Offering Member Incentives and Payment Plan Options

Lori Halley 02 August 2012 0 comments

Does your organization offer incentives for early renewal or flexible payment plan options?

Earlier this month, we published some of the findings of our mini Membership Renewal Survey, in which we found that only 18% of the small membership organizations that participated offer incentives or payment plan options.

However, Marketing General’s comprehensive 2012 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report found that large associations are offering: quarterly and monthly installment payment options; multi-year renewals; early renewal discounts and more. Here is a diagram from the report that illustrates their findings: 

Image source:  MGI 2012 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report

The MGI report also notes that “Associations with more than 1000 members are significantly more likely to offer multi-year renewals and lifetime memberships," and "those associations with renewal rates at 80% or higher are significantly more likely to provide an installment renewal plan, with monthly or quarterly payments.”

So while larger associations are offering multi-year and installment payment options, perhaps smaller membership organizations should float these ideas with their members too?

What about premiums and incentives?

As we noted in our recently launched Membership Renewal Guide, some organizations that are on an annual or fixed schedule use contests and other incentives to prompt members to renew early and/or on time. Along with helping to speed the renewal process, sometimes a premium or incentive can tip the scale for those who are re-considering their renewal or choosing from among a number of association memberships. For example, recently a young colleague told me that she was considering discontinuing a professional association membership because of its high dues. But when the organization offered her a new monthly payment option as well as a premium (a book and subscription), she decided that she could manage the fee if it was spread out in monthly payments.  She also noted that the book and subscription offer sealed the deal on her renewal decision.

But some membership experts – such as Erik Schonher, Vice-President at Marketing General Incorporated – caution that while "incentives are great tools to provide a 'little something extra' to get someone to try something new or join,"  they "aren’t the silver bullet.” In a post on the MGI blog, Schonher recommends looking at why members are reluctant to renew in detail before trying incentives or premiums - asking questions such as "why did they join?" "Have they participated in the association?" He also  suggests, “if you use a premium, perhaps you segment off those members who renewed to the premium offer and place them in an “intensive” engagement program” then try to renew them without the premium?” 

Administrative challenges with payment options:

There can also be administrative challenges involved with offering new payment options and/or  incentives. For example, before you can consider offering monthly or quarterly installment payment options, you need to be sure you have a means of handling the administration of this type of member renewal. For example, if you are using Wild Apricot’s Membership Management software, you can enable installment or (recurring payments) as an automatic feature for members as they renew. (We offer detailed instructions on how to enable recurring payments - here.)

So if you are in the midst of summer planning for the upcoming membership year, consider whether offering fee payment options or incentives might be effective with your membership and whether you have the technical and human resources to make these options available.

What renewal strategies are working for your organization?  Let us know in the comments below.  

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Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Published Thursday, 02 August 2012 at 8:32 AM

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