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.

So, how can you…

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

The answer: grow non-dues revenue.

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.

This guide will explain what non-dues revenue is and how you can start to grow this added revenue stream at your own organization!

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.

14 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. As you review these options, consider which will be the best fit for your unique organization’s needs. Test things out, and find the options that work for you. What’s great for one organization or association might not work for another!

1. Sell branded merchandise.

Branded merchandise is a way for your to increase your non-dues revenue, while strengthening your relationship with your members.

A big plus: 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!

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. 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 on your website. You can charge businesses to include their banner ads on your website.

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. 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.

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

And other social media placements

Highlight the reach and demographics of your audience to your partners and show how that could benefit the sponsor’s message. As always, you’ll also want to ensure the ad content is relevant to your members for greater engagement, which benefits both your members and your sponsors.

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. This limited-time educational opportunity could bring in additional revenue!

11. Host an annual conference.

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

  1. First, you can charge for attendance. Offer different ticket price tiers with your registration in case members want to attend individually or with a table of guests from their company or other networks. You can manage the collection of this non-dues revenue through a conference and event management software like MemberClicks.
  2. Second, you can use the event to attract corporate sponsors. Offer sponsorship opportunities for everything from sponsoring the event as a whole, to hosting booths or educational sessions.

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.

You may also want to consider opening these up to non-members, as well, for a slightly higher fee. This adds to your non-dues revenue stream while demonstrating the value of your organization to non-member participants…

And they might even become members, too, if the experience is good!

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.

As it’s fairly common for these types of programs to charge a fee, your members will likely be amenable to the additional cost, especially if you offer a special discount for them.

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.

Challenges to Earning Non-Dues Revenue for Small Staffs

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!

Your first step will be figuring out who to pitch and what you can offer them. During this preparatory stage, try following this step-by-step overview:

  1. Analyze your membership demographics to identify who exactly your members are, and what types of businesses would be interested in marketing to them.
  2. Conduct initial research to identify companies that have formed strategic relationships with other organizations in the past or present to find those that already value these types of partnerships. Finding those already open to the idea will economize your time.
  3. Look into potential partners’ activities. Ultimately, you’re going to craft a package that will speak to their motivations. Knowing their objectives and marketing initiatives helps you be on target with your pitch.

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:

  • Create specific opportunities and tailor them to the company you’re pitching. For example, if your prospective partner has a corporate social responsibility goal around conducting more community outreach, perhaps you could organize an event for them to be able to share their services with your members through an educational webinar.
  • Look for ways to continue these opportunities throughout the year. Maybe the sponsorship includes a series of smaller events throughout the year, or you allow partners to be the sole sponsor of all of your monthly emails throughout the year. The point is to bake in an ongoing partnership element upfront.
  • Create a sense of exclusivity by limiting the number of overall opportunities you have available. Let your potential partner know that you aren’t partnering with just anyone who asks.
  • Send your draft partnership plan to your prospective partners and ask for their opinions. This helps to build stronger relationships for your organization. It also asks potential partners to get involved in a casual way upfront.

Wrapping Up

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!