenue is as plentiful as the rain in Washington state. Other years, however, may seem more Arizona-like, calling for more creative measures—and some rain dances.

The value of non-dues revenue goes beyond the apparent monetary side. If done well, non-dues revenue streams greatly assist the association with retention and recruiting goals by demonstrating more value to members. Let’s look at some tried-and-true ideas, plus a few more creative thoughts.

1. Sponsored Content Subscriptions

Since the evolution of technology, the world has become even more digitally mobile than before. In doing so, companies and organizations want to learn how to be more efficient and create value. Help them out.

If you don’t have one already, consider a blog or online publication targeted to the interests of your membership. For a nominal monthly fee, say $10 a month, consider making the content a subscription-based service for members to view with a password-protected webpage on your site.

Of course, this puts the onus on the association to curate great content. Start with an informal survey of members to see what topics they want to learn about. While surveying, you can also solicit members for ideas they are willing to share through your publication.

The point here is not to guess what your members what to learn about…ask them. Then communicate back to them in short, easy-to-read articles. If the article ties to a member case study, even better. What you may determine is having a free content page for members and a premium subscription page loaded with more in-depth content, some of which written by members or vendors.

If you don’t want to have a subscription fee for your digital content, that’s okay. Your content can be a free member benefit, with the value being in it helping with member retention and recruitment. However, we recommend you still password-protect the content as a value to being an association member.

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2. Create Online Ads for Sponsors

Are you selling ad space on your association’s website? No? Well, love them or hate them, you are missing out on a prime non-dues revenue “rain barrel”.

In “ye olden days” of the 1990s, you paid to place a display ad in a newspaper space. The bigger the ad, the more you paid and great for lining the bottom of bird cages. Today, these types of advertisements are still called display ads, they are just on websites…and not great for lining bird cages.

NetSource Technologies has a great primer on online display advertising.

Most associations probably don’t have the internal resources to create and manage an online website display ad campaign. Consider hiring a third-party marketing company to help you promote, manage and track the success of your display ads. If you decide to go this route, consider getting a few bids from different creative agencies.

3. Ad Retargeting

While we are on the topic of website advertising, let’s spend a moment to mention ad retargeting.

Ad retargeting allows an association to target website visitors who may not have clicked on offers, and advertise to them on other websites such as Facebook or YouTube. Ad retargeting is a great way to market your association events and point website visitors to content, downloadable offers, discounts, and any other source of earnings you have on your site.

Be sure your ad’s call-to-action matches the offer they saw. For example, if someone saw your association’s online webinar content, but didn’t click any further, you want the retargeted ad to be the same topic associated with the webinar content. Ad retargeting casts the fishing line back into those that got away and coaxes them back to your non-dues revenue stream.

4. Create a Buyer’s Guide

Your members are businesses that joined an association to benefit their own company. Create an online marketplace that functions as a “buyer’s guide” enabling vendors or members to advertise their products or services for your membership. The non-dues revenue can be advertising in the buyer’s guide and your association receives a percentage of the earnings generated. Most buyers guides have a shelf-life of one year. Again, you can have third-party marketing vendor help you create and maintain this resource.

5. Have A Job Board on Your Website

Employers need employees, obviously. A career section or job board on your association’s website is a great way to collect non-membership proceeds while also providing another value-added benefit to your members. It’s surprising how many associations do not take advantage of this opportunity since their members share common interests and goals.

If it has a career page, many associations do not charge to post a job for their members; a benefit of joining the association. Consequently, if you do decide to make your job board a non-dues revenue rain barrel, keep the fee relatively low (i.e., $50 to $100 per month to post). Obviously, this is probably a small drop in the revenue bucket, but the indirect value of the job board will be the attraction of like-minded candidates.

Fit Small Business has a great resource for how to make your career section stand out on your website.

Don’t let your association stick to the basics regarding non-dues revenue streams, or rain barrels. Consider trying out new sources to diversify your non-dues revenue strategy and increase your overall income. If the effort doesn’t justify the return on investment, change to something else. Keep putting yourself in your members’ proverbial shoes to see if the program would be something of value to justify a non-dues revenue stream or simply be a part of association dues.


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