Securing Your Association's Financial Stability: Building Resilient Continuing Education Revenue Streams

How The Evergreen Model Builds Sustainable CE Revenue
Andrii Yalanskyi/
Summary: Ensure financial stability for your association with resilient continuing education revenue streams and an evergreen business model.

Building Sustainable Revenue Streams With The Evergreen Model

In the face of economic instability, it’s crucial for organizations to take proactive measures to ensure their financial health. This requires a forward-thinking approach to educational offerings, shifting from one-off courses and events to sustainable learning pathways and credentials that provide ongoing value. By branching out into certifications, micro-credentials, and innovative content packaging, you can establish robust continuing education revenue streams. The evergreen model, with its emphasis on scalable automated systems, adaptable incremental learning, and fostering member loyalty, is the key to not just surviving but flourishing in an unpredictable economic landscape.

By branching out into certifications, micro-credentials, and innovative content packaging, you can establish robust eLearning revenue streams that can withstand economic downturns. The evergreen model emphasizes scalable automated systems, adaptable incremental learning, and the cultivation of member loyalty—essential components for navigating through turbulent times. In this article, we will delve into strategies for safeguarding your association’s financial stability by transforming your educational offerings into self-sustaining products. You’ll discover how to shield your association from declining membership dues and ensure a consistent stream of non-dues revenue from CE.

Understanding The Evergreen Business Model

If you've been involved in the business world, you're likely familiar with the concept of an evergreen business model. This model is designed to maintain itself and generate revenue consistently over the long term, with minimal ongoing efforts. It enables sustained profitability and productivity. Key characteristics of an evergreen business model include:

  • Addressing enduring needs
    It serves a market need that is unlikely to disappear, such as providing essential consumable products.
  • Recurring revenue
    It offers products or services that customers want to purchase repeatedly over time, resulting in predictable revenue. Examples include software with monthly or annual subscriptions.
  • Automation and scalability
    It relies on automated and scalable systems and processes, reducing the need for extensive manual labor.
  • Low maintenance costs
    It requires minimal maintenance and overhead expenses to remain profitable.
  • Resilience
    It can withstand external events and market fluctuations.
  • Diverse revenue streams
    It diversifies revenue sources and caters to multiple customer segments to mitigate risks.
  • Retention focus
    It prioritizes customer retention over the constant acquisition of new customers.

During uncertain economic periods, building an evergreen business model to generate non-dues revenue becomes imperative. Associations can effectively apply the principles of this model to their educational programs, creating sustainable non-dues revenue streams.

Maintaining Relevance: Generating Non-Dues Revenue With Educational Material

The first step is to create educational content and courses that focus on developing essential, timeless skills that are relevant to your members. Choose topics that will remain pertinent over time. For example, fundamental skills such as leadership, communication, and team management are consistently valuable across various roles and industries.

You may already have access to some of this content. If not, there are resources available to help you create engaging, evergreen content specific to your industry. However, the challenge often lies in presenting this educational content in a sustainable and revenue-generating way. A crucial component of this is having a Learning Management System (LMS) as the central hub for all your educational content. To support an evergreen business model, your LMS should:

  • Grow with your organization
    It should have the ability to expand alongside your association.
  • Provide eCommerce functionality
    It should include built-in eCommerce functionality and reporting.
  • Integrate smoothly
    Integration with your Association Management System (AMS) is essential.
  • Improve User Experience
    It should make it easy for your audience to discover and purchase learning products.

Once you have your content and a reliable content delivery system (LMS) in place, the next step is to package your content and create learning products.

Presenting Educational Content: The Standard-Advanced-Premium Model

The "standard-advanced-premium" model is a tiered pricing strategy that offers customers multiple product or service levels at different price points. It consists of:

  • Standard
    The basic or entry-level offering, providing core functionality or value at an affordable price.
  • Advanced
    A mid-tier offering with additional features, capabilities, or quality compared to the "standard" option.
  • Premium
    The top-tier offering with the most robust feature set, highest quality, or maximum value, priced at the highest tier.

Many businesses adopt this model to cater to various customer needs and budgets. Associations can effectively use it to package educational offerings.

Turning Your Content Into Products: Creating Evergreen Educational Offerings

As previously discussed, evergreen business models include products or services that customers consistently purchase over time, leading to predictable recurring revenue. These products consistently meet essential market needs and remain resilient in the face of economic challenges. For educational content, certifications, and industry-recognized certificates are prime examples of valuable evergreen products. Here’s the distinction between the two:

  • Certifications
    Usually signify successful exam completion, indicating mastery or competency in a specific area. Certification standards may be industry-wide and require ongoing continuing education or maintenance.
  • Industry-recognized certificates
    Represent completion of training or education, signifying acquisition of knowledge or skills. They may not adhere to any specific standard.

To transform certifications and industry-recognized certificates into profitable learning products, associations can:

  • Identify high-demand certification topics by analyzing skills gaps and workforce needs.
  • Segment the curriculum into modules or micro-credentials for targeted skill training.
  • Provide programs through an LMS for broader access, including self-paced courses, virtual sessions, videos, and quizzes.
  • Create stackable credentials, allowing learners to progress through multiple certificate levels.
  • Generate additional revenue by developing exam prep materials and assessments.
  • Offer comprehensive solutions by bundling courses, materials, exams, and credentials.
  • Collaborate with technology providers to issue verifiable digital credentials.
  • Provide continuing education opportunities to maintain credentials.

Elevating Your Strategy With The Three x Three Model

The Three x Three Model by UC Davis Continuing and Professional Education involves creating a series of short learning courses bundled together into credential packages. It includes:

  • Selecting 3 key learning domains.
  • Developing 3 courses for each domain, resulting in 9 courses.
  • Grouping the 3 courses within each domain into bundles that culminate in a micro-credential.
  • Offering the complete package of all 9 courses.


In conclusion, by implementing these strategies, your association can strengthen its financial foundation and navigate economic uncertainties with confidence. Embrace the evergreen model, package your content wisely, and offer valuable, recurring educational products. By taking these steps, you can ensure long-term stability and prosperity for your organization.

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InReach CE Learning Management System
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