Rules of Engagement: Good as Gold

Earning rewards via an affinity discount program adds new layer to membership.

An affinity discount program—offering an association’s members savings on products and services from industry partners—is a nice extra that shows some tangible value for dues dollars. But is it the deciding factor at renewal time? Probably not. David Carrithers, founder and president of Affinity Center International (ACI), recommends associations transform their discount programs into rewards-points programs that build member engagement and loyalty. Here’s how:

  1. Use rewards to drive long-term gratification. “A discount is a short-term reward because you’re getting that instant gratification,” says Giulietta Versiglia, champion of marketing and products at ACI. “Points balances help more with long-term gratification, because the brain is actually saving those points and triggering itself to say, ‘Oh wow, I have 100 points. I may want to get 1,000 points because I want to go on that Africa safari trip or I want to get my kids a big Christmas gift.’”
  2. More rewards equals more frequent member engagement. By partnering with a wide range of both business-related and consumer brands, a rewards program can connect the member with the association year-round, “beyond the touching point of a conference or two conferences a year,” Carrithers says. “The goal is to take people from infrequent or one-time users and make them into advocates or consistent, ongoing users.”
  3. Make it fun. Through the subtle game element of earning points, an association loyalty program engages the brain’s pathways for rewards, emotions, memories, and social interaction. In other words, it feels like fun. “It’s OK to have fun with your members,” says Carrithers. “The world has gotten very serious in a lot of ways, but those small elements, those touch points, can be more fun.”


Joe Rominiecki

By Joe Rominiecki

Joe Rominiecki, manager of communications at the Entomological Society of America, is a former senior editor at Associations Now. MORE

Got an article tip for us? Contact us and let us know!