How to Use a Digital Resource Library to Fund New Member Initiatives: A Handbook

A digital Resource Library is a powerful association tool that provides value to members while generating non-dues revenue to support other programs.

Imagine you’re about to hit send on an association-wide email, but instead of the rising dues notification you’d reluctantly scheduled, you’ve replaced it with a signup for a new learning program. This scenario can be a reality for associations launching new solutions to drive non-dues revenue that can be allocated to fund other member programs.

Associations must continually add value to grow membership, build loyalty, and compete in the attention economy. However, finding funding for innovative new programs with limited resources takes time and effort. And hitting your members with a rise in dues doesn’t go over very well, especially if you don’t have enhanced offerings to show for it. This is where non-dues revenue (NDR) can play a critical role in adding to your association’s value proposition.

To boost association membership and make raving fans out of your members, you need to offer a variety of resources, including timely content that is relevant, insightful, and convenient to consume. New professional development opportunities, career enhancement workshops, and other innovative member programs — They can all be within reach when you use an online Resource Library to grow revenue and add member value.

White Paper:

Growing Non-Dues Revenue with an Online Resource Library

What is a “next-gen” Resource Library?

Nearly all associations have a native resource library of some kind on their website, but a “next-gen” Resource Library is different. It is a branded, interactive digital platform that hosts thought leadership content, including white papers, e-books, podcasts, and videos. Done right, an interactive Resource Library can serve as a one-stop-shop for your organization’s learning resources while also generating a recurring stream of non-dues revenue.

Offering a Resource Library capable of generating money for your association is increasingly important, as traditional avenues of non-dues revenue, like annual events, are no longer as reliable a source of funding for many organizations.

Additionally, Resource Libraries give associations a boost amid growing competition for thought leadership. Other professional development and career advancement content sources, from social media sites like LinkedIn to industry trade publications, continue to proliferate.

Is your current resource library a revenue generator?

Like most associations, you may already have a resource library populated with content from internal sources, but it likely isn’t optimized to generate revenue. In contrast, an interactive Resource Library that enables you to aggregate and monetize curated third-party content can add value for sponsors and members alike. It can complement your existing library while also serving as a new revenue stream for your association.

For example, the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) has two Resource Libraries, including its native resource library, which features reports and other informational resources produced internally for its members.

Then, when the association’s sponsors indicated they needed content syndication opportunities to promote their own thought leadership, engage with members, and generate leads, ACC launched its Partner Knowledge Center, an interactive digital Resource Library featuring high-quality, third-party content targeted to members’ informational needs.

The Partner Knowledge Center has become a recurring source of non-dues revenue for the ACC — revenue that the organization can allocate to fund new member programming.

Case Study:

How the Association of Corporate Counsel Generated $1 Million in Non-Dues Revenue

How a Resource Library works

The content needed to build a revenue-generating Resource Library comes from third-party sponsors, although your association can also add its own content to the online platform to enhance the experience for members.

When an association member is interested in accessing a specific resource, they fill out a short registration form with their business contact information. The sponsor receives the member’s contact information as a sales lead, connecting the organization with a qualified prospective buyer. Sponsors pay a fee for each lead, which serves as a new revenue stream for your association and a way to fund other member programs.

These digital platforms are customized to align with your organization’s strategic mission. Your associations can tailor the content — whether it’s a podcast, white paper, case study, e-book, or article — to target the educational needs of your specific audience. Such targeted information helps engender member loyalty and positions your association as a go-to source for thought leadership.

Some associations, for example, use Resource Libraries to introduce their own learning paths, which consist of a series of related, self-paced education and training courses. It’s yet another way the online platform can make your association more valuable for members, especially with training noted as one of the most important benefits of association membership, according to the 2021 Association Trends Study by Community Brands.

Moreover, when an association partners with a third-party like Lead Marvels to launch a white-labeled Resource Library on its website, there is no cost whatsoever — No upfront costs or ongoing licensing fees, no investment in new technology, and no need to hire additional staff because an online Resource Library can be fully managed by Lead Marvels.

Lead Marvels follows a simple revenue share formula with its association partners. For every dollar generated, the association gets 40%, Lead Marvels gets 40%, and the party who sold the program to the sponsor gets 20%. The latter is typically a member of the association’s sales team or the Lead Marvels sales team.

And unlike conferences and meetings, Resource Libraries are always on. This kind of 24/7/365 access is convenient for members and serves as a recurring revenue stream that you can reliably add to your budget and use to fund other strategic initiatives.

To build or partner?

If you’re interested in developing a Resource Library for your association, you may wonder if it’s best to build your own or partner with a third party, like Lead Marvels.

Consider the following factors when making your decision:

  • 1. Overall goals. What’s your objective for launching a Resource Library? If it’s to provide members with a simple listing of in-house resources, building it on your own makes sense. But a partnership is the way to go if you’re looking to host a more robust platform with a larger volume of curated content from your association, sponsors, and other thought leaders.

  • 2. Revenue. Partnering with the right third party enables you to monetize your Resource Library and establish a new source of recurring non-dues revenue. Building it on your own limits your ability to leverage the content for revenue.

  • 3. Technical resources. If you do not have an internal development team with the skills and time to create, implement, and manage a scalable online platform, partnering with a third-party company with the expertise and tech stack is a strategic solution.

  • 4. Financial resources. A partnership enables you to launch a customized and branded Resource Library with little-to-no investment. Trying to build such an online platform on your own typically requires significant funds and ongoing maintenance costs.

  • 5. Analytics. Google Analytics and other online reporting tools make it relatively easy to track website traffic and gain insight into users’ informational needs and interests. But a third-party online analytics dashboard can provide a deeper look at what content resonates with members and help you fine-tune and target your online offerings.

  • 6. Content development. If you don’t have content marketing experience, developing, securing, and positioning timely and relevant content to support your members’ informational needs can be challenging. Partnering with a third party takes the guesswork out of the labor-intensive process and gives you more time to pursue other priorities and initiatives.

Alternative revenue sources and deeper member engagement

With a “next-gen” Resource Library, you can use curated, third-party content to make your association more valuable to members while also generating essential non-dues revenue to fund other programs. It’s a powerful tool, especially in partnership with Lead Marvels. Our established platform model can provide all the necessary resources and expertise — at no cost to you.

Request a no-obligation demo to learn more about the unique Lead Marvels Resource Library partnership program that more than one hundred associations have already implemented.

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