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Blog: How to Make Research a Part of Your Non-Dues Revenue Strategy

How to Make Research a Part of Your Non-Dues Revenue Strategy

Diversifying revenue streams and maximizing their revenue-generating potential is more critical for associations than ever before. Fortunately, associations can transform research into non-dues revenue by creating a comprehensive strategy for data monetization.

What Is Non-Dues Revenue?

Non-dues revenue is generated outside of member dues and is typically generated from two sources:

1. Suppliers, Vendors, and Advertisers: Stakeholders in these groups partner with associations to reach a community group or industry. 

2. Fees for Services or Information: This includes webinars, books, certifications, branded content, subscriptions, and research. By marrying the latter two (research and subscriptions), it is possible to create sustainable profitability for your association that depends less on member retention—and can even enhance it.

How to Leverage Research for Profit

Though some nonprofits have viewed research programs as too expensive for their budget, they can provide an excellent investment opportunity for long-term revenue generation.

The key is selecting a revenue-generating funding model whereby your association does not absorb the program costs but generates revenue through annual subscriptions and customized research fees. Under such a model, your association develops a profitable industry market report program that produces a consistent revenue stream while providing members with crucial market data and business intelligence. By providing research, your association can extend its value proposition and deliver critical decision-making information to current, prospective, and even lapsed members.

Keys to Successful Data Monetization

There are a few keys that will help your association use research successfully for non-dues revenue while avoiding pitfalls:

1. Consider Competition. It’s critical to ensure you offer your audience unique insight. Is there already an existing body of research that would directly compete with your association’s research program? Consider rival research (from other associations, industry consultants, government agencies, or private research firms) and make any needed adjustments in your research blueprint. 

2. Know When to Outsource Your Research Efforts. Though most associations outsource some or all of their research, many conduct in-house research efforts. When deciding whether your organization should outsource some or all of its research, consider your team’s size and skill set. Evaluate whether you have the appropriate personnel and systems to support the planned research efforts. Considering the sensitivity of the data is equally important in this decision. The more sensitive the data, the more likely associations hire a trusted third-party research firm to conduct surveys with industry-leading security measures and best practices.

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3. Consider Relevance and Appeal. Present your research reports in a customized format, making them visually appealing, interactive, and dynamic. Highlight any related products that could also serve as potential revenue sources.

4. Provide Supplemental Materials and Resources. Boosting your industry research program’s perceived value proposition will increase revenue and member engagement. Offer complementary forums and resources (including webinars, conference sessions, and panel discussions) to spur conversation, enhance engagement, and add value for your participants and subscribers. 

5. Fully Promote Your Research Program and Products. To maximize the value of your data for your member community, leverage digital marketing tools to promote your research program. Segment your membership list and promote your research through customized, benefit-focused messages to each group. Membership marketing materials attract prospective subscribers (for example, your association can tease research findings in a press release to “hook” readers). Also, consider selling reports to other interested parties, such as stakeholders along the supply chain, industry consultants, government agencies, and educational institutions. 

Research and Non-Dues Revenue

Are you effectively using research to generate non-dues revenue? A growing number of associations recognize the value of offering pertinent industry data and turn to Vault Consulting for a best-in-class experience. Our association expertise, paired with extensive experience in research, uniquely positions our team to meet your needs. Contact us for more information about our research programs for associations and nonprofits.

Mike Hayes, MBA
Mike Hayes, MBA
Mike Hayes is a Principal and Managing Director at Vault Consulting, LLC. He has 20 years of experience serving the nonprofit industry, providing survey research and highly complex data analysis. He works closely...
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