Far too often, associations associate non-dues revenues with cash grabs. These attempts, such as affinity programs, used to be a lot more profitable – especially before the internet made it too easy for members to shop and find deals on their own.
I view non-dues revenue as a way of thinking through what your members need and want that they currently can’t do for themselves. At IAPD, we have the traditional non-dues revenue streams: advertising, exhibits, sponsorships, meeting registrations and so forth. But we have also introduced non-traditional methods, and with them have established a non-traditional mindset toward generating non-dues revenue in these areas.
This year, we launched education as a service. Unlike the more product-focused training services we offer, this initiative is centered around learning opportunities such as technical resources, certificate programs and e-training webinars committed to expanding our members’ expertise, careers and individual contribution to their industry.
We introduced an LMS that expanded our third-party training offerings. As part of this strategy, we purchased a system that allows us to set up member company sub-portals (mini-sites). These provide our HR contacts within member companies the ability to have their own customized portal of training because they are using our LMS to host their own courses and manage all of their online training within the companies.
For a single member company, the cost of their own LMS would be six figures. But we are offering them personal use of our LMS for a nominal fee, adding customized reporting and access for their training managers and the ability to publish company information, select their own library of courses and post custom courses to their sub-portal. We make the revenue primarily on the purchase of seats for training, as well as bulk or enterprise licensing of our custom online training.
All of this was possible because we researched the needs of our members. We believed the association could use the power of the collective to offer something individual companies would buy or use anyway – and to provide better quality at a lower price point. Our beliefs were confirmed, and we hit a home run: This is a service small, medium and large companies can benefit from. One of our largest members was in the process of purchasing their own LMS system and ended up scrapping their plans to use our service instead.
We always had educational products. Our members bought those. But now they are seeing the association as an education service provider.
We are doing this type of thinking in all other areas of our association as well. I believe every association has those one, two or even three things their members would go above and beyond dues to pay for (besides the traditional offerings we all put out there).
It is a matter of asking the right questions of your members, doing the right research and taking a few risks to find those things that matter the most. If you are doing the right things, your members will pay for them.