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3 tips to sustaining member dues revenue in a crisis

Tirrah Switzer, Product Marketing, Membership, Community Brands By Tirrah Switzer, Product Marketing Manager, Community Brands

Members are the lifeblood of associations. They help fulfill your organization’s mission and propel your organization forward. In fact, small staff associations report nearly half of their revenue comes from membership dues. But, times are a changing.

Things will get better, but they probably won’t “go back to normal.” A new normal is coming, association and member behaviors will change, and organizations must be prepared to shift member models and dues structures with changing time. Here are three simple tips to help you sustain dues revenue during a crisis and prepare for the new normal.

#1 Extended grace periods

For many members, the decision to renew or not to renew has been made well before renewal time based on their experience with your association throughout the year. The Community Brands Member Loyalty Study found that 13 percent of members simply forgot to renew their membership. So, it comes as no surprise that many associations utilize grace periods as an avenue to capture members who forget to renew.

During times of crisis, extended grace periods can assist with member retention. For example, if you currently have a grace period of 14 days, you might want to consider an extended grace period for up to 60 or 90 days. If you have a 90-day grace period currently, you might not need to extend your grace period as your members are continuing to receive membership benefits a quarter of the year.

TIP: According to the Community Brands Member Engagement and Loyalty Study, 55 percent of members pay their own membership dues.

An extended grace period will make an impact to your budget. Don’t forget to evaluate how an extended grace periods will affect your forecasted budget. One may to lessen the impact to your budget is to offer the extended grace period as optional. This way only those members that need it utilize it.

#2. Installment payments

Today, consumers have a variety of payment options for most of the items we use daily. We can easily make installment payments on our donations to our favorite charities as well as our Amazon orders. Everywhere around us, vendors offer flexible payment options. So, why shouldn’t associations?

With installment payments, your association can keep your dues revenue incoming, while your members have easier options to engage with your organization. Installment payments can make membership seem more affordable to members. An immediate investment of $1,200 versus $100 a month for one year could be exactly what your member needs to continue their membership.

Installment payments may appeal to members especially to those early in their careers or in-between jobs. Think about this, 43 million people in the United States have student debt with the average student loan payment of $200-$300 a month. So, you can see how monthly payments can make a difference for some members.

Did you know? 76 percent of members join as a student or within their first five years of their career.

#3. Free trial membership

Your organization should be the go-to resource for your profession and industry especially during times of crisis. To better serve your industry and profession, you may also consider a free trial membership. This option would offer a free month (or however long) of membership that allows members to try before they buy.

Netflix and Hulu are great examples of business models using this approach. With instant digital access, free trial members can instantly see the value of your association. Some may immediately join once their free trial is over and others may join later. For those that don’t join, they will remember the critical resources you provided through their free trial membership during the crisis.

TECH TIP: Take advantage of modern membership management technology which allows you to easily set-up a variety of membership models.

It has never been more important or timely for your association to critically assess how membership dues and membership models are evolving. To effectively serve your constituencies, and to thrive, your association must consider flexible options to keep dues revenue flowing.

Are you rethinking your membership model? Learn more about modern membership models in our e-book, Rethinking Membership Models.

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