Published On: March 30, 2014By
Association learning programs offer multiple benefits for members and organizations - Independent learning technology analyst John Leh looks at 5 key reasons why it pays to invest

The Compelling Business Case for Association Learning Technology

Are you an association leader or administrator? Do revenues from your online learning and certification programs exceed your annual membership revenues? If not, you’re missing the boat. It’s time to make member learning and professional development your primary source of revenue. Why? Your peers are already onboard.

Recent history has been tough for associations and member-based organizations. But now is the time to invest in continuing education capabilities.  With the economy tanking in 2001 and again in 2009, associations have had to work harder than ever to attract new members and drive revenue.  Sure, most associations are non-profit organizations, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need, want or deserve to profit.  Extra income is an opportunity to reinvest funds and offer even greater value to members.  It’s a smart, sustainable business strategy.

It’s Not About the Association LMS. It’s About What an LMS Can Do For Your Association

At its core, an association provides networking, professional development, information, best practices, and research — all to support professionals in their particular field. Every association provides members with some level of education.

But here’s the challenge:  How can associations provide more valuable education to more people — and charge for it — so they can fund expansion into new areas? Here’s the best answer:  Invest in a modern learning management system (LMS) loaded with a library of relevant, useful, engaging learning content. Content that is customized for specific training, continuing education and certification capabilities your association members need and want to help them manage their careers more effectively.

Progressive associations that have adopted association learning management systems are transforming their business models. They’re learning that this investment allows them to grow revenue exponentially, while increasing membership, reducing turnover and reducing the cost of reaching and retaining every new member. It’s cheaper to have learning technology than not to have it — even when you include the initial investment in your calculations.

Here are top 5 reasons why your association should invest in the best association-focused learning solution you can afford:

1) Revenue Generation

Membership dues, alone, are insufficient for long-term organization viability. Professionals need continuing education. Webinars, self-paced learning, online courses, virtual meetings, videos, blogs and mentoring programs are all forms of content they will buy to prepare for certifications and maintain them over time. A learning management system can facilitate marketing, sale, delivery and administration of all learning activities and programs.

2) Global Membership Expansion

If associations are not growing their membership they are shrinking. Expansion into all geographic areas of the globe is an easy way to build membership. In the past, this was only possible thought major on-the-ground investment in each region. However, with an LMS and elearning content, it’s as simple as setting up a new “domain” for a new geography and localizing your proprietary content. Boom. You are up and running wherever you want to be.  No bricks, mortar or employees needed in distant parts of the world.

3) Economies of Scale

Associations can benefit from elearning for the same reasons why elearning is beneficial in any academic or business environment. How else can you easily reach any number of learners — from several hundred to several hundred thousand — at their convenience?  Online learning delivery gives you an opportunity to deliver consistent content that is instantly available to your association members, wherever they are on whatever browser or device they choose. Meanwhile, you minimize costs by developing courses and related content only once, but deliver to everyone who needs it through a single, centralized channel. The cost efficiency of this approach is undeniable.

4) Certification and Accreditation Management

Many certifications and accreditations are managed at the state level, with different requirements for different states for earning and maintaining the certifications. This is tough to manage with an LMS and practically impossible without one. Members are seeking for a centralized place online to manage their career, certifications and professional development and will choose an association with solutions that provide the best mix.

5) Increase Value-Add for Members

Members join associations for the value they hope to receive. New methods are required to engage younger, more mobile, more social and more global members.  Association learning technology is the vehicle you have to reach and engage these new audiences.  It’s not enough to have tradeshows, live seminars and PDFs as your education.


Don’t look at learning management technology as a cost. Look at it as an investment to provide added value to members and significant incremental revenue for your association.  LMS and elearning technology is no longer new or risky for associations, if you take the time to document your needs and find the right partner. The biggest trick is to find LMS vendors that understand associations, and have invested in their product to support your unique needs.

We invite you to review our compilation of association industry case studiesvendor reviews and consulting services to help with your research into association learning technology.

Thanks for reading!


How to Drive Online Learning at Scale: Corporate Market Strategies for Associations

Selling online learning content to individuals is challenging enough. But selling that same content in bulk through corporate customers or partners can be even more demanding. The business models are fundamentally different. Plus, business-to-business relationships require specialized content management functionality.

What does it take to succeed?

Join John Leh, CEO and Lead Analyst at Talented Learning, as he hosts a live virtual panel with experts who have developed and managed profitable B2B online education programs:

  • William Hold, Chief Development Officer, The National Alliance for Insurance Education and Research
  • Linda Bowers, CTO, WBT Systems

In this dynamic one-hour roundtable, you’ll learn how to:

  • Build a viable business model for bulk sales
  • Develop effective pricing and marketing strategies
  • Compare tradeoffs of selling through sales reps versus online channels
  • Delegate content administration, reporting and user provisioning
  • Integrate core learning systems with CRM platforms and other operational applications
  • Achieve internal buy-in, drive project momentum and maintain organizational alignment

All live webinar attendees will receive 1 credit toward a Certified Association Executive (CAE) credential application or renewal.


Need Proven LMS Selection Guidance?

Looking for a learning platform that truly fits your organization’s needs?  We’re here to help!  Submit the form below to schedule a free preliminary consultation at your convenience.

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About the Author: John Leh

John Leh is Founder, CEO and Lead Analyst at Talented Learning and the Talented Learning Center. John is a fiercely independent consultant, blogger, podcaster, speaker and educator who helps organizations select and implement learning technology strategies, primarily for extended enterprise applications. His advice is based upon more than 25+years of learning-tech industry experience, serving as a trusted LMS selection and sales adviser to hundreds of learning organizations with a total technology spend of more than $100+ million and growing. John would love to connect with you on Twitter or on LinkedIn.

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