Regardless if your forum is public or private, you might decide to generate revenue through membership fees. Five strategies are generally available:
- Supporter Badge. Allow members to join and participate in your forum for free. Encourage users to show off their community pride and donate money to the site in exchange for a “Forum Supporter” badge next to their user name.
- Exclusive Content For VIPs. Encourage users to to upgrade to paid, VIP memberships in exchange for access to exclusive content, areas of the forum or site, and other benefits.
- One-Time Fee. Charge a one-time admission fee for forum access, creating a lifetime membership group.
- Recurring Fee. Charge a monthly or yearly subscription fee for access to the forum.
- Lurkers Pay. Regular participants (e.g., those who make at least 10 posts per month) are exempt from paying a monthly fee but lurkers are not.
Allowing basic memberships for free is advantageous because it helps grow your user base, and growing participation in your forum may encourage users to upgrade by increasing their involvement in the community. However, not all users will upgrade, so your subscription fees must support the cost of non-paying users.
One-time application fees may limit initial participation in your forum, but will create a group of committed members who are strongly disposed to participate in the forum by virtue of their investment. Renewable subscription fees provide a happy medium, but renewals should be automatically recurring to encourage continued membership.
Many options exist for forums with paid memberships. The biggest strategic question is whether to make your forum’s content public or private. In turn, this decision dictates the optimal solution for your community.