It should go without saying, members want value for their membership dues

Times have changed and people no longer feel the need to belong to an association, rather they see themselves as customers of an association. For some generations, the desire to belong is enough, but more and more of today’s potential association members are looking for value.

ASAE’s The Decision to Join: How Individuals Determine Value and Why They Choose to Belong is a great resource when assessing the value of membership in your association.

Does your association deliver value?

Value is in the eye of the beholder, but in the case of associations one can start by creating a list of the benefits of membership. If your list is short and contains only a discounted conference registration, an occasional newsletter and not much else, where do you think members see value? Some associations can survive based on only one or two tangible benefits of membership, but those associations likely offer a world leading periodical to their members or a conference that must be attended.

I have been a part of two recent discussions with leaders of associations we manage, about the value offered to their members and prospective members. In one case the discussion turned to ensuring that the benefits of membership were better explained to current and prospective members. In the second case it led to our staff brainstorming ideas of new offerings to add value to association members and taking them back to the association’s volunteer leaders for their consideration.

In the second case we have proposed to a provincial trade association the creation of a quarterly breakfast series. These sessions would be very low cost for members to attend and would be reasonably priced for non-members. Topics will be sourced from discussions with members and local experts will be sought out as speakers to keep costs down. For this association, offering something tangible to members on a regular basis will be a big addition that we hope many will see as value.

An excellent example of an association that delivers tremendous value to its members is BoardSource which is described as “…a national organization working to strengthen non-profit board leadership”. Despite being a US-based organization they have excellent resources for both Canadian volunteer and staff leaders.

BoardSource delivers value by offering hundreds of resource papers and tools free to their members. An even greater value for their members is regular no cost webinars and no cost access to archives of most of their previous webinars. This provides a great opportunity for both board and staff professional development – a tremendous value of membership.

What can your association learn from BoardSource?

Keeping in mind that BoardSource is a long established and well-funded organization, there are things that all associations can learn from BoardSource. Start by reviewing the benefits that your association offers to your members in comparison to what is offered by BoardSource.

This is sure to inspire some ideas of new benefits that can be created to increase the value of membership in your association.