What types of communities can be monetized?
First of all, it’s really important to note that not everyone wants (or needs) to monetize their online community.
If you want to geek out about Rick & Morty with your fellow fans in a “labor of love” community, that’s totally legit.
However, many community builders are looking for ways to defray their costs, add a side hustle, or add revenue to the balance sheet. And the benefits might not always be cold hard cash.
Communities can have lots of follow-on benefits that might add to your bottom line indirectly:
- Attracting business opportunities or partnerships
- Positioning you as a thought leader (which could lead to speaking opportunities)
- Boosting general awareness of your product, mission, or services
Getting back to our Rick & Morty passion project...why not approach Cartoon Network and see if they’d like to support your community in some way? Even a box of t-shirts would be cool, right?
The direct path is to integrate a “donate” button to your community. Allow one-time and recurring donations, and make sure the button is visible on all pages (the header is a good location).
If donations are a key goal, double check to make sure the button is visible in mobile browser view as well.
The Kids with Food Allergies community does a great job with its Donate button in the header.
For nonprofits, another indirect way to monetize is to use the community to attract and retain donors. Here are some ideas for enhancing donor retention with a community:
- Share your financial reports and strategic planning data
- Share success stories with multimedia case studies and quotes from real people who were impacted by the nonprofit’s activities
- Recognize key donors with thank you’s from the community
- Provide space for donor Q&A so they can feel comfortable with your organization
- Make donors’ lives easier by providing any tax forms or information they need in a self-service space
- Consider creating a private space within the larger community, where donors can interact directly with your board or leadership team
You might already be collecting dues; however, community access can be a key benefit for membership either as part of the annual dues, or as a premium add-on.
Make it easy on your members and tie the login credentials for the community to their existing login in your membership platform (you can use single sign-on or an API for that).
Check out this great promo from VolPro, a community for training volunteers.
If you’re not collecting dues, consider reaching out to sponsors who may want to access the professionals in your community. If there’s a natural fit, the sponsor’s information will be useful to your members. (Think about a home goods sponsor for a design association.)
The community space can also be used to add value to any existing paid certification courses, workshops, or events you’re running. Discussions, resources, and support can all be offered to your members in the community.
Brand communities usually provide more indirect value to the business, like awareness, customer retention, and support call deflection (fancy marketing term for “let’s get fewer tech support calls”).
But hey, there’s nothing stopping you from using paid memberships, ads, or targeted sponsorships for a business community!
The Penny Hoarder (financial advice publisher) does a fantastic job with sponsored Q&A events in their forums, for example.