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15 Non-Dues Revenue Tips for Associations Big and Small

MemberClicks Avatar MemberClicks September 28, 2022
Table of Contents
11 min read

As a membership organization, member dues are core to your organization’s overall financial success. But they can’t get too high (or you’ll lose members!)—and relying on a single revenue stream is too risky. This is where non-dues revenue comes into play.

By generating non-dues revenue, you can:

  • Grow your association’s revenue
  • Avoid implementing higher membership dues
  • Diversify your revenue streams

You need options, and those options mean investing in revenue streams that aren’t reliant on your members’ annual dues. That way, if you have a dip in renewals, you’re still covered for the year ahead—or if you need to invest in a membership drive, you have working capital to pull from.

non dues revenue ebook download graphic

What is Non-Dues Revenue?

Non-dues revenue is any funding your organization receives from sources other than your main membership dues.

Non-dues revenue typically comes from two sources:

  1. Internal: Charging your members additional fees for added resources, opportunities, or products, such as conference fees, professional certifications, or branded merchandise.
  2. External: Working with advertisers, vendors, suppliers, or grantmakers interested in reaching your community.

Why Associations Need Non-Dues Revenue 

Non-dues revenue helps associations: 

  • Pay their staff 
  • Invest in software 
  • Run events 
  • Rent office space 
  • Reach new members 
  • Give back to the community 
  • Grow 

Non-dues revenue can also be scaled up and down for larger organizations and smaller associations, too. 

Reasons Organizations Struggle to Grow Non-Dues Revenue

Generating non-dues revenue can be challenging for many organizations due to several factors:

Limited Resources: Many organizations have limited staff and budget, making it tough to explore and implement new revenue streams. This can lead to missed opportunities and an over-reliance on membership dues.

Lack of Expertise: Without the necessary expertise, organizations may struggle to identify and execute effective non-dues revenue strategies, resulting in initiatives that fail to generate significant revenue.

Resistance to Change: Some members and staff may prefer traditional methods and resist adopting new revenue-generating activities, hindering growth and innovation.

15 Ideas for Growing Non-Dues Revenue

When it comes to branching out, there’s no shortage of options! Use this list for ideas on how you can start to grow your non-dues revenue.

But remember: no size fits all. You really need to think about what is the best fit for your organization’s and your members’ needs.

1. Sell branded merchandise

Branded merchandise is a way for your to increase your non-dues revenue, while strengthening your relationship with your members. It can also help with your recruitment efforts. Members become walking testimonials for your association when they wear or use your merch. If you’re lucky, it might even result in a new member (picture this: one of your members, out and about, and a colleague asks them where they got that amazing water bottle…).

Branded merchandise could be:

  • T-shirts
  • Coffee mugs
  • Tote bags
  • Baseball caps
  • Mousepads
  • Or anything else you can think of!

But there’s no need to play a guessing game. Consider conducting a survey to see what items your members are interested in. Creating merchandise has a big up front cost, so you’ll want to make sure you’re only making what the people want!

Bonus: Some branded merchandise can be ordered in bulk at a lower cost. Depending on your organization, you may be able to get an extra discount from a salesperson as well! Swag also is great for giveaways, raffles, contests, and events.

2. Rent out your facility

If your organization uses a physical facility, you can rent out extra office space or your conference room for a fee.

For instance, you can:

  • Offer a monthly lease for an extra office to members or non-members who work remotely but desire an office structure
  • If you’re a chamber of commerce with more space, consider leasing space to a local retail business—you’ll promote small business owners while collecting non-dues revenue
  • Rent your conference room on an hourly basis to other organizations to host meetings or other small events

That said, make sure it’s convenient for you, and doesn’t interrupt your day to day operations. So long as you’ve accomplished that, it’s a great way to recoup on the cost of your facility!

3. Partner with corporate sponsors

You likely have experience partnering with corporations to earn sponsors for your association’s events. Ask corporations who have similar missions or purposes to join in an ongoing partnership.

Build the case for this partnership by highlighting the benefits they will receive, such as an expanded audience for their products or services.

Sponsorships, even when they’re in-kind, are fantastic additions to your association. In-kind contributions are non-monetary contributions that are donated to an association. They include goods, services, swag, gifts, etc. Corporate sponsorships could come in the form of a general sponsor for the association or as a sponsorship of a specific event. They relieve the pressure on existing expenses or needs, allowing you to redirect existing funding elsewhere.

4. Use banner ads on your organization’s website

A banner ad is an embedded advertisement that sit on the top or side of your website. You can charge businesses to include their banner ads on your website. You can think of them as digital billboards. They primarily use visual images with some written words – or copy – to promote a company, product, event, or specific item.

But remember: relevance is key. Make sure the businesses are relevant to your members so they receive more value from the ads, and advertisers see greater return on their investment. This will encourage them to continue advertising with your organization.

5. Offer ad space in your organization’s newsletter

In addition to banner ads, you can offer ad space in your organization’s monthly or weekly email or printed newsletters.

Some things to consider:

  • Offer businesses bulk rates for recurring ad spots
  • Prep a media kit that will show partners the size of your audience and their interests
  • Create guidelines around who or what you’re willing to promote (aka. Don’t spam your members!)
  • Keep a report of your placement successes to entice future advertisers

You can also encourage your ad partners to include a special promotion code for members to use for their service, which can help your partners track their return on investment while offering your members a bonus benefit, as well.

6. Place flyers in your organization’s new member welcome packets

Another advertising opportunity you can offer business partners is the option to include a flyer in your new member welcome packets. New members are sure to read through your welcome packet to get the information they need, meaning the advertisements are guaranteed to receive a lot of views.

Advertisers can use messages that welcome new members and explain how their services can support them. While collecting non-dues revenue, you’ll also be introducing new members to goods or services of value to them.

7. Offer ad space in your organization’s mobile app

If your organization uses a mobile app, these platforms also offer an advertising opportunity.

The average person spends about 3.5 hours on their phone in a single day. About 20% of phone users spend more than 4.5 hours a day. This time is spent playing games, browsing the news, chatting with friends, and – you guessed it – exploring apps. Mobile advertising is one of the best ways to get eyes on a company, product, or brand.

Just ensure the ads aren’t obtrusive and that they fit naturally into your mobile app design. You want your members to enjoy their experience with your app, not to feel like they’re constantly being sold something.

8. Host a job board

With an industry job board, you can charge employers a fee to post their open positions. This benefits the employers, as they can cast a wider recruitment net to a targeted group of professionals within their industry.

It also benefits your members, who can view career opportunities and tap into potential networking opportunities through your organization.

Associations are the perfect source of potential employees for companies that are looking for specific skills, interests, or experience. You can earn extra revenue from your job board by allowing companies to pay a premium fee to get their job featured or highlighted at the top of the page.

9. Offer sponsored social media posts

So you have sponsors (or former sponsors). If you have an engaged social media audience…why not marry the two?

Your social audience is just as valuable as your email list. Design an advertising opportunity that includes:

  • Sponsored posts
  • AMAs (ask me anything)
  • Sponsored contests or quizzes

Highlight the reach and demographics of your audience to your partners and show how that could benefit the sponsor’s message.

Facebook, TikTok, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram can all be leveraged in their own way! If you don’t want to open the world of social media advertising, you can leverage these platforms in other ways to help generate non-dues revenue:

  • Connect with larger companies who could be potential sponsors for your association
  • Promote events to help sell more tickets
  • Allow online orders of your swag or goods
  • Share ideas you are passionate about to connect with other leaders in your niche to grow your associations’ reach
  • Create online communities to motivate your members to join in on upcoming events, fundraisers, or other activities

10. Plan industry-related training workshops or programs

You probably already hold regular events for your members. But a particularly valuable opportunity might be worth an extra fee.

Consider stretching your networking skills to source well-known industry experts you can partner with, who can lead a workshop or training program.

11. Host an annual conference

Hosting an annual conference can let you bring in non-dues revenue in a couple of ways:

  • Charge for attendance with different ticket price tiers. You can manage the collection of this non-dues revenue through a conference and event management software like MemberClicks.
  • Attract corporate sponsors and offer sponsorship opportunities for the event, booths, or educational sessions.

Annual conferences are a fantastic opportunity to gather industry leaders in one place, reflect on emerging or fading trends, and anticipate what’s coming next in your space. They provide great value to current members, let you connect with potential new members, and build your position as a thought leader within your niche.

12. Organize lunch-and-learn events

You can also charge small fees to attend lunch-and-learn events that can be hosted online or in-person. Again, be sure to offer a unique educational experience or a valuable speaker to entice members to pay the added fee.

Lunch and learns bring members together to help them learn new skills. You can drive non-dues revenue with a lunch and learn event by:

  • Selling tickets for attendees outside of your organization
  • Providing sponsorship opportunities to outside companies
  • Hosting an auction along with your lunch and learn
  • Setting up a swag table and selling off some branded items

13. Offer certifications or accreditation programs

Your members want to advance their careers and rise in their industries. Certificates are another way for them to prove their work. Use your learning management system to offer valuable accreditation or certification programs.

With the job market becoming increasingly competitive, professionals in your industry want the best credentials after their name – and they’re willing to pay for it.

14. Ask for donations

If your organization has a charitable component, you can simply ask for donations. Be sure to clearly explain what the funds will be used for and thank all donors for contributing.

You can also look into grant opportunities from:

  • Governments
  • Foundations
  • Other institutions looking to support specific projects within your field.

15. Affinity Programs and Discounts on Services

Offering affinity programs and discounts on services can be a lucrative non-dues revenue stream:

Special Discounts: Provide members with exclusive discounts on products and services such as insurance plans, travel packages, and office supplies. These affinity programs can offer significant value to members while generating revenue for the organization through flat fees or a percentage of sales.

Branded Credit Cards: Partner with financial institutions to offer branded credit cards to your members. These programs can create a steady income stream from transaction fees and interest payments.

Insurance Plans: Collaborate with insurance companies to offer tailored insurance plans for your members, including health, life, and professional liability insurance. This provides added value to members and generates revenue through commissions.

Challenges to earning non-dues revenue

So you have a small staff. And you’re already overworked. How can you possibly find the time to focus on generating non-dues revenue with everything else on your plate already? We get it!

Focusing on non-dues revenue can feel challenging if your staff doesn’t have the bandwidth to create tons of additional opportunities for members, like training courses or educational resources. However, there are plenty of opportunities your smaller staff can still explore to increase your non-dues revenue. You might even discover that you have more opportunities available than you originally thought!

Smaller organizations can focus on what you already excel at and already have to offer. For instance, try showcasing your smaller organization size as a benefit to advertisers. You can demonstrate how, through your close-knit association, they can gain access to a more specialized, targeted audience for their offerings.

Plus, your association’s audience isn’t just its current members—it’s also their personal networks of family members and friends.

These individuals may also be keeping up with your organization when their loved ones share your social media posts or talk about their involvement. Therefore, they are also members of your wider audience, and a group worth highlighting to your advertisers and other corporate partners.

Sponsorship package tips for small staff organizations

One of the most important non-dues revenue sources for small staff organizations is corporate partnerships. These partnerships typically offer significant monetary support and reduce the need to chase dozens of other opportunities when you simply don’t have the resources to do so.

To secure these valuable partnerships, take a strategic approach to pitching corporate sponsors. And remember: your small staff still has a lot to offer. Don’t shy away from those big opportunities!

Steps for a Strong Corporate Partner Pitch:

  • Analyze your membership demographics to identify interested businesses.
  • Conduct initial research to find companies open to strategic partnerships.
  • Look into potential partners’ activities to craft targeted packages.
  • Create specific opportunities tailored to the company.
  • Look for ongoing partnership elements.
  • Create a sense of exclusivity by limiting the number of opportunities.
  • Send draft partnership plans to prospective partners for their opinions.

Once you’ve narrowed down your list of potential partners, you’ll need to make your pitch. For a strong corporate partner pitch, follow these tips:

Get earning that non-dues revenue!

Non-dues revenue is a great way to keep your organization’s budget strong while keeping member dues low.

By planning out which approaches you want to take—from selling branded swag to offering advertisement opportunities—you can establish an ongoing non-dues revenue stream, regardless of the size of your organization!

Want to take an even deeper dive on how to create your non-dues revenue plan? Download our free resource, The Ultimate Guide to Non-Dues Revenue, for more tips and fresh ideas!

Free Member Retention Guide

Ready to retain members and keep them coming back forever and ever? This guide will teach you everything you need to know about member retention. We cover all the basics, like the first steps to member retention and how to map out your member journey. From there, we dive a bit deeper into retention tips.