The Ups and Downs of One Great Benefit

If one great member benefit lasts longer than your dues cycle, a lot of people will join to get it and then leave for a few years. How do you get your association off this roller-coaster ride?

A couple times here in this space, I’ve shared my belief that a significant number of any association’s members join for one primary benefit. Among these “uni-taskers,” some join for certification, some join for the magazine, some join for community, and so on. Whichever it is, for each uni-tasker, all your other benefits rank far below his or her favorite.

But these people are still joining, so that’s all that matters, right? Well, not if that attractive member benefit has a shelf life longer than your dues cycle. In the July issue of Associations Now, we spoke with two associations (coincidentally) that both have faced this problem:

The good news is they offer a benefit that attracts people to join. The bad news is those people aren’t finding reasons to stay.

The good news for both of these associations is that they offer a benefit that attracts people to join. The bad news is that a lot of those people weren’t finding reasons to stay. Such a scenario raises several questions for an association facing it:

  • How could we better promote the value of membership to these uni-taskers and turn them into multi-taskers who utilize multiple benefits?
  • What else do these uni-taskers value? (They have to need something other than that one benefit, right?) Can our association provide it?
  • What about our dues and pricing structure is leading people to join just to get one benefit?
  • Can these uni-taskers, in fact, be won over and retained, or are they simply not true joiners? Are they more like customers in disguise?
  • If uni-taskers can’t be retained, can our association live with predictable up-and-down cycles?

Also perhaps coincidentally, IAFN and AISC have both tried group rates to change the membership dynamic. IAFN’s group rate for multiple nurses at one hospital or medical facility is still young, having been launched in 2011, though it has been a successful offer so far. AISC moved to a group membership package with a per-person rate that declines steeply as the number of individuals in a joining organization goes up, and it also raised the price of its Steel Construction Manual for both members and nonmembers alike, leading to a rise from 1,500 members to 25,000 a decade later.

A drastic overhaul of membership packages may or may not be necessary to break free of single-benefit-based cycles, though. I’m curious what other solutions exist. Does your association experience up-and-down cycles based on a popular but periodic benefit? How have you tried to even those cycles out?


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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