How Content Opens the Door to New Streams of Non-Dues Revenue

By Sarah Sain, CAE • May 23, 2017

Sarah Sain
Sarah Sain, Naylor Association Solutions

True or false? Non-dues revenue is an important source of funds for associations.

That’s easy. Of course the answer is true. Membership dues may still be the single largest revenue source for many associations, but dues revenue is dropping according to a recent report from the ASAE Foundation. That makes finding new non-dues revenue streams and maximizing the ones currently in place a top priority.

After all non-dues revenue makes it possible for associations to keep membership dues affordable in the first place. They also help associations finance lobbying and advocacy efforts, fund certification programs and scholarships, and invest in new tech and programs – all of which keep them relevant to members and help them fulfill their mission.

Now here’s another question: True or false? Associations have a wealth of content at their fingertips.

Again, true. However, there are still associations today that aren’t making the most of the content they generate in their publications, at events, through online courses and webinars, and from their members. This content, if gathered, organized and delivered properly, can open the door to new streams of non-dues revenue.

Read about how associations plan to bring in more revenue from publications, continuing education and events in this month’s Did You Know?

Here are three steps your association can take today to begin creating a strong content strategy that will help you maximize your non-dues revenue potential.

1. Give your members content where and when they want it.

When was the last time you evaluated your communications program? If the answer is more than two years ago, it’s time to survey association leadership, members, advertisers and sponsors to find out if you’re truly giving them what they want and need.

Make sure to customize surveys for each group mentioned above. Ask targeted questions about the strength and relevancy of content, the frequency and way in which that content is delivered to members, and the value members place on your communications vehicles. And don’t forget to ask advertisers and sponsors about their perceived return on investment.

Take a close look at survey results to identify gaps and opportunities in the types of content your association makes available, as well as when and how you’re delivering it to members. Then create a communications strategy based on specific feedback and data.

2. Leverage the content you already have.

Associations are content rich, but where most need guidance is in how to maximize the content they have in a way that grows revenue but keeps costs low. Start off by taking inventory of the content you already have. This should include content available from your print and digital communications, continuing education programs, and in-person conference and events.

From there, look for ways to leverage that content on new platforms, perhaps ones that rank highly among your members and advertisers based on recent survey results. For example, if your members say they prefer digital, you could repurpose articles from your print publication in your email newsletter or on social media.

Above all, don’t hide your content. Strong content does your association no good if your members can’t find it. Place the content you create front and center on your website – not behind a member wall and not five clicks away from your home page. Make sure your publications and emails are being delivered. If they’re not, find out why. Market your in-person events often and plan them in a location and at a time that makes it easy for members to attend.

3. Know your worth.

It’s more important than ever for associations to tell their stories. Associations lead their industries through education, innovation and advocacy. Your members join your association because they know they can accomplish more together than alone. Strong content delivered effectively is quite possibly the best way to clearly explain why your association is a good investment – both for advertising and sponsorship dollars, as well as for membership.

Never forget when it comes down to it, whether you’re selling advertising for your member magazine or annual conference sponsorships, your association is the product. By sharing the industry-leading content you already have in ways that your members find relevant and consistent, your association will elevate its presence in the marketplace and engage members.

About The Author

Sarah Sain is a senior content strategy and development manager with Naylor Association Solutions, working exclusively with society of association executive and meeting professional clients. Email her at [email protected] or follow her as @ssain7 on Twitter.