We’re staring down the barrel of Q4, and the end of 2016 is almost here. Maybe you’re starting to look at your numbers – how many new members you brought on board this year and how your retention efforts fared.

Not where you hoped you’d be? You’re probably not alone.

Business as usual, the traditional approach many member organizations have relied on, isn’t getting the job done – or isn’t getting the job done as well as it used to. Traditionally, there hasn’t been a lot of diversity in terms of members and the dues they pay. You may get as fancy as offering a professional and associate level for membership, but that’s where you draw the line. And, like many other associations, you may have relied on “checkbook” members, who write an annual check for their dues, but aren’t taking full advantage of the benefits and programs you and your staff work hard to manage.

That’s because joining was the norm.

If you’ve been following Forward Together this year, you know we’ve spent a lot of time exploring the idea of modern membership and how expectations around how members want to be engaged continues to change due to a variety of trends:

  • There is no shortage of new technologies being introduced, affecting the ways members interact with you, with each other, and with your organization.
  • Personalization is huge. (If I had a nickel for every time Amazon came up in a conference session, I would be sitting on a beach somewhere right now.) Members understand and often give you permission to collect information on them. But – whether articulated or not – it’s almost always with the expectation that you do something meaningful with it.
  • Career journeys are more personal, too. People change jobs, employees prioritize their work in different ways.
  • And, perhaps most obvious (and most important), is the shift in member demographics and the implications that come with it.

It’s a lot to take in and to manage, especially when you have a day job to focus. But, how can you put these trends to work for you, in a practical way that’s going to yield meaningful results? How can you ensure you’re not sitting here in 2017 worrying about lackluster acquisition and/or retention results – or, if you’ve had a great year, blowing those numbers out of the water in the year ahead?

One of the things we’re increasingly seeing is the opening up of the membership model. By offering a portfolio of membership options to your members, you’re giving them the ability to pick the package that best suits their needs and budget. These can help boost membership engagement, membership numbers, and overall revenue. Common options include:

  • Tiering: This is a more traditional model where the number of benefits increases with the tier and/or price.
  • Segments: Target specific segments or membership audiences with offerings designed to appeal to their unique attributes.
  • Freemium: Expand your reach by offering lower value benefits for free, in an effort to attract new members and convert them to paid membership.
  • A la Carte: Allow members to self-select bundles, based on groupings of benefits most attractive to them.
  • Group: Offer value differentiation for both individual members, but also for organizations.

Which is right for you? Start by looking at your own membership data. Review the core of your membership, at the high-end and low-end in terms of key demographics relevant to your organization. Who are your core members? How experienced are they, what programs are they engaged in? How much are they paying to be part of your organization?

With an understanding of your existing membership, identify opportunities for growth. These should align with strategic goals, but develop a profile (or persona) you’d like to add to your membership roster. How will you identify these prospects? Are there new adjacencies that embracing this audience can help you explore?

Let your audience and the market tell you what the membership categories should be. Don’t create a membership category and try to sell it. When you introduce new membership models they should tap into new audiences, clarify value, create internal agility, and/or embrace new marketing opportunities. Above all, new models should help you accelerate growth.

If you’re in the D.C. area and want to learn more about alternate membership models, join us for an ASAE Power Hour next Wednesday, November 16, at ASAE Headquarters in Washington, D.C. I’ll present, “The New Normal: Alternate Membership Models for Associations” from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., and again from 4 to 6 p.m. To register, RSVP to Derek Saunders at industrypartner@asaecenter.org.