Three questions are on the minds of many association professionals right now:
When determining the price of membership, set aside any hunches. Don’t rely solely on the opinions of board or committee members, or compare your association with others.
Your association’s membership pricing model should reflect the value of membership benefits to members. When you get it right, you’re more likely to attract and keep members in your fold.
The success of your association’s recruitment and retention efforts depends on having the right membership pricing model. But that’s not all: your association’s financial health and ability to fulfill its mission also ride on it.
Pricing consultant Dr. Michael Tatonetti, CAE, CPP, makes an important point: pricing is not about greed, it’s about financial sustainability.
He says the price you charge must equip your association with financial sustainability. Only then can you execute on the value you’ve promised members and create more value by delivering updated or new products that continue to help them.
It’s time to evaluate membership value and pricing if your member recruitment and retention rates are in decline, or if your revenue model isn’t sustainable.
With the recession holding off and the pandemic fading in memory, it’s tempting to raise dues or change your membership model. But first, you must be confident your association is delivering enough value to merit a price increase.
The only value perception that matters is your members’. Understand how they define membership value and how they value the different benefits you offer. Before considering any changes, you have research to do.
When planning a membership pricing model project, build in time to review and revise bylaws. Julia O’Connor, director of membership at the International Association of Movers (IAM), said, “Since association bylaws are the rules and foundational principles governing your association, management must ensure that the changes to the membership structure do not conflict with the current bylaws.” IAM spent three months on their bylaw review and revisions.
Research prevents you from making membership pricing decisions in a vacuum. It also arms you with the data you need to make your case to volunteer leaders. Their opinions are worth hearing, of course, but they forget they’re not typical members.
Anecdotal information, such as stories from member recruiters about objections to joining, can tell you where to dig deeper in your research. But these stories are not the complete picture. Data tells you the best stories.
Instead of overhauling your pricing model, you may find you can strengthen your balance sheet by tweaking specific benefits. For example, you may decide to charge for the print edition of your magazine instead of eliminating it altogether.
Also consider developments in your association’s industry that may be affecting membership growth.
The next step is surveying members (active and inactive) and non-members who represent all market segments. Tatonetti suggests these questions:
These questions help you identify “value levers.” The open-ended responses also provide language you can use in membership marketing.
After gathering data in surveys, dig deeper into questions about value and pricing in individual and group conversations. Watch for areas where the behavioral data you gathered about specific benefits conflicts with what people tell you. For example, some members may tell you they value the career center, but visits to that page are extremely low. Do they value the idea of it but don’t actually go there? Or are they outliers who use it regularly?
This part of the project is a lot to take on, which is why working with a membership or pricing consultant can help.
There are hundreds of ways to price membership, but most are based on four models.
Three is the magic number for tiered membership pricing models, for example, a basic (discount), standard (plus), and premium tier. People perceive the middle tier as the best value, but many will pay extra for the benefits they value most.
If your research reveals a strong member desire for education, consider adding a membership tier for professional development that includes unlimited online learning programs.
Other specialized tiers options are:
In an appeal to younger members with limited budgets, some associations opt for a monthly or annual subscription pricing model. The Substack subscription model offers tiered pricing, each tier with additional benefits or access to resources. You can choose the free level, the middle level with a monthly fee, the middle level with a discounted annual payment, or the premium level.
Subscription based pricing has its advantages.
Your research should reveal whether a subscription pricing strategy will “cannibalize” your membership offerings. Consider whether you want to give subscribers discounts on large-ticket events like conferences. If you do, build in rules to prevent someone subscribing for a few months to get that discount.
For pricing decisions, many associations use Van Westendorp’s Price Sensitivity Meter, a data-driven pricing model that considers customers’ perceptions. It involves four questions that indirectly measure a person’s willingness to pay for a product or service.
With this tool, you can determine the perceived value of membership and an acceptable range of prices for it. But you must also consider other variables, such as the cost of providing membership, and do a competitor analysis.
During the research phase of a membership pricing model project, AMS data can help you understand how different member segments engage with different membership benefits.
Make sure your AMS can deliver the membership model, subscription, pricing, or payment options you’re considering. For example, does it allow you to offer one-, two-, and three-year memberships like the Regulatory Affairs Professionals Society or monthly installments like the American Society of Interior Designers?
Avoid customizing your AMS to handle a different membership model or payment plan. Customization takes you off the upgrade path and makes it more difficult to integrate your AMS with other systems.
Select an AMS that allows you to set up (configure) unlimited user and member roles in combination with the membership model you choose. This functionality allows you to get the data you need to spot patterns and trends at different membership levels. As your members and industry change, your association will have the flexibility to make changes to your membership offerings.
Join us for a new series of 3 interactive virtual events, all focused on member engagement. Together with other association professionals, we will identify new strategies, solve real problems, experiment, and share ideas. Plus, you’ll see engagement in action!
Come to one, two, or all three events to get the most out of the series. Register for our January, February and March sessions!
Unlock exclusive insights and expertise on membership, marketing strategies, event management, and beyond. Visit our full guide library to fuel your organization's growth!
“I like the fact that by using Impexium versus our previous system, we will be able to reduce staff’s workload. As a result, NAADAC’s staff will be happy, feel more capable and competent…in serving our members.”
“We wanted a partner that would grow with us and one that could innovate with us. Impexium checked all those boxes. They took us from outdated to automated.”
“…very excited because of the possibilities that I see for NADA moving forward, the ability to give our executives the information, any intelligence that they need in order to help our members better…the ability to simplify the whole application ecosystem, removing unbelievable complexity and bringing simplicity to the application.”
“I found Impexium to be more modern, more sophisticated, more user friendly, more intuitive.”
“You have to have a support team that communicates clearly, is a good listener, is patient and can really handle the problem solving…I have been really pleased with Impexium’s support. They are on-top-of things responsive…I know they will stick with me until we figure it out.”
“…Impexium has allowed us to significantly improve our processes and procedures. We’ve automated quite a lot with Impexium and removed a number of manual processes that we had before. And staff are very happy about that.”
Trade associations, professional societies, and non-profits of all sizes have transformed their businesses and exceeded member expectations with Impexium’s membership management software. Request a personalized demo today.