03 May 2021 Association Membership Pricing in the Pandemic Age
As the coronavirus pandemic has stretched on, perhaps longer than many people initially expected, associations are struggling with how to approach membership pricing and terms at a time of such upheaval. Here are some tips for how to deal with renewals and fees so that you can meet your members’ needs while still drawing the revenue your organization demands.
Develop a Billing Strategy
Before automatically renewing memberships or issuing invoices, sit down with key officers and staff to create a billing strategy that takes these unprecedented circumstances into account. Decide whether or not you absolutely must maintain or even increase your current membership income or if you afford to weather cuts.
Membership doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing proposition. There are many ways associations have chosen to be innovative during this recent time of changing business models:
- Paused or deferred fees without losing benefits
- Reduced fees for a set time period, to be revisited as needed
- Tiered membership fees with different attached benefits
- Monthly payments versus one annual fee
- Free months included with an annual renewal
- Free trial period for new members
- Discounted membership for referring new members
- Membership “scholarships” for high-need individuals
- Pay-what-you-can membership
- Freebies offered with renewal (instant downloads, free class, discounts on virtual training, etc.)
- Trade for membership dues (service-in-kind, guest blog post from thought leader, free advertisement on another website, etc.)
- Asking members with the means to do so to cover the membership of another anonymous member who may be facing hardship.
Craft Membership Letters Carefully
It’s usually better to send an email letter prior to invoicing members or automatically renewing their memberships. In times like these, it’s vital to compose membership appeals with others’ needs in mind, not just the income requirements of the association. Make sure to let members know you’re all in this together and that you understand they may be facing challenges too.
Encourage members who are facing extreme difficulties to reach out privately if they need help (but only if you have the ability to discount, eliminate or otherwise cover their fees). Develop a few different templates for various audiences, such as potential new members, established members, and members who are already late to renew. You can even beta test them to see how people respond before sending them to the general membership.
Let Members Know Where Their Money Goes
Members may be curious about why they still need to pay membership dues if your association has drastically changed its way of doing business. It’s perfectly acceptable to remind members that they are spending less money if you have cancelled major events or moved to low-cost online alternatives. It’s also okay to let them know they are still getting all the services they did before, even if in a different format.
However, members still deserve to know where their money goes. Other types of businesses have been dealing with this issue since the start of the pandemic, especially health clubs that have been riding the close-reopen-close roller coaster. Be transparent with your members about costs you still incur even if everyone is working remotely, such as:
- Employee salaries and benefits
- A lease or mortgage that must be paid
- Storage fees
- Utility bills for basic services
- Landscaping and snow removal
- Legal retainers
- Website maintenance
- Prior irrevocable financial commitments
You may have new costs, too, such as cybersecurity for people working from home or reimbursement for Internet and online software programs.
Reach Out In Person When Appropriate
If you have a small association membership or the manpower to provide personal service, consider contacting members in person with a phone call to see how they’re doing and to gauge their feelings about membership fees. Certainly reach out to established members who are late renewing and see if you can help with their situation if finances or other issues within your control are a factor.
Need more help with membership administration? Jaffe Management is here for you. Our solutions, which also include meeting and event services, website design and financial services, are more essential than ever during the turmoil many associations are facing during the pandemic. Contact us to learn more about how our experienced staff can help your association thrive even in challenging times.