The Necessity of Association Non-Dues Revenue

The challenges which face association executives and staff are complex.  How can we attract new members, drive involvement, advocate member interests, and increase the value of dues collected each year, all without asking for more money from our membership?

Sure, we can lean up the organization, cancel a few events, advocate less, delay our much-needed digital facelift or move our annual meeting to a cheaper location.  But what if we don’t want to do those things?  What if we do not want to move backwards?  If this is you, keep reading.

You are not alone.  Hundreds of associations face this dilemma and most have come to realize the only way to meet the challenges while avoiding the pains is to raise money.  The problem is, traditionally associations which require more funding tend to go to their members first.  The result: diminished member value.  The best way to face the challenges of today without risking the successes of tomorrow is to increase non-dues revenue.

Discussing non-dues revenue within associations can sometimes be like speaking a new language for the first time; you have an idea of what you would like to say, but no idea where to start or how to say it.  Associations which are able to generate revenue outside its member dues should be better-positioned to provide the value its members require.

But if money is to be made by the association outside of member dues, how will the money come?  The answer: leverage the association audience.  Take for instance, the Texas Cotton Association.  If you are a company looking to advertise a product to players in the cotton industry, where is the best place to invest your advertising dollars?  There is no place for the advertiser to get a more focused, narrow audience, than through the associations who represent the target audience.  In this case, the Texas Cotton Association provides advertisers an opportunity to gain direct exposure to over 400 individuals and companies who are directly associated with the cotton industry.  Dollar for dollar, there is no better value for the advertiser.  So why isn’t every association taking advantage of the value found in their membership?

In short, the answer lies in our limited staff.  Association staff members often wear many hats and in many cases take on responsibilities outside the scope of its skill set.  Even so, when a new task arises, our tendency is to work within our existing resources.  With non-dues revenue this simply can’t be the case.  If we want to increase our non-dues revenue, it’s time to allocate a dedicated workforce to maximize our revenue potential and ensure we are providing the best possible value to our membership.  So rather than bundle our digital advertising opportunities with our print teams, or having our meetings coordinator spearhead our sales efforts, let’s evolve with the digital era and figure out how to become the best at selling our audience.

For more questions about our association partnerships and how to partner with MultiView, email John Merris, Manager, Multiview Partnerships, at .


  1. […] A newsletter published by the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) announced that an unprecedented 40% of emails are being opened on mobile devices. In other words, for the first time ever, more emails are being opened on mobile devices than desktop computers. For associations who publish newsletters and other media products, these statistics may be startling. In fact, associations who dabble in publishing are now considering the time and investment required to ensure they meet the needs of their target audience. Recently, I have had numerous conversations with communications directors and executive directors who are concerned about mobile applications and their ability to ensure the association’s publications are accessible to the market. But with limited staff and resources, the cost seems high and the task daunting. For many, the association publishing effort is already a huge burden on staff and budget; and adding the need for mobile applications may be the tipping point that association executives cannot reasonably address without sacrificing other aspects of their association. Unfortunately, if associations choose to remain entrenched in practices of the past, they may find themselves irrelevant in the marketplace. Kevin Williams, professor of marketing at the University of Texas, put it like this: “Organizations can choose to innovate and differentiate on their own, or be forced to do so by competitors.” What we know is that doing nothing will leave the association empty-handed. The publishing effort made by associations today is requiring creativity, innovation and flexibility. There are multiple solutions to consider when addressing this dilemma. I speak with many associations who have hired new employees that have experience in technology enhanced publishing efforts. However, this is difficult because the best talent is working its way into large digital publishing companies, and associations rarely have budget to attract the needed talent. A second and possibly more viable solution is for associations to partner with digital publishing companies who understand both associations and digital publishing. This approach is proving successful for associations who are able to leverage the staff, knowledge and resources of a 3rd party. Some of these publishers are dedicated to association publishing efforts and do not cost the associations anything. In fact, as part of some partnership agreements, associations gain access to the staff and resources of the 3rd party publishing team at no cost, and then leverage the sales arm of the publisher to generate non-dues revenue. […]

  2. […] So where do associations turn? Sure, you could increase members’ dues, but are your members going to spend more money than they did the previous year on a membership with your association? Some may. Others may drop off and let their membership expire because they simply cannot justify the cost increase. Maybe you could cancel some events or scale back on staff. Then again, how is that going to help your case in offering your members something they cannot find elsewhere? This is where non-dues revenue comes in handy.  […]

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