Revenue: Upgraded Memberships


Tazmanian Veteran
Jan 1, 2004
Kathy submitted a new Article:

Revenue: Upgraded Memberships

Article - Revenue: Using Subscriptions/Upgraded membership

Once an online community's bills go beyond the normal range of a hobbyist, the questions that tend to come up most often are these: Can I re-coop my funds in some way through my forums? Can I make a living?

This article of ideas isn't necessarily for those who own forums that are on the small side. Small forums on shared servers and small hosting plans won't necessarily need funds to cover their costs because their out of pocket expenses may not be exorbitant. They could also damage their community if upgraded memberships became a source of issue within the small group.

But if your forums grow and you find yourself needing a dedicated server with plenty of bandwidth and have too much traffic for your means, you will find yourself wondering if have to get a second job to pay for your online community's traffic.

There is more than one way to raise the needed funds to keep your website online, pay its bills and perhaps earn some profit. Here is one way:


Unless you have content that is extremely valuable that you can lock up the and charge for access, I don't suggest you charge each member to use your site. I have heard of websites that closed their forums except to paying members and within a few months their community was gone.

Voluntary subscriptions is one idea that I've found successful for my forums.

Your registered member will need basic features to their membership in order to understand how the community works. If you cut them off from all features, there is no understanding of what they *might* have if they upgraded.

Your upgraded members should be given added features for their subscription payment.

Built in Features like:
Added PM space
Ability to use attachments
Ability to use avatars
Ability to create a custom title
private forum
integrated add-ons
photo gallery usage
chatroom usage
mailbox/email account

I'm sure there are other benefits you can provide for your community that might be connected to your community's niche. Listen to your community to discover the most attractive upgrade package.

Once you've made the decision to create a membership upgrade package, what next?

Make your plan:

1. Set the permissions for this special usergroup in preparation. Test the settings to make sure they are functioning with your forums software. I use vbulletin because...

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Mar 2, 2004
Perhaps in USA this practice is common.
But in my country people prefer to get all for free. So they just go to another free board. :(
the second thing is that we are not a paypal valid country, so there are no easy and quick way to pay for subscriptions. :(


Jan 17, 2004
Subscriptions are usually optional. People who donate get extra perks. In most instances the board itself is still free.


Feb 9, 2004
This method has worked wonderfully for us! We have quite a bit of content available for free members, and added "perks" for the upgraded members. We also never called it a "paid membership" but an "upgraded account" so people didn't get confused that they had to pay. For the paid members, they get access to PM's, use of avatars, playing in the "dollar store", the quick reply box, and the search function. The paid members also get access to another group of forums hobby/entertainment related. We offer up the support forums and our "Main Event" to the free members.

We use for payments, and also accept paypal. Those using paypal have the manually upgraded, the others upgrade automatically as soon as payment is received. Implementing the account upgrade program has allowed us to pay for our dedicated server costs, and we charge $15/year for membership.