Non-Dues Revenue: How to Pick Up the Dollars Your Association is Leaving on the Table

Non-Dues Revenue: How to Pick Up the Dollars Your Association is Leaving on the Table

Non-profit associations often have trouble generating enough revenue to support all of their efforts and member programs. This is especially true for smaller, local associations. Non-dues revenue is a viable solution that can help boost income and pick up the dollars you may be leaving on the table.

Uncover the importance of non-dues revenue, the challenges you may face when implementing these opportunities, and some effective ideas for your organization!

What is Non-Dues Revenue and Why is it Important?Association financials

All associations have ambitions, missions, and vision statements. However, financial challenges can make it difficult, sometimes impossible, for organizations to accomplish their goals. Did you know that on average, membership dues make up only 39% of an association’s total revenue?

Membership dues alone cannot sustain operational expenses, value proposition, fulfillment of benefits, and advocacy engagement and support. Therefore, it is paramount that non-membership revenue is established and nurtured. On average, 44% of associations can double their income once these non-dues profit streams are implemented.

We know that non-dues revenue is important, but what exactly is it?

Non-dues revenue is simply defined as any income made through means other than membership dues. While this may sound simple, it’s important to take a deeper look at what those profit streams may be. There are two overarching types of association non-dues:

  • Income earned from advertisement opportunities
  • Income earned through offerings such as event registrations, webinars, books, and certifications

This additional income provides supplemental funding for additional programs and opportunities, allowing the organization to accomplish more throughout the year. The more opportunities available for members, the higher an association’s membership value will be, creating a full-circle benefit for the organization. It is important to set up several non-dues revenue streams to sustain a growing association. However, to successfully set them up, it’s critical to understand the potential challenges that go along with them.

Challenges of Implementing Non-Dues Revenue

There are several potential challenges associated with implementing non-dues earnings, but the first challenge is overcoming false preconceived notions. Often, the idea of non-dues revenue is not properly defined. Therefore, employees are not able to concentrate their creativity and efforts into developing opportunities that fall within the actual goal. Ensure your team understands the end goal associated with non-dues revenue and can translate that into tangible results for your specific company. These challenges that arise from lack of knowledge become glaringly obvious when an association does not have a “star breadwinner,” such as sponsorship space or exhibit options at an event. It is important to diversify your offerings, but you should always know which ones provide the most value and therefore need more attention and maintenance.

Another possible roadblock that associations face is financial complications. Many simply do not have the monetary resources to host webinars, complete industry research, publish books, or run certification programs. Even associations that do have these in place, need to assess dues revenue repeatedly to support their efforts.

Luckily, you do not need to set up all your non-dues income streams at once. In fact, it is preferable that you start small with affordable options. With time, and if executed properly, the first stream will generate enough earnings for additional endeavors.

Lastly, a challenge that we see all too often is that smaller associations lack the staff or bandwidth necessary to create, implement, and maintain non-dues income streams. However, there is no need to have a large workforce to start this process. Basic non-dues revenues are the re-packaging of what you already have. Therefore, it is important to think outside the box and look at how you can repurpose your current efforts.

Ideas for Non-Dues Revenue

There are many ways to create association non-dues, whether with common advertising opportunities or out-of-the-box ideas specific to meet your membership’s needs. No matter your budget, there are ample ideas to use as a starting point.

The most well-known and widely used sources for non-dues revenue are:

  • Events: Whether in-person or virtual, networking events are always popular for members. Events are mutually beneficial for individual member development and for the association overall.
  • Education: Many people within your industry will be looking to advance their career through continuing education and certification opportunities.
  • Sponsorships: Suppliers/vendors are interested in extending their brand reach throughout the industry. Be sure to offer different options to suit different budgets and needs!
  • Fundraising/Donations: Donations are a part of every non-profit, and all associations can benefit from them. Make sure these contributions are used properly to help the organization grow as a whole.
  • Grants: These require some research to see if your association can apply and are usually highly competitive. However, they can be very beneficial, especially for smaller associations.

Non-Dues Revenue Sponsorships

Suppliers are the main group targeted for non-dues revenue, as they also greatly benefit from the opportunities to position their brand in front of industry stakeholders. Some ideas specific to suppliers which can bring financial growth and stability to any association are:

  • Website advertising
  • E-newsletter advertising
  • Membership packet or flyer advertising
  • Recognition in marketing brochures through testimonials or paid ads
  • Galas/banquets or special events sponsorship
  • Meeting and conference promotional items
  • Sponsored social media posts
    • Remember: Keep your content balanced, as you still need to promote your association. The most successful companies always promote themselves!

Once your association establishes a solid non-dues plan, you can consider more advanced revenue streams. These require more planning and resources to implement, but in turn, they are more likely to generate greater income. Some ideas include:

  • Market data research
  • Industry publications
  • Premium content in podcasts or on YouTube

Getting Started

There are many different options for association non-dues revenue, which will help your organization grow while providing additional value to members. However, it is important to keep in mind that you need to ask yourself some questions before you begin implementing programs, including:

  • What is the end goal?
  • How can you effectively execute the idea(s)?
  • How will this benefit membership?
  • How much will this cost?
  • Who will manage any additional projects?
  • How will it be promoted?
  • What has historically worked best?

We understand that navigating the world of non-dues revenue streams can be daunting, but that’s where we come in! Contact Paragon Events today to talk with our association management experts and let’s start generating more income for your organization.

This blog post was authored by Macarena Barrueco.