A great discussion going on below in the ASAE Collaborate community if you’re a member or would like to learn more. Much of the same ideas apply to corporate clients!


Robert – You’re right in that “membership” can be a big and complex topic but I also believe it to be a real opportunity in the evolution of the association business model. Let me try to answer you questions directly:

Q. Can a dues-based membership business model exist in this environment?

A. I believe Assoc. have to start thinking very differently about how they define membership and dues. Start by building a great deal of value for anyone who is interested in your space. Put up a blog with a ton of content and articles, videos, a free newsletter subscription – all on your website for everyone, as sources of credibility, knowledge and intellectual depth. Tell them the “what,” not the “how” – if they get value from the “what” you share, they’ll seek out and will be wiling to pay a premium for the “how.” There lies the value of membership. Anyone can attend one of your webinars, but if they want access to the digital recording as a download or access to the community to discuss the topic with the member or thought leader you invited after the event, they’ll need to become members. They can download all the articles they want for free. But if they want to really grow, personally and professionally, they’ll need to become members to participate in your various paid events. Bottom line – Immerse the entire market in your value add and build such a strong market gravity / pull, that they see value in paying for premium products and services.

Q. Should dues paying, member-based associations accept the reality a greater percentage of companies or professionals will decide not to join now than in the recent past (say 10 years ago) no matter how much you improve the membership value?

A. Yes. Break up the “membership value.” Instead of an annual fee, give them options – all inclusive or a la carte! Members are customers and customers want choices. Option one – you get X; option two – you get X+Y; option three – you get X+Y+Z. Member-based associations also have to get a lot savvier about segmenting and targeting current and future audiences. Not everyone is a right fit for you at any point in time. Associations must create an accelerant curve of valuefrom competitive offerings, to distinct, to breakthrough – which elevate an individual’s intimate relationship with the association, perceived value, and premium.

Q. Where does the association draw the line between its use for members only, as ASAE is doing with Collaborate, and include everyone, both members and nonmembers, for the industry or profession that your association represents?

A. The options I outlined in the previous question are NOT more of the same, but a deeper value add.
The only way you’ll be able to distinguish truly differentiated value between what individuals or organizations get access to for free vs. a premium is to understand their needs (vs. wants) and gain conceptual agreement on THEIR objectives, measures and value. If I can meet others in my industry through social media and gain similar education that you offer through other resources, why do I need your association? Conversely, if you provide so much great content that a) I see you as the undisputed source of credible info, b) you get me – really understand my challenges and opportunities, and c) you become a purveyor of relationships between like-minded people (hence the Collaborate community by ASAE), I will be much more open to paying for your unique value-add.

Associations MUST change their lens from being internally focused on themselves, what they offer, their internal capabilities, which are all INPUT, to how are individuals, teams, and organizations better off because of them, i.e. how are their situations improved, enhanced, or otherwise elevated which is OUTPUT or outcome! They must become an expert in all things their products: their member profiles!

One last comment I want to reinforce from the Thursday breakfast session: when the rate of change external to to the organization is faster than the rate of change inside it, the end is near!

Otherwise, I have no opinions about this matter! 🙂

As always, welcome comments, push back, dissent by others.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on LinkedIn