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More Insight Into Free Memberships

Lori Halley  15 July 2013  0 comments

In a post last month - What about free memberships? - we looked at free membership categories and “freemium models” being introduced at some associations. But we were curious to find out more, so we concluded the post with the question: do you think your organization could consider a free membership category?  
Two association representatives were kind enough to respond and briefly outline their organization’s experience with free memberships. So as a follow-up, we’re sharing the details here. 

Two organizations who have found success with "free membership and "free registration"

Joanna Smith
, LCSW, MPH, Founder & Past President of the National Association of Healthcare Advocacy Consultants (NAHAC)  told us:

We in NAHAC (National Association of Healthcare Advocacy Consultants) have a non-profit Association with dual purposes: to educate the public in how to advocate for themselves in the healthcare system AND to provide education and a professional association to those working in the field.

We opened up a "Free Registration" category as a membership category six months ago and our membership has doubled. We're still small (at 360 members), but growing. We do struggle with how to juggle benefits and what we offer to the free members and what we reserve for our paying members. It's not an easy tightrope to walk!

As a small non-profit, we need to generate enough income to function, but also serve our 501c3 mission of public education!

Patrick Lynch, President of the Healthcare Technology Management Association of South Carolina  reported:

At the HTMA-SC, we went to a totally free membership last year. Our membership has ballooned to over 500, beyond our expectations. We recognized that our costs of operations could easily be covered by 10 or so corporate members. Corporations join to have access to our members, so the more the merrier. We also allow our corporate members to create an email blast once per year and we send it to all of our members on their behalf. It has made everybody very happy.

In a follow-up email, Patrick added:

I think it is all about defining your goals. If your organization’s goals require hundreds of thousands of dollars, then your membership structure, recruiting and pricing will be more intensive than if you are focused on peer-to-peer information and best practices sharing, which costs little, but offers huge rewards.

When is "free" an option? That depends.

As Patrick suggests, the question of whether a “free” membership category could work at your organization depends on your goals; your mission; your target audience(s);  the reasons members join (e.g. benefits); your funding model and more.

And as Joanna notes, when you offer both free and paid membership categories, the challenge is to clearly demonstrate the value (ROI) of the products, services or benefits that paying members receive.

We’d love to hear more about other organizations that have implemented free categories. For example, how do you balance free and paid benefits?  Share your insight with your membership peers through the comments below.

Other posts on membership fees or dues:

You might also want to read:

Image source:  Insight green road sign, courtesy of BigStockPhoto.com

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

Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Published Monday, 15 July 2013 at 8:30 AM
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