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Club Dues 101: Accepting and Managing Member Payments Online

Author: Korrin Bishop
November 2, 2022
🕑 9 min read

Wondering how to collect club dues for your membership organization? You might have a lot of questions:

  • What are club dues and why do they matter?
  • Are club dues different from a membership fee?
  • How much should we charge for our club dues?
  • How do we collect club dues?

We get it! Asking your members for payments can be nerve-wracking. You want to ask for the right amount in the right way, and you want to provide the value members expect in return to ensure high membership retention.

Well, never fear! You’re in the right place. Below, we’ll answer all those questions. We’ll also dive into the details of how to choose the right dues management system for your club to make the process even easier.

What Are Club Dues?

Simply put, club dues are the fees your members pay to be a part of your organization. Whether sports league, chamber, nonprofit, association, gym—if you call your org a club and rely on a membership model, these dues are relevant to you!

Members exchange their club dues for agreed-upon benefits and services. For example, if you’re a gym, club dues give members access to exercise space, equipment or group fitness classes. If you’re a chamber, club dues might cover promotional support, networking events or other benefits of interest to your members.

Why Do Club Dues Matter?

Every organization needs a consistent revenue stream, and that’s where club dues come in! A predictable monthly sum of membership payments lets you focus on running valuable programs, nurturing current members and reaching new ones—instead of just keeping the lights on!

Club dues also convey a sense of value to your members. By paying to be part of your organization, members are more likely to engage with your events and content than if you were giving it all away for free.

Each time members pay their dues, they’re making a choice to keep your organization a part of their identity, community and investments.

What’s the Difference Between Club Dues and a Membership Fee?

The terms “club dues” and “membership fees” are often used interchangeably. These are the payments your members make! You might call them “club dues” because you want to focus on your org’s identity as a club (rather than another type of membership org).

If there’s a difference, it’s usually a matter of cadence. Club dues often refer to recurring fees. For example, monthly club dues for a gym membership.

A membership fee, on the other hand, can refer to a one-time payment. For example, you might pay a one-time membership fee to become a lifetime member of your alumni association.

Some organizations use a combination of these types of membership dues. There might be an application or joining fee, plus a monthly club due that’s owed to stay an active member.

The bottom line here? The terminology around club dues can get confusing! Your job is to make it as simple as possible for your members. Be clear about whether you’re charging a one-time fee, recurring dues or a combination! No one likes to scour the fine print for that info!

Types of Club Dues

Club dues aren’t one-size-fits-all! There are multiple types of club dues you can consider that benefit your club and your members. Here are four options:

Flat Rate Club Dues

Flat rate memberships charge the same club dues to every member. As a result, every member receives the same benefits.

For example, anyone looking to participate in a local adult kickball league might have to pay $30 to join. Everyone who does gets the same team shirt, number of scheduled games and access to post-game happy hours.

Flat rate club dues are a good option for smaller organizations with less capacity to manage multiple membership levels. They’re also a good option for situations where all members are looking for similar benefits and value at an affordable rate.

Tiered Club Dues

Tiered club dues could look like having bronze, silver and gold membership options, each with different (increasing) prices and perks. The tiers build on one another, with gold members receiving all of the benefits that bronze and silver memberships do, plus a few extra perks!

Tiered club dues are a great option when there’s a variety of benefits your members are interested in, or you want to attract members across a wide range of income levels. These work well for larger clubs that can manage the complexity of multiple member levels.

For example, a professional association might use tiered club dues to attract both recent graduates and seasoned career professionals. Recent grads can pay an affordable rate to access benefits that build their career. Meanwhile, active professionals can pay higher dues for higher value benefits—networking, promotional activities and advanced certifications.

Monthly Club Dues

Monthly club dues are… well, paid once per month! Like a subscription model, a monthly payment keeps the membership active. Today, it’s common for people to pay monthly for everything from streaming services to coffee clubs!

In addition to being something your members may already be used to, monthly club dues help:

  • Make membership more affordable and flexible
  • Ease hesitation about signing up, since members can cancel at any time
  • Give your organization a more frequent way to gauge member renewal rate
  • Let members change membership tiers throughout the year, adding or reducing benefits

However, there are some potential downsides to monthly club dues as well, such as:

  • Members not wanting to add another monthly fee to their budget
  • Less predictability with your revenue since cancellation is easier throughout the year
  • More time spent managing your transactions every month and following up with members who don’t pay

Annual Club Dues

You can also request membership payments annually rather than every month. In this model, members pay once per year—either on a fixed date or the day they first joined.

It’s a good idea to give your members the choice between paying monthly or annually. Up the incentive by offering a discounted annual price.

For example, membership dues might be $20 per month (or $240 per year). The same membership paid upfront for a year could be offered for $180 (a $5 per month discount).

It’s a sweet deal for everyone to secure members with an annual discount. Annual club dues help:

  • Members enjoy the convenience of a one-time payment
  • Lower membership cancellations throughout the year
  • Improve revenue predictability month-to-month
  • Decrease administrative burden and reporting requirements

But be aware of these potential pitfalls:

  • Less ability to gauge member retention rates month-to-month
  • Lower total revenue for an annual membership if you offer a discount
  • Potential for reduced member engagement if they pay once and then forget about it

How Much Should Club Dues Be?

When setting rates for your club dues, there are no hard and fast rules. You’re the expert on what makes sense for your organization!

But here’s a framework that can guide your way:

  • Consider what’s possible for your members: Look at your member data to set your price. What’s their income level? What career stage are they in? Your club dues will be lower if you’re serving recent grads compared to CEOs.

  • Research your competition: What are similar chambers, associations or clubs charging? And what benefits do those dues buy? Researching 6–10 orgs will give you a good sense of what you can charge compared to competitors.

  • Look at your budget: Club dues are often an org’s bread and butter! How much do you need to cover club expenses? How many members do you expect to have? Compare those numbers to find the right price.

Whatever the price, the most important thing is that your dues create value! At the end of the day, charging $5 or $100 won’t matter if members don’t feel like they’re getting the value they expect for what they’re paying.

How Do I Collect Club Dues?

We’re so glad you asked! Actually collecting member dues can seem like a big burdensome administrative headache, right? But it doesn’t have to be that way!

Membership management software, like WildApricot, can make dues collection simple. This software allows you to:

  • Automate administrative tasks, like sending receipts, following up on outdated credit card information, and more
  • Process payments through a secure online system
  • Track member dues and other actions on an easy-to-use dashboard
  • Send communications to your members for ongoing engagement

Making club dues collection a seamless process saves your club time and resources. Plus, you members want as little hassle as possible when paying. A solution like WildApricot is well worth the investment to avoid the pain of manually chasing down, processing and tracking payments.

How Do I Choose a Dues Management System?

Ready to press GO on using a dues management system? You might be wondering where to start! From research to making your pick to getting your team on board, we’ve got ideas for you.

These seven steps will lead you in the right direction:

  1. Get your board on board: Leadership needs to have their say when it comes to implementing new software. Build your case! Highlight the benefits of member programming, retention and revenue.

  2. Research, research, research: Make a list of the different software options out there. Ask similar organizations what they’re using. Create a framework of your must-haves and budget that will help you narrow down your choices.

  3. What do the reviews say? Reviews are incredibly helpful for getting the perspective of active users or customers. They’ll give you a good idea of what it’s actually like to use the system and interact with support. Plus: check out review sites like Capterra or CNET.

  4. Sign up for trials: Now it’s your turn to test drive. Fortunately, there are free options out there! WildApricot offers a 60-day test drive of our membership management software with no credit card required!

  5. Compare features and pricing: Remember that framework you made during research? Do your favorite trialed software fit your must-haves and budget? Are you getting the features you need for better quality of life at work—and is it for the right price?

  6. Choose the winner: Based on features and price point, you’ll likely come down to a winner. Rejoice! Your dues collection process is about to get a whole lot easier.

  7. Onboard your team: You’ve purchased your new dues management system! Congrats! But now it’s time to get your team onboard. Prepare training materials, plus FAQs, and follow up over time. Your software provider can also point to resources!

8 Features to Look for in a Club Dues Management System

Different management systems for club dues will offer different features. So which should you look for? We recommend these ones below to make your life MUCH easier!

Here’s eight features to look for in your club dues management system:

  1. Online payments: Online payments make dues collection easier for everyone. No mailing in checks or having to come in person. Members can pay online whenever it is convenient for them.

  2. Versatile payment processors: Be able to accept different types of credit cards and payment types, based on what your members use. That includes: bank transfers, credit cards, PayPal and more.

  3. Automated receipts: Keep clean records for both you and your members with automated receipts after club dues are processed.

  4. Welcome emails: Use your software to automate other communications, too, like a welcome email after a new member has paid their first dues. This helps get a jumpstart on member engagement.

  5. Reminders: You can also automate reminders to send members when their payments are nearly or past due. Remind members to update their payment information and contact details as those change, too.

  6. Self-service: Self-service is all about creating more ease for all involved! Make sure your members can access your payment system to send their club dues without needing to call or take extra steps.

  7. Financial reports: Run financial reports from your system to check in on your revenue stream, member retention rate and next steps your club might need to take!

  8. Mobile access: Many of your members are checking their club info from their smartphones. People are often on-the-go! So make sure your software can meet them where they are with easy mobile access.

Collecting Club Dues With WildApricot

Asking your members for club dues doesn’t need to feel like a hassle! We promise.

If you want to reap the benefits of a streamlined collection dues process, get started today with WildApricot. You can jump right in with a 60-day free trial, giving you lots of time to see how our software can help you track dues, collect payments, remind members about renewals and so much more.

Sign up for WildApricot’s free trial today for less admin and more time engaging with your members!

Accept Club Dues Online to Keep Your Membership Payments Organized and Sustainable

We hope you found this overview on all things club dues helpful!

Asking your members for payments can seem daunting, yes, but with a little organization and the right software, soon it’ll be an automated process! Accepting and managing member payments online can be a real game changer for organizations looking to grow.

Want to keep up to date with other tips for membership organizations, clubs, and nonprofits? Make sure to check out other articles on our blog!

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