Get Member Thinking on Nondues Revenue Projects

When your association designs new products and services, do you tap your members for input? Maybe you should. Here are a few areas where members might help you boost your organization’s bottom line.

For an association to push past the status quo, it needs not only a skilled executive and staff team, but also some innovative thinking on the part of members.

That’s especially true for associations with declining dues revenue. Taking some time to brainstorm with members provides them a stimulating engagement opportunity and could generate ideas for contributing additional nondues revenue to your organization’s bottom line.

In a recent association forum at the SIG Summit, Blue Sky Client Success Manager Kara Adams, CAE, joined a group of association executives to crowdsource ideas for how members can play a lead role in developing or refining benefits that generate nondues revenue. The session resulted in 26 different nondues revenue projects that associations could invite members to participate in as a key partners.

“The majority of the ideas generated involved educational programs and products, with career development a close second,” Adams says. “There was also a lot of discussion about bundling and repackaging content to make it more appealing to different audiences and about creating supplemental [educational] materials.”

Here are three areas where members might be able to play a role in creating a new nondues revenue stream.

Supplemental Education

Some members might be eager to volunteer as thought leaders to create or curate supplemental education materials that can help members prepare for a professional certification exam. That’s how ABRET Neurodiagnostic Credentialing and Accreditation generated extra nondues revenue with its online practice exam, developed on a cloud-based service that required minimal startup costs. The exam supplies test takers with instant feedback and results.

“Your association’s subject matter experts and volunteers can be involved with creating those practice exams, workbooks, and other resources, as well as leading one-on-one or small-group study sessions that could be available for purchase,” Adams suggests.

Zeroing in on the right educational materials means understanding what members need at different points in their career journey, she says.

“One-on-one mentoring, resume review, and practice interview sessions with experienced members could be very appealing to younger professionals or those making a career transition,” Adams says. “I really liked these ideas as a way to show that your association is supporting your member’s career lifespan, and not always just industry-specific education.”


Podcasts are hot right now, and associations are capitalizing on their popularity as a way to engage members in a new content form. As association podcasting matures, revenue opportunities are likely to expand as well.

As a way of delivering content, “podcasts allow for more creative freedom since they’re a shorter format. Have fun with them [and] keep your listeners engaged.” That could mean your podcast serves as a weekly chat with interesting members or even showcases them as guest host talking with industry leaders.

One podcast from the Online News Association was an entirely member-driven experience. During last year’s ONA Conference in Austin, a few members who have experience working as public radio producers launched ONA On Air, which shared edited content from some of the conference sessions.

In the future, Adams predicts that podcasting will have the potential to drive sponsorship revenue or serve as an add-on content subscription. “If you’re going to podcast, be sure to have a plan,” she says. “Subscriptions are the way to go with any product series, but let members know what they’ll receive upfront.”

Virtual Events

Finally, if you’ve noticed that your meeting attendance has been sluggish, perhaps it’s time to consider the value of hosting in-person meetings in coordination with virtual events.

In a recent Membership Hack, I highlighted the value of hosting a virtual expo like the one that the School Nutrition Association hosts in the months leading up to its annual meeting. It was members, not staff, who drove much of the online engagement, thanks to a few live-chat sessions and some incentives-based competition.

Another idea for virtual events comes from NIGP, the Institute for Public Procurement, which not only groups members from faraway places into virtual chapters but encourages them to register for a virtual conference that live-streams a handful of sessions and keynote speakers. It provides a lower-priced alternative to the in-person conference that encourages participation by members who otherwise may not have attended at all.

Have members helped lead you to new projects that generate nondues revenue? Post your ideas and experiences below.

(Lisa-Blue/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Tim Ebner

By Tim Ebner

Tim Ebner is a senior editor for Associations Now. He covers membership, leadership, and governance issues. Email him with story ideas or news tips. MORE

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