Membership Memo: Check’s in the Mail?

For membership dues payments, not so much anymore, thanks to the decline of the physical check.

One day, perhaps in the not-too-distant future, the paper check will retire to a museum to join the ranks of other old favorites like the typewriter and the rotary phone. That day may not be tomorrow, but signs are clear that it’s coming.

In 2009, the Federal Reserve said checks made up less than 25 percent of all noncash payments in the United States. In retail settings, that number is in the single digits.

As my EVP likes to say, merchandising 101: Don’t put a barrier between me and giving you my money.

For associations, the paper check is lingering but on the decline. ASAE research in 2012 showed that 88 percent of associations collected at least some portion of their dues payments via check—still the vast majority but down from 98 percent in 2006. More striking is the decline in the average portion of dues paid via check, down from 67 percent of payments in 2006 to 43 percent in 2012.

Improved e-commerce systems are enabling associations to collect more dues via credit and debit card online. The Globalization and Localization Association, for instance, only processes about a dozen checks per year and doesn’t mention it as a payment option on its website. With members dispersed around the world (just one in six GALA members is in the United States), efficiency is key.

“Our preferred method of payment is credit cards, because it’s so simple,” says Laura Brandon, chief operating officer at GALA. A new e-commerce­ platform nudges members in that direction. “The system contributes to more self-service, which is great for us.”

In the business-to-­business setting, the dwindling of check payments may be gradual. The Institute of Food Technologists receives about a quarter of its dues payments via check, often from companies paying for multiple em­ploy­ees, says Sharon Kneebone, IFT director of membership. As long as some members still prefer checks, IFT will accept them.

“As my EVP likes to say, merchandising 101: Don’t put a barrier between me and giving you my money,” she says.

(Stockstudio/Getty Images)

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

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