Creative ThinkingWhen funds grow tight for associations and their members, a little creative thinking can make a big difference. Take, for example, a new income-generating project in the works at the Indiana Dental Association that not only increases income for the association, but also provides a valuable yet cost-effective service for members.

While the Indiana Dental Association’s Editorial Board has long assumed a passive role in generating income, it became apparent as they prepared their 2012-2013 budgets that funds would be tighter this year. Working with the Editorial Board, Will Sears, Director of Communications, took a proactive role and came up with a creative solution: a self-study continuing education book featuring a variety of topics that would appeal to dentists and hygienists alike. The book — Foundations — will be produced via an online fulfillment service and enables participants to submit their responses through a specially designed segment of the IDA website. Upon successful completion of the program, participants will automatically receive a CE certificate.

In Indiana, dentists must complete 20 hours of continuing education, with at least 10 hours coming from live training. The new book and online submission component will provide a solid option for completing the non-live portion of this requirement. Best of all, at just $25 per credit hour, it’s extremely affordable and participants never have to leave their office.

To keep production costs down, Sears reached out to the IDA membership for help recruiting nationally known speakers and authors in the field of dentistry who were willing to donate to organized dentistry in Indiana and offer expert submissions for the book. Next, he utilized the IDA’s own website committee to oversee the upgraded functionality of the website.

With minimal production costs and staff time, as well as advertising to help cover the costs of the book, Sears projects the project will net at least $25,000 for the association initially. That income could easily increase as IDA opens up space for online advertising as well. “We will utilize this new ‘wing’ of our website to reach out to CE-related entities who may be interested in advertising in this space, thus creating yet more revenues as a result of this project,” says Sears.

The CE book project is a win-win situation for the IDA and its members. According to Sears, “The IDA itself is also a beneficiary in that we’re not only helping the association remain financially healthy, but that we are also offering a high-end resource for which members would have to pay exponentially more from some other providers.”

The scope of this creative, revenue-generating project doesn’t stop there for the Indiana Dental Association. If the CE book program takes off as expected, they are hoping to market it to other dental associations on a national scale.