Tiered dues and freemium models are something association professionals spend a lot of time thinking about. What is the magic equation for dues? Is it a la carte services? A free trial level? Or maybe online membership?
Members and Meetings, a downward trend
From a generational perspective, it will probably grow increasingly harder to get members to attend meetings. Gen Y guards its work-life balance, and association meetings probably don’t make it onto the must-do list of after-work activities.
Gen X is now becoming the sandwich generation, raising families and checking in on aging parents. Many of them also hold managerial roles at this point in their lives and the burden of work pressures are mounting. Their obligations far outweigh the time in their day.
Plus neither generation is a fan of meetings, both preferring electronic communications for its efficiency. Neither Gen Y nor Gen X feels the need to check in for a face-to-face, unless absolutely necessary. Association meetings, as networking functions, probably receive a low priority rating for a face-to-face need. A possible exception to this are continuing education requirements, or learning sessions, but those are providing a direct, necessary service to the member. Some of these necessary services may even be accomplished online or webinar format.
Rise of the Online Membership
Enter the online membership. What if your association created a tier that included online community membership, access to electronic content, webinars, an e-newsletter, and e-learning? The overhead of managing an e-member would be minimal. Someone who would choose this type of membership would be proficient on a computer so explanations of online how-to’s would most likely not be necessary. Printing and mailing costs would be non-existent. Renewals would be handled online as well.
Benefits of an Online Membership
For an association that’s already producing digital content and engaging its members online (and I hope you are), nothing would change from an administrative or membership standpoint.
For electronic members, this allows them to stay in contact with your association on their schedules. It provides a greater flexibility to be involved and may help you recruit members who otherwise would’ve told you they are too busy to make it to meetings.
There’s a large number of people who settle down in front of a laptop, phone, or tablet at the end of the night as part of their relaxation. As many as 70% of these people are accessing social media at this time. An online membership may help you tap into this number.
In today’s world of social media, and targeted marking, providing members a membership that makes sense for them and covers their needs is extremely important. An online membership may not work for every association, but if it fits your demographic, your potential members will love that you’re allowing them membership on their terms.
Online members aren’t less loyal than those who show up at every meeting, assuming they’re receiving value from their membership. Maybe some associations’ reluctance in embracing an online-only membership is that they are worried members won’t get enough value out of their online programming and offerings.
If that’s your concern, it may be time to beef things up. The Interwebs look like they’re here to stay.