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5 Tips to Help Your Association Increase Non-Dues Revenues With Online Learning

  • 4 Min Read

Take a closer look at the role online learning can play in driving non-dues revenue for your association.


Associations today face a lot of competition both from each other and from outside training providers, such as third-party companies and higher education institutions. One of the best ways to drive growth is by expanding and broadening income generated through non-dues revenues.

There are several ways you can grow non-dues revenues, but we wanted to take a closer look at the role our area of expertise—online learning—can play in making that happen.

Before We Begin: A Quick Overview of Non-Dues Revenues

Non-dues revenue is any type of revenue that doesn’t come directly from membership fees. Sources could include:

  • Vendor or partner sponsorships
  • Advertising through digital and print media channels
  • Earnings acquired through webinars, publications, merchandise, and other sources
  • Income events, such as annual conferences
  • Fees charged for education or accreditation programs

Comparatively, non-dues revenues make up the majority of revenue for associations—55% on average for trade associations and 70% for professional associations. Increasing non-dues revenues can help your association diversify its income stream, raise its profile in the industry, and attract new members to increase the membership base.

Tip #1: Ensure Learning Content Is Up to Date

Information can easily become outdated and obsolete after only a couple of years. As a provider of continuing education, it’s important for your association to assess its current learning content to make sure it’s up to date and fully reflective of industry trends and standards. As you’re doing this, ask yourself:

  • Are our learner personas—visualizations that help you understand the key characteristics of your typical learners—still accurate? Think about what an average day looks like for them, when and where they interact with their peers, existing knowledge and skills they may have, and role- or industry-specific challenges they may face.
  • Do you need to get subject matter experts (SMEs) involved in making course updates? Especially if your association represents a highly specialized industry, SMEs can play a valuable role in helping you evaluate the content you’re providing and determine whether and how you need to update it. 

Keep in mind that this isn’t a one-and-done activity. It’s important to review your learning programs on a regular basis to make sure they’re always conveying the knowledge and training learners need to stay competitive in their fields.

Tip #2: Create Connections Between You, Your Partners, and Your Learners

Relevant, engaging training and accreditation experiences can help attract non-members to your association. A great way to make sure you’re getting the best content is to find and work with the right partners and vendors who can offer unique subject matter and industry expertise to help you fulfill your audiences’ educational needs.

A few things to remember when you’re reviewing and creating content:

  • Provide the right amount of content. You don’t want to overwhelm people with too much content, nor do you want to leave them asking questions because there’s too little.
  • Make instructions clear and to the point. Adult learners are busy people. Outlining expectations clearly makes it easier for them to carry out and complete tasks.
  • Deliver training within a single cohesive environment. This will make it easier for learners to access the information they need, and it will make experiences more consistent overall.

In some cases, you may be able to work with vendors, partners, SMEs, and other stakeholders to supply you with custom-created courses. Another option you may have is to curate content from trusted third-party content providers.

Tip #3: Deliver Certification Programs Online

Transitioning certification programs online allows everyone—members and non-members—to upgrade their skills and credentials through your association.

For learnersFor your association
it’s about making training and accreditation opportunities more accessible both by minimizing travel and allowing people to learn on their schedule. it can help you scale your initiatives while reducing administrative costs associated with needs such as renting physical classroom space. 

Tip #4: Personalize the Learning Experience

Another benefit associated with online learning is the degree to which you’re able to personalize experiences to suit people’s unique professional development goals. You can do this by suggesting learning paths based on their progress and objectives and by allowing them to search and self-enroll in courses that may be especially valuable for them.

Tip #5: Take a Blended Approach

If you’re considering online delivery models, remember that it doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing transition. Blended offerings can help you appeal to those who want and are able to attend in-person sessions and open the door to people who would prefer or need to attend virtually.

Ultimately, growing non-dues revenues with online learning benefits your association by diversifying and strengthening income, and it benefits learners by giving members and non-members alike the ability to broaden their skills, expand their knowledge, and update their credentials.

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Table of Contents

  1. Before We Begin: A Quick Overview of Non-Dues Revenues
  2. Tip #1: Ensure Learning Content Is Up to Date
  3. Tip #2: Create Connections Between You, Your Partners, and Your Learners
  4. Tip #3: Deliver Certification Programs Online
  5. Tip #4: Personalize the Learning Experience
  6. Tip #5: Take a Blended Approach

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