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Thoughts on Membership Dues and Don’ts

Lori Halley 06 May 2013 0 comments

There have been a number of insightful blog posts lately about membership fees and sources of association income. And since the findings from our Small Membership Insight Survey around funding and futures indicated that fees are a critical source of income for more than 60% of small member-based organizations, it got me wondering - has your organization increased fees for 2013 or have you postponed a dues increase?

One of the posts that piqued my interest in this topic was – Even in the Recession, Member Dues Increases Still Common.  In this Associations Now post, Joe Rominiecki wondered if the “recession might have led some associations to put off dues increases”. But while he “assumed that dues increases were off the table for many associations during the recession”, Rominiecki found that “consistently, a little over half to two-thirds of associations have raised their dues at least once in the three-year period preceding any of ASAE’s past benchmarking studies" from 1974 to 2011.

Then just last week, Tony Rossell (Membership Marketing Blog) posted – Quick Findings on Membership Dues Increases – offering a look at their 2013 Membership Marketing Benchmarking research. The findings for 2013 indicate that “23.5% [of the 680 association respondents] reported that they have or plan to increase their dues rates this year.” 

“How much are organizations raising dues levels?”  

So since many associations are going ahead with dues increases, the next question we want to know is how much are they increasing their fees? While the 2013 Membership Marketing Benchmarking data suggests that while “the vast majority of associations (62.6%) report that they do not raise dues on a regular basis, but only on an “as needed basis”, “51% of respondents said that their last dues increase was between 1 and 5% and 24.7% had increases of between 6 and 10%.”

Will dues increases impact renewal?

For those organizations who are keeping membership dues flat it can be a delicate balancing act. As Joe Rominiecki suggests, you are keeping fees low to retain members, but going without an increase may lead to playing “catch up” later and risking losing members “due to sticker shock.”

Looking at the findings of last year’s 2012 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report, it appears that the cost of membership fees or dues does factor into the reasons for non-renewal. Here are top 7 reasons that "members DO NOT renew their membership in your organization - as listed in the 2012 report:

  1. Budget cuts/economic hardship of company – 17%
  2. Lack of engagement with the organization – 14%
  3. Employer won’t pay or stopped paying dues – 12%
  4. Could not justify membership costs with any significant ROI – 11%
  5. Lack of value – 11%
  6. Left the field, industry or profession – 8%
  7. Too expensive – 5%

As the 2012 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report notes suggest, “Budget cuts and/or economic hardships faced by a company are rated as the top reasons why members do not renew their membership (17%). This can be directly related to another issue causing non-renewals: the fact that employers have stopped paying or won’t pay membership dues (12%).”

Modest dues increases shouldn't adversely impact membership

But if you are planning a rate increase this year, take heart. In his recent post, Tony Rossell suggests that “From our research the lesson has been pretty consistent over time that most associations can easily implement modest dues rate increases without adversely impacting their membership.”

Do you have any “membership dues or don’ts" to share with your peers?  We hope you’ll share your ideas and challenges in the comments below.

Image source:  Origami tree...courtesy of BigStockPhoto.com

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

Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Published Monday, 06 May 2013 at 8:30 AM
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