How to offer new virtual association membership benefits while expanding non-dues revenue streams is a big topic for many associations right now, whether it’s due to event cancellations or members questioning their own budgets.
As much as you want to introduce new benefits for members to encourage retention, especially during this time, it’s hard to justify spending more. New benefits must be weighed against the need to create new revenue streams.
The best of both worlds would be a member benefit that also helps you generate more non-dues revenue.
Does that magic bullet exist?
We think so. And it lies in expanding your association’s online learning program.
Education is a huge benefit that associations can provide for their members, and online education through a Learning Management System, or LMS, is a great way of providing it.
Members still need to take essential certifications and want to further their professional development, and they still want to stay connected with other members, even though they can’t attend in-person classes or meet with their peers at your annual conference.
Whether you offer any sort of paid certifications, training, continuing education credits, or virtual courses for professional development, you can maximize the reach of each of these to expand those non-dues revenue streams while providing a new digital membership benefit (which, in turn, can increase dues revenue through more membership signups).
But offering more classes isn’t the only consideration.
You may be competing for membership dollars, since many individuals are members of multiple associations, and you want your educational program to stand out from the crowd.
How can you help create an effective, engaging educational program that truly differentiates your organization and the membership benefits you offer?
Try pairing your LMS with community engagement.
Creating a sense of community in your online and in-person educational offerings can lead to higher member satisfaction, deeper connections with and between your members, and increased revenue for your organization.
Pair Your Community and LMS to Create a Top Association Member Benefit
With an LMS that seamlessly integrates with your online community, it’s possible to create a centralized member experience that includes education and certifications of all types.
Looking for more detail about integrating community and an LMS? Check out our eBook, where we also share the six of the best features to look for in LMS software.
By integrating your online community and your LMS through single-sign-on, you can create a seamless member experience. And making it seamless will help you maintain high participation and engagement rates. Using an integration that allows for Single Sign-on (SSO) between the community and LMS will help your members easily move from one to the other.
The American Gear Manufacturers’ Association uses their integrated LMS and Higher Logic Community to help their members succeed and stay connected. Learn more.
With a connected LMS and community, you can award badges and ribbons to gamify the experience: A healthy amount of social pressure is a good way to encourage members to dip their toes into virtual learning.
“Build your LMS directly into your community to bring peer-to-peer support and subject matter experts together in a dynamic environment, all while offering individualized participant experience. Imagine this cohesive environment supported by single sign-on and a fully branded presence that mirrors your organization. Offering this type of all-in-one experience will significantly improve the way your community learns, engages and interacts with your purpose.”
Richard Finstein, CEO and Founder, CommPartners
By giving members who have completed certain courses or certifications badges, members can see who else uses your LMS resources – another way to naturally promote paid courses to other members in the community and earn more non-dues revenue.
Tip: You could also use your LMS to earn dues revenue by using it as a tool for recruitment. For example, if you advertise certain courses as free to members, and charge a fee for non-members, you can use it as a marketing tool to recruit new members to your association.
Make These 3 Types of Virtual Learning Experiences More Engaging with an Online Community
If your association is looking for ways to embrace online learning, here are three traditional learning experiences that you can offer online and encourage participation in using your online community.
1. Individual Learning
Individual learning experiences are self-study courses. A member works on their own to consume educational material and pass assessments. A traditional individual learning experience could look like a member reading a textbook and completing a worksheet on the material.
How to Encourage Participation Using Your Community
Use your LMS to develop individual virtual courses. To build your courses around an individual experience, design each course or set of courses around videos, documents, and assessments that your members can complete, encouraging them to seek help from an instructor or their peers – easily accessible through your online community.
Your digital courses can stand alone, or they can be grouped together into related learning paths that teach your members a variety of skills. When members complete the entire learning path, award them a badge or ribbon in the community.
2. Group Learning
Group learning is a collective experience. Instead of one person consuming material and drawing their own conclusions, members interact with their peers and teachers to get different perspectives and ideas. Traditional group learning formats include workshops and roundtable discussions.
How to Provide a Group Learning Experience Online
The most common online group learning format is a live webinar. During a webinar, participants can ask questions either verbally or through chat boxes, interacting with the presenter and their peers.
Many standalone learning management systems support live webinars, but to take group learning to the next level, choose an LMS that’s tightly integrated with an online community platform.
Online communities provide more tools for students to interact with one another, including private communities just for people taking courses. In these communities, members can ask and answer questions in discussion forums, have conversations about course material, and share ideas. Teachers and experts can also engage with learners to provide deeper insight into challenging concepts.
3. Blended Learning
Blended learning experiences mix individual coursework with group learning. This approach is common in traditional classrooms, where students are led by teachers, but also complete some assignments individually. Students frequently take a break from individual assignments to interact with peers as well, breaking into groups for discussions or larger projects.
Take Your Blended Learning Experience Online
If you already have the tools to provide individual and group learning, then creating a blended learning experience is easy – just create courses that include elements from both. This may mean that you create a single course that includes text documents for members to read on their own while also incorporating live webinars.
But the easiest way to create a blended learning experience is to build individual courses in your learning management system and automatically invite participants to an online community designed specifically for students or alumni.
This tends to be the easiest solution for associations because, while staff can stimulate discussions, the community also allows participants to engage organically. They can ask their own questions, which are answered by peers, and discuss material without detailed oversight from your staff. Program alumni can also stay in touch after the course has ended to discuss how they’ve applied the curriculum in their day-to-day processes.
Pro Tip: Not all online learning needs to be centered around courses. Online mentoring programs that help members learn practical skills from experts are also effective blended learning tools.
Mentoring programs can be popular because they allow mentors and mentees to connect regardless of location and focus on the most useful skills and information. Many mentees apply what they’ve learned immediately to perform better at work and advance their careers.
Engage Members with a Full Experience Using Learning and Community
The best learning management systems will make creating an engaging experience easy by supporting a variety of content types and integrating with your AMS and online community. With every tool tightly connected, you can provide effective online education that fits each individual member’s needs and increases non-dues revenue.
Are you ready to jumpstart your learning program with community?
Senior Community Strategist
Laura Coscarelli is a Senior Community Strategist at Higher Logic. With 10 years of previous experience as a community manager, she now consults with association and corporate customers as they plan, launch, and grow their online communities. Laura loves the excitement of the moment right before a new community goes live – knowing the impact that it will have on the organization and the users. When she’s not cheerleading for her customers, she enjoys hosting fondue dinner parties, restoring old houses, and biking with her husband in Washington, D.C.
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