9 Ways to Generate Non-Dues Revenue in 2022

by Rick Bawcum

Are you struggling to find ways to boost your association’s cash flow? Just breaking even would be nice, but with dwindling memberships maybe you’re seeking new non-dues revenue ideas.

The American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) most recent report on professional associations’ operating revenue found that member dues contributed to a meager 35% of total revenue in 2020-2021. Nearly 60% of association leaders also reported significant losses in engagement, renewals, events, and continuing education.

Luckily, advances in technology and the pivot to digital transformation have created new money-making opportunities for your membership association. Here, we’ll walk through the top, innovative (and highly profitable) sources of non-dues revenue in 2022.

What is Non-Dues Revenue?

Non-dues revenue (NDR) is any money earned by an association outside of membership dues. There are fives main types of NDR:

  1. Revenue earned from vendors, online advertisers, suppliers, sponsors, exhibitors, or any third party looking to reach an industry or professional community.
  2. Charging members additional fees, on top of their traditional membership dues, for meeting registrations, webinars, books, professional certifications, publications and reports, subscriptions, branded merchandise, and so forth.
  3. Directly monetizing your behavioral data (in a secure, anonymous, and compliant way).
  4. Evolving your business model (either externally or internally) to diversify your current portfolio of products and services. In other words, indirectly monetizing your information.
  5. Leveraging social channels, video personalization, and other digital innovations commonly used by online entrepreneurs, influencers, and for-profits.

We’ll dig deeper into these new sources of income in the examples below. Let’s jump in, shall we?

Here are the best, out-of-the-box (and, yes, exceptionally lucrative) association revenue streams.

9 Creative Non-Dues Revenue Ideas

1. Podcasts

Upwards of 120 million Americans listen to podcast regularly in 2021, according to the latest podcast statistics, compared to just 75 million in 2018. Forecasts suggest the number of monthly listeners will hit 164 million in 2024, with the annual growth rate between 2019 and 2023 pegged at 17% (20 million).

In short, podcasts continue to surge in popularity, and it’s time to hop on the trend.

Podcasts supply an affordable way to drive content and engage members, as well as feed your piggy bank. Talk about your association and its particular industry and benefits. Interview key association members on topics relevant to your membership. After you have a following, you may even consider charging to have some members or partners interviewed on the podcast.

As your podcast grows in popularity, especially a wide local audience, you could look into sponsorships from other related businesses. Sell banner ads or even mentions in the podcast itself to support healthy cash flow.

Podcasts also supply an opportunity to collect new membership leads. End each broadcast with a way listeners can find out more about your association and its benefits.

2. YouTube Channel

Depending on your association’s purpose or related industry, you can produce how-to or promotional videos and post them to your association’s own YouTube channel. Once a channel reaches 4,000 watch hours in the previous 12 months and 1,000 subscribers, it is eligible for the YouTube monetization program.

YouTube also allows you to produce a live feed with up to 6 cameras that you control, for little to no cost. Imagine a world where you can do live telecasts at your events or interviews. And yes, even your podcasts can live on your YouTube channel.

This combines publicity for your association with non-dues revenue. Win-win for everyone, especially your association members. And why not be the first association in your area with your own YouTube channel?

3. A La Carte Membership Perks

Why not utilize the base of people that you are already engaged with to create non-dues revenue by expanding your offerings with a la carte purchase opportunities? Possible perks that could be available for an ongoing or one-time additional fee include:

  • Educational events that offer industry certification or earned credit
  • Listings in or access to an exclusive job board
  • Consultation with an expert who holds a broad appeal
  • Access to association resources (such as a state-of-the-art lab or online catalogs)
  • Paper copy of online resources (nominal fee)
  • Paid access to one-time or multiple direct mailing list
  • First look at market research
  • Opportunity to send out surveys or marketing materials to members
  • Access to pertinent industry data
  • Listing in an associate member directory

This is another great opportunity to look at what you’re offering those associate members. Some services might work well as a free membership perk while others could be offered for an additional fee.

The rest of this list examines future-forward ways your organization can monetize your current wealth of data to create non-dues revenue products. After all, digital information is THE money-making asset in today’s data economy.

4. Directly monetizing data

One way to directly monetize data is to sell research about member behaviors, demographics, and transactions.

You can aggregate and anonymize the information you have about the behaviors and engagements of certain populations in your community. This way your data revenues aren’t built off of personally identifiable information.

5. Monetizing your metadata

Metadata is truly the key ingredient to revenue diversification and data monetization. Believe it or not, your organization is already sitting on a gold mine of new non-dues revenue streams through your metadata (data about your data).

Beyond the rows and columns of data that we collect every day, there’s “digital exhaust everywhere.” And when you leverage this metadata, anything is possible.

Many successful tech companies like Google, Microsoft, and Facebook have diversified their revenue streams by thinking creatively about how to monetize metadata. Most associations and nonprofits have similar kinds of digital assets that you can leverage as well drive non-dues products – whether it’s creating new data-driven products or tuning up existing products and processes based on good data.

For example, many associations and nonprofits have information about what members and customers are doing, where they’re going online, how they’re engaging with your emails, what they’re buying, and what they’re doing on social media.

This metadata and the content your members consume online give you clues about what they’re interested in and willing to pay for. By investing in data analytics, you can use this metadata internally to inform your current products so they perform even better and generate more revenue year after year.

Here are some ways you can indirectly make money from your metadata:

  • Building more personalized membership offerings.
  • Aligning your product portfolio and campaigns with individual interests.
  • Creating greater Lifetime Member Value.
  • Building brand-new products to support your industry.

Your association type, purpose, and metadata will dictate which of these non-dues recommendations will work for you. Whatever you decide to do, it may require a deeper dive into your association’s organizational structure in order to create a culture of innovation.

6. Selling Standards

You can also monetize your existing standards products through digital interfaces today to build new non-dues revenue sources for associations. The quality and compliance standards that touch just about every industry sector today are fundamentally monetizable data assets.

For example, the Construction Specifications Institute, American Society of Mechanical Engineers, National Electrical Manufacturers Association, and thousands of other organizations around the world have a whole body of guidelines and standards governing how to organize projects and achieve compliance

Today, we’re building Application Programming Interfaces (API) that allow associations to drive new revenue from these data products. Contractors, for example, can plug into an API to specify how your standards should integrate into their software programs or whatever technology they’re using for their projects.

7. Non-Dues Intellectual Properties

Beyond selling standards data, you can also build other association non-dues revenue products by monetizing your knowledge assets externally. For example, you can sell contract documents or turn your bodies of knowledge into behavioral research publications or information-based products.

Selling these data-oriented products, or sets of products, allows you to create new sources of income relatively easily. You already got the materials and proprietary information down. Now just look to an API or other tech solution to get some cash out of it.

Leveraging your intellectual assets doesn’t just help you diversify your association revenue streams. It’ll also allow you to adapt more easily as we pivot further into ever-present digital disruption.

8. Monetizing Content

Content monetization is the idea of driving new revenue through your content strategy. Email is a key focus here.

Email marketing performs better than most other channels in terms of ROI when it’s done right. The average email subscriber is worth $48.87 and the average ROI for email is 42:1.

Today, we have access to AI powered email newsletter platforms that automate your email content based on prior engagement data. You can use these new technologies to drive non-dues revenue directly and make more money in your other revenue channels as well.

Best part is, these auto-personalized newsletters require little to no effort to drive eyeballs, engagements, and ROI conversions. Kind of like a passive revenue generator for your association that can direct traffic to your owned channels, promote products and events, nurture audiences into paid members, and leverage paid advertising and sponsorships.

9. Scaling Lifetime Member Value

Plugging your current data into a predictive model is critical to maximizing Lifetime Member Value (LMV). Increasing LMV indirectly leads to new association non-dues revenue.

Your members are certainly worth much more than the membership dues they pay in terms of their LMV. Throughout the duration of their membership, they contribute time, word-of-mouth marketing, and creative insight. Plus, it’s much easier and more profitable to keep members in the long term than to gain new ones.

However, most organizations today aren’t investing enough in building that LMV. Instead, associations are famous for what we call “sacred cows” or products and campaigns that are past their prime.

Why? Because we’re not measuring or analyzing the metadata to respond to what people are doing online, how products are used, and what people are interested in.

With predictive analytics, you can use your data to evolve your products, discover opportunities for new products and solutions, and take a more holistic and personalized approach to member engagement. For instance, you can identify which members are likely to respond positively to outreach campaigns, who to leave alone, and the types of campaigns that will prompt specific members to renew, make a purchase, or attend an event.

Knowing this information ahead of time increases your profits and lowers overhead costs by:

  • Increasing ROI on marketing.
  • Reducing costs and resources.
  • Creating member-specific outreach plans.

Don’t forget about privacy and disclosure

Regardless of how you’re using or anonymizing personal information, you need to put it in your acceptable use policy or privacy policy. A lot of associations today share event registrant and member data with select partners. But if this isn’t mentioned in your privacy policy, then you may be violating your own rules.

You have to disclose how, where, and when you’re using data, even if identifiable information is removed. Plus, a growing number of laws, such as the GDPR and CPRA/CCPA, requires us to do so. So, think of it this way: how you use data should be a function of how you are regulated.

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