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Strategic Association & Nonprofit Publishing

In this 8-module self-paced course, you’ll learn from one of the association community’s leading publication experts—Steve Milano. Step by step, you’ll learn how to use the design, editorial, sales, finance, marketing and IT aspects of your own magazine or newsletter to help your association achieve its long-term strategic goals for brand management, advocacy, member recruitment and retention, non-dues revenues, meeting attendance, sponsor promotion and more.

Course Overview

Trade Association & Nonprofit Publishing Best Practices

A Self-Paced 8-Module eLearning Course for Nonprofit Publishing Staff
Led by Steve Milano
Qualifies for 8 CAE Credits
Only $499/Registrant!

Many associations and nonprofits publish magazines and newsletters. Far fewer publish strategic magazines and newsletters. What’s the difference?

A tax-exempt organization's publication should not be a stand-alone asset. It should help the association achieve long-term goals. Doing that means (1) clearly defining those goals and (2) creating a written strategic operating plan that maps out exactly how the publications’ editorial, design, sales, marketing, IT and financial components will be used to support—and achieve—the association’s most important goals.

Now, a breakthrough new eLearning program teaches you how to create this strategic publication plan and put it to work for your own magazine and newsletter.

Register now for 8-Module the Strategic Association & Nonprofit Publishing eLearning Course!

In this 8-module self-paced course, you’ll learn from one of the association community’s leading publication experts—Steve Milano. Step by step, you’ll learn how to better manage the editorial, design, sales, finance, marketing and IT functions of your organization's magazine or newsletter to help your association or nonprofit improve: member recruitment and retention, non-dues revenues, meetings attendance, brand management, advocacy, sponsor promotion and more. You'll also have earned 8 CAE credits!

Create a strategic plan that’s ready to put into action. In every module, you’ll gain insights, best practices and practical tools you can apply immediately to transform your current magazine or newsletter from a publication into a strategic asset for the entire association.

Register now to learn how to create a strategic plan for giving your magazines and newsletters all-new power to help your association or nonprofit, including how to:
  • Define your organization’s specific strategic publishing goals
  • Develop a comprehensive budget document for setting rates, discounts and page counts
  • Engage editors and use departments, columns and features more effectively
  • Identify potential revenue streams for publications, pricing and sales strategies
  • Take the critical step from graphic design to publication design—and understand why it matters
  • Get publications and meetings working together to achieve strategic goals

This online course is of value all membership organizations, trade associations and nonprofits that produce publications. Attendees who will benefit most include:

  • Executive Directors, Presidents, CEOs
  • Communications Directors
  • Publications Directors
  • Marketing Directors
  • Editors in Chief
  • Publication Committee Chairs

Three Easy Ways to Register


Module 1: Reviewing Your Association’s Strategic Goals

Before an association considers how it can publish a “good” or “effective” newsletter or magazine, it must first define what “good” or “effective” is. Many associations limit their definitions to the final printed product, focusing on the editorial, design, number of ads sold, publishing cost and timeliness. Whether or not a trade association is truly “good” or “effective” rests on whether it helps an association achieve the organization’s overall strategic goals, which usually include:
  • Promoting the industry or profession
  • Promoting member needs
  • Increasing new memberships (recruitment)
  • Increasing membership retention
  • Increasing meetings attendance
  • Generating more non-dues revenue (advertising, sponsorship, donations,
  • booths, grants)
  • Generating public awareness
  • Increasing media coverage
  • Increasing industry alliances
  • Lobbying legislatures
  • Increasing member participation (committees, speakers, articles)
This lesson will focus on how to identify the overall strategic coals of a trade association that can be achieved, at least in part, using a publication. Participants will review and assess their association’s strategic goals and assess how their publication can help achieve each goal. Each department’s (e.g. editorial or design) role in achieving organizational goals (not just publication goals) will be examined. Participants will also learn how to create a comprehensive editorial team, including board members and external, non-member constituents.

Module 2: The Finance Function

Before an editor can determine the number of pages for an issue, and before a sales manager can set adverting rates or added-value bonuses, an association must know its cost to print and mail its magazine, including its production and overhead costs.

Students will work with their CFO to determine what it actually costs to create, print and mail their publication, including a per-page cost. The association will then be able to use per-page costs to help the editorial and design departments know how much they can spend each issue (based on the association’s overall goals for the publication), and what rates a sales manager can set and discount.

Students will end up with a comprehensive budget document for publishing a trade association newsletter or magazine.

Module 3: The Editorial Function

In this lesson, students will learn how a publication’s editorial should help a trade association meet its strategic goals. Students will review and assess their publication’s annual editorial with input from a variety of constituents, including the board of directors, an editorial advisory board, association members, industry vendors and suppliers, subject matter experts and the sales department. The team will discuss how to secure the best editorial at the best cost, including creating department, columns and features that create the optimal editorial flow.

Module 4: The Sales Function

This lesson will look at what and how publication sales teams should sell. Working with their editor and sales manager, students will identify potential revenue streams for their association’s publication. Students will work with the sales manager to determine optimal ad rates based on the publishing costs identified in lesson 2.

Students will learn the difference between a product-oriented and sales-oriented approach to publications. The latter can bring in quicker cash, but the former can result in higher revenues, and more importantly, better brand management.

Ideas for different revenue streams will be discussed, as well as pricing strategies based on what students learned during the finance lesson in this course. This lesson will also help students learn how to keep editorial and sales departments working together without sacrificing editorial integrity.

Module 5: The Design Function

Many trade associations use skilled graphic designers with no formal magazine design training to create their publications. This results in publications that are a chaotic series of beautiful, individual designs. Students will learn the basics of publication (not graphic) design to gain a quick understanding of what separates publication design from graphic design. Students will review a checklist of common publication design errors to see if their publication contains any of these problems, sharing them with their publication’s designer.

Module 6: The IT Function

This lesson will review the pros and cons of digital publishing, moving content from a print publication to a website, the role of social media in publishing, premium-content and blogging. Students will work with their IT managers to determine the association’s ability to disseminate publication information online and track it using a variety of analytics tools.

Module 7: The Meetings Function

Meetings can be a great source of editorial for a trade association publication. Publications can be a very effective tool for promoting meetings, increasing attendance and securing more meeting sponsors and exhibitors. This module will focus on how meetings and publications departments can work together to help each department achieve its goals.

Module 8: Creating and Presenting Your Findings

During the final module, students will learn how to put together their strategic operating manual and present it to the various constituents involved with the publication, including: the executive director, board of directors, department heads, advisory board, contributors and staff members.


Steve Milano has worked as a “magazine doctor” for more than 25 years, specializing in restructuring, re-branding and repositioning trade association magazines and newsletters. He has held executive-level positions for numerous trade associations, nonprofit organizations and for-profit businesses across the U.S. His nonprofit clients have included the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters, Georgia Defense Lawyers Association, Kansas Wildlife Federation, Georgia chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects and Professional Tennis Registry Foundation. He is the founder of the U.S. High School Tennis Association. With an undergraduate degree in journalism/advertising and a master’s in journalism/magazine publishing from Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, Steve is an experienced print, SEO and brand content writer.

Continuing Education Credits

This course has been pre-approved for 8 CAE Continuing Education Credits.

Columbia Books & Information Services is a CAE Approved Provider. This program meets the requirements for fulfilling the professional development requirements to earn or maintain the Certified Association Executive credential. Every program that we offer which qualifies for CAE credit will clearly identify the number of CAE credits granted for full participation, and we will maintain records of your participation in accord with CAE policies. For more information about the CAE credential or Approved Provider program, please visit Note: This program is not endorsed, accredited, or affiliated with ASAE or the CAE program. Applicants may use any program that meets eligibility requirements in the specific timeframe towards the exam application or renewal. There are no specific individual courses required as part of the applications – selection of eligible education is up to the applicant based on his/her needs.


Registrants Price
1 $499
2+ $349/each