Just as everyone is dealing with rising costs in their personal lives – food, gasoline, supplies, etc. – associations are also facing increased expenses to provide member services. Throughout the previous two years, many associations froze membership dues to help members better manage their budgets, but prices for supplies, wages, and events continued to rise.
Michelle Peterson of Marketing General suggests that 2022 might be the year to increase dues because members are more likely to understand the need. According to data collected over the years for Marketing General’s Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report, the historic median dues increase for associations is 5%. When the increase exceeds 10%, associations may experience a drop in renewals.
Gayle Teskey of Membership Corporation of America offers these tips on how to successfully present a dues increase to members:
- Don’t apologize. Associations have no control over the factors that influence the need for a dues increase, but apologizing for the adjustment suggests that association leadership could have done something to avoid the increase.
- Don’t make a big announcement. Making a big deal about the increase draws attention to something that is a fact of life for everyone today. It is rare that the cost of something that is valued goes down, in fact, it is more likely costs will go up to keep pace with the expense of delivering that value.
- Offer a discounted option that rewards loyalty. Some members respond to opportunities to lock in lower dues rates by renewing early or renewing for multiple years. While this does generate short-term cash for the association, be aware that some long-term dues revenue will be lost because members most likely to take this option are loyal and would have renewed at higher rate in the future.
- Don’t wait too long to act. The longer an association waits to make appropriate and justifiable adjustments to the dues structure, the further behind it will fall in delivering services to members. Volunteer leaders who pass the decision on to the next group of leaders or who want to focus on cutting costs (and potentially services) are forgetting that members expect and accept modest due increases when the association delivers valuable services and experiences.
- Don’t play catch up all at once. Dues increases that are reasonable and occur every year or two won’t cause a membership revolt, but a significant increase can create some non-renewals. If a larger increase is needed, eat the elephant one bite at a time by setting a schedule for modest increases over a period of years that will close the gap without shocking members.