Despite their nonprofit status, associations — just like any business require revenue to operate. Traditionally, dues paid by members constituted the operating capital for associations. Increasingly, though, non-dues revenue has become an important and necessary means of supplementing an organization's dues income to allow it to fulfill its mission.

As business becomes ever more digital, new avenues for collecting non-dues revenue emerge. The associations that take advantage of these opportunities can add cash to the coffers while alleviating the burden on members.

Even better, a lot of potential digital non-dues revenue is available without excessive extra work from association staff, and plenty of this revenue potential lies in activities your association is already performing. Here are three burgeoning options to consider and explore.

1. Webinars and education

Among the primary reasons professionals join associations and membership organizations is continuing education.

A recent Pew Research Center study found 73 percent of adults consider themselves lifelong learners. The same report noted 63 percent of working adults are "professional learners," meaning they "have taken a course or gotten additional training in the past 12 months to improve their job skills or expertise connected to career advancement."

This is great news for associations. Not only can membership organizations foster and provide some of this professional learning, but they can also generate revenue from it.

The internet and the proliferation of digital meeting software have afforded associations highly useful tools for conducting education initiatives. No longer restricted to place-based learning, online courses and webinars offer education coupled with convenience. They also offer avenues for sponsorship dollars.

Suppliers eager to reach your membership might be willing to pay for the right to present as part of a webinar, especially if it offers them an opportunity to promote their products or services. In some cases, they may want to produce an entire webinar. Your association has the audience they want, and sponsored webinars can bring needed cash flow while making a valuable connection between members and suppliers with information, products and services they're interested in.

In addition to courses and webinars, less formal educational content also holds sponsorship value. If your association produces podcasts or videos, these media hold sponsorship opportunities. Just as mentioned with website advertising, vendors and suppliers like the prestige of being associated with professional associations. And similar to sponsored webinars, sponsored digital content such as videos, podcasts and even blog posts offers another potentially lucrative stream of non-dues revenue.

2. Social media

Social media is still a work in progress at many associations, but those with a solid presence can take advantage of this audience. Similar to email marketing, your organization's social media followers are a coveted group for vendors and suppliers.

Promoted or sponsored posts can monetize your association's social media efforts. Rather than simply blasting your members with ads, you might consider the types of promoted posts you allow. Social media is an ideal vehicle for content marketing, and a chance for vendors and suppliers to get useful information into the hands of your members.

3. Apps

Many associations offer mobile apps. Like your website, these applications allow space to sell display advertising. Of course, the larger your audience the better, but the advantage for potential advertisers is clear: Anyone using with your mobile app is an engaged prospect in a niche target market.

A study by Moby Affiliates determined that third-party, in-app mobile display ads are set to generate almost $9 billion in revenue by 2020. With so much of our online activity moving toward smartphones and mobile devices, membership organizations have plenty of reasons to jump on the bandwagon.

Advertising isn't the only method to earn revenue from your mobile app, however. While you have the option to charge a fee for the app download, a better approach might be to charge for premium services within the app a take on the so-called "freemium" model.

If it's a great tool for your members, analyze your association's mobile app and see where you can maximize its earning potential to turn it into a great tool for revenue.

Digital Avenues for Non-dues Revenues

Non-dues revenue is a vital part of a comprehensive strategy for staying strong. Because we know that exploring every avenue possible for growing outside sources of funding is so important, we wrote “How Non-dues Revenue Can Grow Associations.” This ebook covers:
  • Practical ways to grow non-dues revenue with your current activities
  • Ideas for new initiatives to raise funds
  • Important facts, stats and advice from association professionals and experts
Download the free book now