Pair a Perk With Preferred Payment

Trouble convincing members to pay dues a certain way? One association offers a key perk for free when members sign up for automatic renewals.

If you’re a dog or cat owner, you likely know about the miracle of pill pocket treats. I have experienced the alternative, giving a cat medicine orally with a syringe, which I can say is near impossible without having about seven hands. Hiding medicine inside a treat, though, is easy as pie.

A cynical view might be that a pill pocket is a method to “trick” a pet to take its medicine, but I would call it merely an “incentive.” And we all know incentives can be pretty useful for changing behavior. In the May/June issue of Associations Now, our featured “Best Benefit Ever” is the association version of a pill pocket.

Offering roadside assistance with an association membership moves the renewal decision for motorcyclists from discretionary to automatic.

The American Motorcylist Association offers a roadside assistance program to members, which is a handy service on its own, but there’s a hook: Members get the roadside assistance for free when they enroll in AMA’s automatic renewal program.

As AMA explained to its members when it launched the new, paired roadside assistance and auto-renewal programs, “The opt-in auto-renewal program saves members time and saves the AMA money. These savings can then be passed back to the members in the form of improved benefits and services, which includes the free AMA Roadside Assistance.” (Unrelated fun fact: The American Motorcylist Association is headquartered in Pickerington, Ohio, where I grew up.)

I wrote about auto-renewal back in December, noting the association community’s strong interest in it but expressing some doubts about its potential effectiveness. Boiled down, my concerns are that it’s hard enough to get members to join and renew, so it can only be more difficult to get members to commit to continued payments indefinitely into the future. In theory, auto-renewal makes life better for the member (“No need to write a check or use your credit card every year!”), but it’s a little scary. And in that way, it’s a lot like medicine.

AMA’s tactic is clever because it takes a payment method that saves money for the association and repackages it as a cost-saving benefit that saves money for the member. While the promotional spin on the advantage of auto-renewal (“Save us money so we can save you money”) is pleasant, the hard-numbers value of the packaged roadside assistance has more impact. Without auto-renewal, the roadside assistance program is $35 per year.

Discounts for certain forms of payment are a tried and true method for associations, including discounts for early meeting registration or early dues renewal, for multi-year memberships, for paying online (and not by check), for an all-electronic membership (i.e., no printed magazine, etc.), for joining a local or state chapter concurrently, or for joining or renewing combined with a conference registration. The list goes on. And associations are no stranger the “join and get this free gift” offer, either.

I like AMA’s offer most, though, because it gives more than just a discount or a gift but rather a tangible, highly relevant benefit. Roadside assistance is plainly useful. Moreover, as I suggested in my previous post on auto-renewal, membership is typically a conscious, yearly join decision, which stands in contrast to the more routine payments that people frequently set up for recurring payments, such as utilities, cable, rent, insurance, and so forth. Roadside assistance is a form of insurance that many motorcycle enthusiasts would consider a must-have, and offering it with an association membership helps move the renewal decision from discretionary to automatic, making auto-renewal much more palatable and attractive.

What incentives does your association offer for auto-renewal or other specific forms of payment? How effective are they? Please share in the comments.


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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