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Association members join for networking, education, and enrichment opportunities. Operating an association can be challenging as you try to manage the moving parts of membership retention, plan engaging activities, and create valuable learning experiences. It can be expensive to host and create those opportunities for members, and sometimes annual dues just don’t create enough revenue.

You may need to expand your revenue streams beyond membership to continue operating your association and enhancing the member experience. We’ve gathered the top four ways your association can earn more revenue without increasing membership dues.

  1. eLearning
  2. eCommerce
  3. Fundraising
  4. Conferences

Providing superb member engagement experiences and opportunities can be costly, but when implemented correctly, you can increase engagement, retention, and revenue with this expanded interest in your organization. Read on to learn more about implementing non-dues revenue streams for your association.

1. eLearning

Association members often join to broaden their industry expertise and expand their network of professionals in their field. Offering your members eLearning courses or certifications will encourage them to engage with your association and invest in their education. Members will be excited to put their membership to use and gain valuable skills.

One of the most common ways to add learning to your association’s offerings is to integrate learning management systems into your association management system. Look for software that can easily integrate with your existing technology. For example, if you’re using Salesforce software for your association, consider using an LMS also powered by Salesforce.

With this integration, you’ll be able to closely track member progress and evaluate the success of the program. Depending on your association’s industry focus, you may require an assortment of education models. Here are some types of eLearning to consider:

  • Memorization based learning modules use videos, PowerPoints, and quizzes for students to study, review, and test their knowledge. This could be useful for trade organizations that require physical work and explore concepts that are easier to understand in a visual format.
  • Collaborative learning encourages members to work together by discussing the modules on discussion boards or in messages. This style could help stimulate conversation between professionals who are learning about up-and-coming topics in the health industry, for example.
  • Analytical assignments can walk individuals through issues they might face in the workplace to help them determine appropriate action. This could be helpful for professions like software or mechanical engineering.
  • Creative assignments give individuals the opportunity to practice newly acquired skills and share them with a teacher or their peers. Assignments should be based on knowledge taught in other lessons to demonstrate understanding. This type of learning could work for technology associations where members would be learning to create new code or software.

Whether your members prefer collaborative, individual, or project-based learning, offering professional development opportunities will effectively engage those who want to learn. After your initial rollout of eLearning, survey your members using your membership management system to learn how they benefited from the experience. Asking for member feedback can help you tweak the programs to increase the value and better cater to your association members.

2. eCommerce

An essential part of association non-dues revenue is eCommerce. Joining an association can be a big commitment, and individuals are likely proud of their membership and involvement. Giving them the opportunity to showcase their membership and professional network through branded merchandise and other products can help bring in more revenue for your association.

First, look for an ecommerce integration or feature within your CMS to create a new page for your association’s website. You’ll want to host your eStore on your main website so members can easily navigate to the store. Place the link in a prominent place on the website, like the navigation bar, to direct visitors to your store.

Your eStore can also be used to funnel registrants into your events and courses. Here are some items you can promote on your association’s ecommerce page:

  • Branded merchandise. Members will be excited to show their involvement with usable items like branded t-shirts, mugs, pens, and keychains.
  • Association guidebooks. Partner with your association’s industry publisher to sell annual guidebooks members may need, like the AP Stylebook or the American Bar Association’s topic books.
  • eLearning courses. Have members and non-members purchase your courses through your estore for streamlined accessibility. You may even entice members to buy merchandise for a discounted rate alongside their course access.
  • Event registrations. Whether it’s conferences or virtual panels, having members and non-members sign up through your estore can help you easily track attendance and revenue earned.
  • Membership packages. Offer several membership packages to allow individuals to choose their level of involvement. You can include learning course credits in packages to get members more involved with your educational programs.

Before you add eCommerce to your website, be sure it’s optimized for easy navigation and updated with your association’s information. Outline your association’s mission and membership benefits on the homepage to help guide them to the estore and to event and membership registration.

3. Fundraising

Fundraising may not be a main function of associations, but it can greatly boost your revenue. Communicate the improvements and goals of your association to bring members up to speed with all the hard work you’ve put into creating experiences and an incredible networking environment. Include these improvements and goals in your email newsletter, annual reports, and other communication materials.

Embed these messages regularly in your marketing materials so members are reminded of all the programs offered and help them more fully appreciate your association. Alongside these reminders of programs and improvements, you should link to a donation page on your website. This will make it easier for your members to find your donations and lead them to more information about how your organization will use their donations.

In addition to requesting donations in your communications, your association can also launch a fundraising campaign or include a fundraising component in your event. Fonteva’s association management software guide can help you find which software solution can help you plan your next event, such as:

  • Peer-to-peer fundraising. Encourage members to reach out to their personal and professional online networks for donations.
  • Auctions. Invite your members to an auction for them to mingle, network, and bid on items donated to your associations. This can be a great way to build community and raise money.
  • Luncheons. Host a luncheon open to all members or for a segment of your members as a networking event. You can also include a paddle raise or invite industry experts at the event to incentivize members to attend.

Your members likely joined for personal and professional benefits, but it can be helpful to remind them of the improvements to your association’s industry that you’re working toward. If your association works with industry experts to improve the field, that’s critical to include in your fundraising materials. This idea can help members think outside of themselves and donate to your organization for the betterment of their entire community.

4. Conferences

Your conference is an incredible place to showcase the opportunities you provide to members. When planning your association’s brand materials, create items like brochures, flyers, and posters that outline the opportunities your association has. Set up a few tables that are dedicated to informing attendees about your association and collecting potential donor information.

At these tables you can include a section that details your eLearning courses available and how to register for them on your estore. You can also have merchandise available for purchase and a printed QR code for attendees to be able to return to the website at their own convenience.

Conferences bring together many members and professionals across the industry, making them the perfect platform to partner with local nonprofits and request donations. Remind attendees of the improvements being made in the industry by some of these nonprofits. This can demonstrate that your association is dedicated to supporting other organizations in your industry. When attendees visit your information table and see how you’re giving back, they may be inspired to join your association.

Operating an association is challenging and even more so when budgeting is tight. Rather than increasing member dues or overextending your staff, invest in your association by implementing one or all of these non-dues revenue streams. Don’t forget to reach out to members and non-members alike with your association’s events and fundraising methods. Although members should be a main audience, you might be missing out on potential revenue if you aren’t reaching any non-members. They could eventually become members, after all!

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