3 Benefits of Micro-Credentials for Associations

3 Benefits of Micro-Credentials for Associations

Your association exists because of the many members who engage with and contribute to the organization. However, the pandemic led to a decrease in membership and member engagement for many associations.

Just as there are a number of reasons behind this decline, there are also multiple strategies that your organization can use to reverse the trend. For example, you may have created new networking opportunities and hosted additional events, all with the goal of recruiting new members and retaining your current ones.

However, did you know that micro-credentials (a new type of course that’s trending in the world of instructional design) can help you accomplish both membership-related goals and increase your non-dues revenue at the same time?

We’ll begin with a quick overview of micro-credentials, before examining three benefits in depth. Let’s get started!

What are micro-credentials?

Micro-credentials are short, stackable courses that learners take to develop specific skills in their fields. They’re often asynchronous, meaning that learners complete them on their own time rather than by being guided by a live instructor and in-sync with other learners.

These courses are created with the goal of giving learners an outlet to supplement their core educational pursuits with training targeting specific, high-demand skills. At the end of a course, the learner walks away with a nano-degree, digital badge, or micro-certification that confirms the learner has attained the target skill.

Skyepack’s guide to micro-credentials lists a few common fields that micro-credentials have targeted in the past, including:

  • UX Design

  • Project Management

  • Cyber Security

  • Data Analytics

Learners can access micro-credentials through online education platforms or through organizations of which they’re members. A wide range of organizations—including universities, major corporations, and associations—are now purchasing access to or developing micro-credentials with the goal of sharing them with their members.

Let’s consider an association example to help you see how this could look like in practice. The National Education Association (NEA) is the labor union that represents teachers, support personnel, and other faculty at public K-12 schools, colleges, and universities. NEA is an early adopter of micro-credentials and now offers its members 175 opportunities.

NEA’s micro-credentials are created by educators for educators. They’re personalized, so members choose which credentials to complete based on their interests and career goals. They’re flexible, as members can take lessons when it’s most convenient for them. And lastly, the credentials are performance-based as they are awarded on demonstrated mastery of skills rather than simply sitting for the courses.

3 Benefits of Micro-Credentials for Associations

Now that we’ve covered the basics of what micro-credentials are, let’s discuss the benefits that they can have for your organization. There are three main benefits of incorporating micro-credentials into your continuing education offerings: new member recruitment, non-dues revenue, and member retention.

1. Micro-credentials can be used as a new member recruitment tool.

Skills training is in high demand for working professionals. For example, did you know that at least one-third of the individuals who lost their jobs during the pandemic have reported that they will need additional training to secure a new job? Beyond those who lost jobs during the pandemic, many people are finding that their roles are quickly evolving thanks to the introduction of new technologies. They need to learn how to use these technologies on the job while completing their everyday tasks, and they need to do so quickly.

Skills-specific training can be used as a key “selling point” when trying to recruit new members for your organization. You can advertise your organization’s micro-credentials across all of your association’s social media platforms, as well as through email campaigns, across your website, at conferences, or even in conversations with members.

Even further, consider the example of NEA’s micro-credentials again, specifically with regards to how the organization prices credentials.

The organization offers micro-credentials to all of its members for free, but also offers access to non-members for a $75 fee. Individuals who are in NEA’s target audience can “sample” some of the organization’s offerings before investing in membership. They can experience the benefits of NEA membership and may go on to join the organization after completing a credential.

2. They serve as a new non-dues revenue source.

While NEA chose to provide micro-credentials to members for free, that’s not the only way to handle pricing these courses. 

As an association professional, you’re well aware of the importance of non-dues revenue. The opportunities that you provide to members—let alone your general operating costs—most likely can’t be sustained by member dues alone. In fact, NPOInfo’s charitable giving statistics cite that membership dues often make up less than half of an association’s total revenue.

Many associations are having to get creative to secure extra revenue in the current economy. Micro-credentials are one avenue for increasing revenue, as you can package and sell them to both members and non-members.

Because they’re asynchronous, you don’t have the recurring costs of hiring educators to lead the courses. It’s a form of passive income, as you create the micro-credential one time and an unlimited amount of learners can purchase and complete it without additional work from your team.

Additionally, with methods such as agile instructional design, micro-credentials can be rapidly developed by instructional designers. So, your association can continue making courses quickly and easily, ensuring you always have content that aligns with member interests at any given time.

3. Additional training can lead to improved member retention.

It’s significantly more efficient and cost-effective to retain a current member than recruit and welcome a new one. Luckily, micro-credentials can assist in this regard as well!

Micro-credentials are a great way to increase member engagement, both with new and long-term members. Newly-joined members will see that you offer a wealth of content that is immediately available to them. Rather than waiting for an annual meeting or some other event, they’ll be able to dive in and experience the benefits of membership right off the bat. For long-term members who perhaps have already experienced much of what your organization offers from an educational standpoint, you can regularly provide new and updated content that allows them to continue building their skills with the help of your organization.

When you provide clear, immediate, and ongoing value for members in this manner, it will be easy for them to make the decision to remain with your organization the next time membership dues roll around.


Micro-credentials are on the rise as they meet the need for accessible skills training. However, they also have clear benefits for your association!

With benefits like new member recruitment, non-dues revenue, and current member retention, micro-credentials can help you engage your members going forward. To incorporate them into your educational offerings, consider partnering with an instructional design firm that has expertise in this new and evolving field of learning. Good luck!

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