How You Can Make Your Membership More Affordable For Young Members

Membership September 05, 2019

Artie Shlykov

By Artie Shlykov

This is a guest post by Amanda Swaty Myers, Director of Product Growth at Personify.

Even in a world with boundless free resources, paid memberships are not only still relevant but, in the eyes of young members, is becoming more important. 

But is that enough? 

When asked about their experience with the association in which they’re the most active, almost half of young members, Millennials and Gen Z, responding to Personify’s recently published Young Members 2.0 report agreed that their experiences with associations have been “underwhelming.” You can download the entire report here.

More concerning: 

  • Only 40 percent of young members report their experience is “worth the dues (I) pay to be a member.” 

  • Almost half of young members agree with the statement “There isn’t a strong return on investment when it comes to participating in associations.” 

  • One in three young members and two out of five Millennials agree with the statement “I have no idea how being in associations actually benefits me.”

Want to learn how to make your membership more attractive to young members by using Instagram? Join my on-demand webinar

Or, keep reading to learn how your organization can make membership more affordable for young members — and what affordability means for them. 

What is Affordability?

It’s a great question. 

What is affordability? What can young members afford? 

And most importantly, how can associations work to eliminate those barriers?

Affordability is defined as the extent to which something is affordable, as measured by its cost relative to the amount the purchaser is able to pay. While the perception of affordability is shaped by value – the more someone sees the value in a particular good or service, the more likely they are to ensure they have the money to pay for it – young members face additional financial pressures:

  • According to Statista, the median debt balance for Millennials living in the country’s 50 largest cities is $23,064. Student loans account for the highest share of America’s Millennial debt, comprising 40 percent of their total credit and loan balances.

  • 45 million people across the U.S. are carrying student debt with a fifth of them owing $100,000 plus.

  • Data from the Federal Reserve shows that the amount of student loans stood at $480 billion in 2006 and by 2018, the debt had mushroomed to $1.53 trillion.

Although they’re showing signs of a greater aversion to debt than their Millennial counterparts, Generation Z is earlier in their career and just entering the workforce. 

This means entry level roles with lower wages and less influence over management purchase decisions, the burden of potential student debt and the costs associated with starting their post-college lives may leave Gen Z with less budget for discretionary spending and no funding for membership from their employer.

The Cost of Membership

According to Marketing General’s 2018 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report5, the median basic annual membership dues are $212. 


  • Half of all associations (52%) raise membership dues as necessary, with another 25% raising rates on an annual basis. 

  • A majority of associations that have chapters charge separate dues (52%).

  •  While 54% of associations offer a student membership, only 18% offer a young professional membership. 

  • Only 11% have a transitioning student/ recent graduate membership. 

While affordability is subjective and based on a number of variables, for many prospective young members even the median basic membership of $212 may be too much. 

So, how can we ensure being part of an association remains accessible to all, including this important growing segment?

Aligning membership packages with the programs young members value most is paramount. Ensuring the content, networking opportunities and career support millennials and Gen Z are looking for are available is essential in establishing the perception of value necessary to getting them to commit to your organization.

However, curating programs may not be enough. Introducing additional flexibility into how young members engage and pay for their membership can create the affordability necessary to get — and keep — them on board.

Why Young Members are Leaving — And How You Can Make Them Stay

When asked why they let a membership lapse, young members told us:

young members

Plus, when asked about their experience with the association in which they’re the most active, almost half of young members, Millennials and Gen Z, responding to Personify’s recently published Young Members 2.0 report agreed that their experiences with associations have been “underwhelming.”

In light of all this, how can you stop young members from lapsing? 

Amongst the organizations we work with, here are a few ideas we’ve seen work. 

1. Build the Best Offer

Affordability also isn’t just about the pricing on your website. 

It is about how you package and offer your selection of programs and benefits, and to whom. 

By offering a membership that’s targeted towards students or young professionals, which may include different benefits or opportunities such as mentorship from older professionals in their field, you’ll be better able to retain young members who are interested in your services.

Basically, the more targeted value you can provide, the better! 

Learn More: How to Provide Member Development Opportunities in Your Organization

2. Influence Perceived Value

With an understanding of young member preferences and a great offer, you’re ready to hook prospective new members. 

But it doesn’t stop there. 

Articulate value from the first interaction by sharing and highlighting the experiences of other young members who look like them and are relatable in terms of their level of experience. 

Plus, young members’ need for connection expands beyond recruitment. Create ample opportunities for 1:1 engagement, in-person and online in proprietary digital communities. 

This also ties into how you market your organization, particularly online. 

If you have an outdated website, chances are that tech-savvy Millennials and Gen Z will walk away immediately. 

So, make sure your social media profiles are up to date — because they’re sure to look them up before joining your organization. 

Plus, in my upcoming webinar, I’ll be discussing how you can use Instagram to attract new members if you need any help. 

3. Change Your Membership Model

If you want to attract more young members, you might also have to change the way you think about your membership model. 


Offering a subscription-based model or one that’s based on monthly payments can be more attractive to young members than paying a lump sum. 


Here’s a brief rundown on a monthly payment as compared to a subscription model.


Monthly Payments Model


Easily understood and highly attractive to Millennial and Gen Z members, instalment pricing takes a fixed cost and distributes the payments over a period of time, typically twelve months for membership.


For young members on a tight budget, the availability of instalment payments instantly removes one of the biggest obstacles to membership without the burden of financing through a high-interest credit card. And this is an increasingly important option. According to a survey, just one in three young adults ages 24 to 31 carries a credit card.


As an example, let’s take an average basic membership of $250. A young member approaches his or her employer with a request for them to absorb the cost, but budgets are tight, and the department won’t have funds available for professional development until the new year — six months away. 


And for the young member, the lump sum payment of $250 may be cost-prohibitive. 


Credit-card financing may be an option, but at the average rate of 19.24%, paying membership dues off in 12-months would still cost the young member $276.81 ($26.81 in interest), while paying off the membership dues over 24-months would be $303.15 ($53.15 in interest).

Those costs may seem nominal, but instalment payments offer an attractive alternative for price sensitive young members. The $250 cost spread over twelve months, with no interest charged, is $20.83. They’ll enjoy immediate access to benefits designed to accelerate their success and serve as an investment in their future. 

Or, they can use the same $20.83 and purchase a few specialty drinks from a local coffee shop. 

What would you choose? What should they?


Subscription-Based Model

A subscription business is based on the idea of receiving recurring revenue, usually monthly, for providing prolonged access to a product or service. For a demographic hard-pressed to remember a life without the internet, getting services and products on-demand has become routine and Millennials have led the charge when it comes to the subscription economy. Recent research from Vantiv8 (Worldpay) and Socratic Technologies has found: 

young members

Like instalment pricing, the upfront cost of a subscription is minimized. Instead, smaller payments occur over a period of time. Unlike instalment billing, the payments do not conclude after the balance is paid in full but continue. 

However, for membership organizations, this can seem like a nightmare — a monthly renewal cycle where a member could walk away at any moment. 

So, why would an association consider subscription pricing?

As noted previously, young members have the strongest appetite for membership but the tightest cash flow. Like instalment billing, services that would be too expensive billed in one lump sum become affordable as they’re spaced out over time. 

Additionally, for young members, subscription-based programs do not feel like a serious commitment. There’s no need to pay a large sum of money right away, and there’s an opportunity to cancel a subscription at any time. 

It’s not about psychological pricing tricks. The comfort customers feel is 100 percent justified since they can cancel the subscription or restart it whenever they want. This presents logistical challenges for associations but a strong benefit for prospective young members.

Also, with a subscription model comes regular cash flow. 

For smaller organizations, a subscription model provides the opportunity to compete with larger incumbents. 

Understanding that Millennials are the highest adopter of subscription services, organizations should strongly consider investing marketing dollars towards the demographic most likely to help grow the bottom line – both short- and long-term.

If you’re wondering how to attract young members to your organization — and how to retain them once they’ve joined — you’re not alone. 

Although there are many factors that tie into their choice, affordability plays a big part in  

Whether you decide to change your membership model, or simply offer more benefits to young members who decide to join, the key in retaining them is being able to demonstrate your membership is worth their time. 

And if you’d like to learn how to use Instagram to do just that, join my on-demand webinar.

Read More: 101 Ways To Get New Members For Your Organization

amanda myersA recognized leader in developing and launching innovative, online programs Amanda Myers brings 20 years of experience to her role as Director of Product Growth with Austin-based Personify. Her broad background includes developing highly engaging national campaigns, online tools and loyalty initiatives for household brands including Land’s End,, Enfamil, Marvel and Samsung. The last 7 years have seen Myers leverage this expertise to empower thousands of associations in driving similar levels of success with a strong focus on helping leaders understand their membership data, optimize their engagement and embrace new technologies for exceptional results.

The Membership Growth Report:

Benchmarks & Insights for Growing Revenue and Constituents

Get the report now!

Sorry, this blog post is closed for further comments.


  • Estelle Gregory:
    Archie this is a great article! Very informative.


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