Four Ways to Earn Non-Dues Revenue through Mobile Apps

By • April 15, 2014

With more than 58 percent of the American adult population using a smartphone according to the Pew Internet and American Life survey, mobile apps are becoming a primary way to distribute and digest information. Like other publications, there is a great opportunity to earn non-dues revenue through an association- or event-specific mobile app.

  • The average premium app in the mainstream market earns between $625 and $4000.
  • Offering advertising space, obtaining sponsorships, or charging for downloads and features are three easy ways to earn non-dues revenue from mobile apps.
  • People will pay for information or convenience they deem essential. Capitalize on this demand through mobile app fees.

4 Ways to Earn Non-Dues Revenue Through Mobile Apps

The average premium app in the mainstream market earns between $625 and $4,000. This is admittedly a large revenue window, and the amount of non-dues revenue your association could earn will depend on the number of users the app has, the size of your audience (members plus non-member users), and the app’s quality. But the potential for earning association non-dues revenue through mobile apps is high, thanks to the many advertising and premium feature opportunities mobile apps contain. Here are some popular revenue generating strategies to consider:

  1. Offer advertising space.Most mobile app vendors that provide conference, event or news apps reserve space within the app for advertisers. These spaces can include banners, splash screens, and promoted posts, and action-related promotions such as push notifications, badges or games. Advertising space within an app is unobtrusive, and your association can segment industry-specific advertisers so that the messages they offer are relevant to your users. Multiple ad spaces also mean that you can book several advertisers at a price that is affordable for each while earning your association significant non-dues revenue.
  2. Sign on an app sponsor. Do you know a company that wants to reach your members in a non-traditional way? Ask if they’ll sponsor your app for a flat fee, and offer the company the advertising spaces mentioned above. Companies enjoy this option because they can more easily launch an integrated marketing campaign when they own an entire suite of advertising options. Your app could be their launching point for games, networking, on location “check-ins” and events involving their offering and your association. Finding a single sponsor for your app goes a long way toward covering your app-related costs in one step.
  3. Charge a fee to download the app. Although charging for the download and use of apps is widely accepted in the mainstream, your members might expect your association- or event-app to be included as part of their membership or event fees. If that is the case, consider making your app a member-only benefit and charge non-members for the privilege of using your app. Keep in mind that this may cause some additional administrative work on behalf of your staff or mobile vendor, and take that into account when anticipating app costs.
  4. Charge for in-app features. Another fee structure to consider is offering the app for free, but charging users for certain in-app features. For example, you might include a customizable calendar within your app, but charge a small fee for the app to send the user a reminder about when their event begins. If you offer a year-round app, you could tack on a small convenience fee for in-app purchases of educational materials, event tickets or certification courses. Members may become annoyed at these fees, but you can assuage complaints by explaining that technology isn’t free and offering this service is one way your association helps support itself.

Need proof that in-app charges are profitable? Candy Crush Saga is free to download and play, but King Digital Entertainment has made more than $567 million from gamers willing to pay nominal amounts for extra lives and skips to the next level of play. If the information or conveniences your app offers are considered essential, people will pay extra for them.


What works for one association of a certain size or industry may not work for another, so be sure to examine your audience demographics, needs, and your revenue goals before you jump into a mobile-based non-dues revenue program. There are plenty of resources online for earning non-dues revenue through mobile apps. Check out this list of 101 resources, or talk to one of Naylor’s mobile marketing service representatives for a custom quote for your association.

About The Author

Kelly Donovan is the team leader for online marketing with Naylor.