BlogMembership The Top 10 Best Practices for Managing Your Association Dues Membership The Top 10 Best Practices for Managing Your Association Dues Author: Sonia Urlando April 30, 2023 Contents 🕑 10 min read It’s no secret that running an association doesn’t happen for free. Between providing services and resources to members and managing operational expenses, there are costs to be covered. Luckily, collecting association dues makes this possible! But how do you make sure your members understand the value of paying their membership dues? And what’s the best way to collect these fees in the first place? Here are some best practices and top tips—plus recommendations for association management software!—that’ll make you an expert in association dues. What are association dues? Association dues are the payments members make in order to participate in an association. Often paid either monthly or annually, these dues are basically your members’ entry tickets. If you’re just starting an association, it might feel strange to ask people for money. But having members pay their dues is a typical part of association membership! It costs money on your side to provide good resources, and your fees reflect the value of what you’re offering. What’s the purpose of association dues? The primary purpose of charging association dues is to give you some of the funding you need to run your association. After all, if you can’t afford to provide anything to your members, your organization won’t last for very long. How the dues are used depends on the purpose of the association itself. For example, homeowner association fees or dues are charged to property owners in order to cover things like amenities, property maintenance and repairs. Because of those higher costs, those fees typically come in around $200-$300 per month. Something like the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers Association looks a little different. This association supports writers with grants, legal funds and educational programming. Those resources cost a lot less to maintain, so membership fees come out at only $100 per year. No matter the type of association you’re running, the purpose of dues is ultimately to help it KEEP running for the long term! 10 best practices for collecting association dues Curious about how to make collecting association dues a breeze? Here are 10 best practices for this aspect of association management! 1. Determine your cost Choose your cost of your association dues in advance. You can do this by first calculating what it costs for you to keep the promises you’re making as an association. How much do you need to bring in in order to see real ROI? Keep in mind that membership pricing should also take the members themselves into consideration. Low fees might lose you money, but overly high fees could scare off a whole segment of members. Fifty members at $50/month gets you $30k per year, but you can get the same thing from one hundred members at $25/month. We’ll get into some ways to get the best of both worlds below! 2. Choose your collection schedule You might be wondering if you should go with the yearly or monthly dues—and there are pros and cons to both options. Monthly dues keep your association at the front of your members’ minds and look less intimidating to prospective members. However, because members can drop off at any time, monthly dues make it a bit harder for you to estimate your annual revenue. Annual dues are super convenient for members and make it easier for you to measure how much you’ll be making in membership fees in a year. However, while a “set and forget” model can be convenient, it might also make members do just that: forget! If you’re uncertain of where to start, consider offering both options so members can choose what works for them. If you’re worried about that getting confusing, investing in association management software is definitely the way to go. The right software can make collecting, processing and reporting simple! 3. Communicate the value When people pay their dues, they want to know where the money is actually going. Be transparent about what dues cover—and what they make possible! This could look something like: “Your monthly dues give you access to our job board, professional development workshops and exclusive networking events—and help us keep growing and improving to serve you better as an organization.” Instead of thinking of your association members as faceless customers, think of them as individual relationships. Like with any relationship, open conversations build trust! Show your members exactly what they’re investing in will help you retain them. 4. Offer incentives to upgrade One best practice for all types of membership dues is offering tiered options! Not only does this allow a lower entry point for people who don’t have the money for expensive dues, but it also offers the opportunity to upgrade in the future. Be sure to offer strong incentives to make those upgrades! Whether that be exclusive events, resources or opportunities, you want to make people excited about where their membership dues are going. 5. Express gratitude One of the top association trends this year is deepening personal connections with your members. And what better way to do that than expressing gratitude? If you’ve put the work into starting an association, chances are you care deeply about what it stands for. While you are providing something invaluable to your community, your association simply could not exist without the faith and care of your members. Thank them for putting their trust in you, and get personal! This could look like sending handwritten thank you notes, offering special discounts from partners or something else entirely. Going the extra mile is how you make real connections. 6. Include reminders Look—life gets busy! While it’s nice to imagine that you’re always going to be at the top of your members’ minds, chances are they’ve got other things going on. Be sure to send out reminders for members to pay their dues. This can include friendly emails, texts or pings on your association website. Better yet, offer the option for auto renewals! This will help your more forgetful members pay their membership fees without having to think about it— just be sure you’re communicating with them regularly so they don’t forget about you. 7. Provide flexible payment options Being thoughtful with your payment options is a must-do association strategy, and another way to be considerate of members’ needs and life experiences. You can offer: Tiered payment options with different sets of unique perks. The choice to pay either annual or monthly dues depending on your members’ preferences. A sliding-scale or pay-what-you-can price to be extra inclusive of members with financial struggles. Compassionate pricing for BIPOC members as a commitment to social justice and equity. There’s a lot tied up when it comes to asking people for money! By offering compassionate pricing options, you show people that you value them being members of your association more than you value the money you collect from them. 8. Make renewal easy Remember how we mentioned how busy everyone is? Seriously, the easier you make it to renew, the more likely you are to retain members! Getting set up with association CRM can take the strain out of renewals. The best customer relationship management software can automate payments, send automatic reminders and create a chatbot in case your members have any questions. It’s surprisingly easy to lose members who are overwhelmed by how much clicking it takes to pay their dues. You can only benefit from making both of your lives easier! 9. Keep accurate records The money you collect through membership fees and association dues is ultimately part of your annual revenue. Like with any other financial information, it’s essential to keep accurate records. You should know: The names of all of your members The amount each member is paying in dues How many payments have been missed Renewal dates One top record-keeping tip includes setting up systems that make inputting information simple and consistent. Keeping and updating your records should not come with any stress! If it does, you’re more likely to make a mistake. 10. Reconnect with lapsed members It’s inevitable that you will end up with some lapsed members. Instead of saying goodbye with no questions asked, be sure to reconnect! Thank them for the time they spent with your organization, note that you’re sorry to see them go and don’t be afraid to ask why they left. An exit survey can help you get all of this information in one place! If you discover any trends that are leading to loss of members, you can figure out where you might need to troubleshoot. Plus, if you can solve a member’s problem, you just might be able to win them back. Association dues software for easy tracking and communication By now, you’ve probably seen how much of association management is about organization and clear communication. How do you keep up with this while juggling the needs of your members? The answer is association management software! The best AMS should help you from the front and backend, making things easy for your members and your team. For example, a great website builder can make your association dues information clear to members on your website AND help you process payments. Along with setting up a great website, WildApricot’s software includes: Secure payment processing for association dues Automatically generated invoices and receipts A thorough member database to keep up with contact info Automated emails for dues reminders A mobile app to keep things simple WordPress integrations And more! Sign up for your 60-day free trial and see what we have to offer! Tips for communicating about association membership price increases Eventually, you’re probably going to run into the need to increase the price of your association membership dues. People can get prickly with these sorts of changes, but don’t be afraid! The trick is communication. Establish a timeline Let your members know well in advance about the dues increase. Communicate this information through your website and emails (multiple emails!) so members don’t feel like the information has been sprung on them. This will prevent knee-jerk cancellations! We recommend informing people of this change a couple of months before it happens. Create a clear communications plan This might sound strange, but think of this shift as its own campaign! Plan out the types of emails you want to send, as well as when you would like to send them. Make sure your whole team is clear on the messaging behind this change. That way, if anyone is presented with questions from members, everyone is giving the same answer. Explain your reasoning Humans are naturally curious. When a change comes along and surprises people, simply understanding the change is a great way to inspire curiosity rather than anxiety. Clearly lay out the reasoning behind raising the cost of association dues. If your association is struggling financially, be honest! Explain that in order to keep running at a capacity that you are proud of, the extra financial support will go a long way. Along with this, share what you are excited to provide in the future. If there is a great idea that has not previously been possible, emphasize that the price increase will make it so! Continue to offer value and support You should always be looking for ways to add value to your membership program. Throughout the transition, keep reminding members why it is so useful to be a part of your association. It will be more important than ever to show off your value! Running some extra exceptional events or bringing in special speakers during this time will provide even more incentive to stick around for the price change. Provide options Not everyone is going to be able to manage keeping up with raised association dues. This is especially true if you are an organization that already needs to charge high monthly dues in the first place. Don’t be afraid to make exceptions for special circumstances. If you have standout members who love to participate and truly benefit from your organization, offer them compassionate pricing. Relationships should always come first! Keep communication lines open With any change, people will always have questions. Have team members available to promptly answer emails and DMs, or use a chat feature on your website. Sometimes retaining a member through a price change is as simple as answering a couple of questions! FAQ Here are a couple of answers to frequently asked questions about association membership dues: 1. Are association dues tax deductible? The rules about which association dues are tax deductible depend on a few things! According to the IRS, “you can deduct only the amount that is more than the value of the benefits you receive.” So if you pay $150 in membership fees to a theatre but only get $50 in tickets in return, you can deduct $100. Typically, you can’t write off dues if you’re being provided a service through a membership program. You also cannot deduct homeowners association dues. 2. Where can members find information about association dues? Members should be able to find all information about their dues on your association website! Be sure to also include this information in your welcome packet for easy consultation. Make it simple for members to pay their dues And there you have it—the ultimate guide to membership dues for associations! Once collecting dues feels nice and smooth, all that’s left is to provide great services and resources for your members. Want to make it super simple? Sign up for your 60-day free trial of WildApricot’s association management software today! 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