New Membership and Partnership Models Will Mark 2016

Association software provider Abila predicts associations will start mixing up their membership and partnership models to meet their 2016 resolutions.

With the turn of the new year, associations will start seeing some new trends. According to predictions from Abila, which provides software and services to associations, key changes will include a transition to hybrid membership models and increased for-profit partnerships.

These projections come as the percentage of associations reporting year-over-year membership growth is down 6 percent, according to Abila’s Senior Product Marketing Manager Amanda Myers.

“Both the hybrid model and both the partnerships, be it for-profit or nonprofit, are really about helping overcome some of those challenges,” Myers said. “It’s very solutions-based, and that’s really exciting seeing some of these associations get creative and start thinking outside of the box in terms of what they can bring to the table to help overcome their challenges and really set themselves up for a great 2016.”

Associations will start turning to a hybrid membership model versus the traditional model, which Myers described as a one-size-fits-all strategy. Instead of having one set of benefits and dues, a hybrid model creates tiers by career stage, level of engagement, and the like.

Tiers based on involvement offer several sets of benefits with corresponding dues. This structure allows people who can’t afford full dues, such as students or recent graduates, to still be part of the association’s network and community, but for less money and with lower output.

The hybrid model also includes organizational memberships, in which an organization can purchase a group membership for its employees. This allows organizations to not only get their staff engaged in affiliated associations, but also increases reach, renewal rates, and convenience for associations, which will help them meet growth and retention goals.

Abila also predicts more associations will partner with for-profit organizations in 2016. Breaking out of the traditional nonprofit-to-nonprofit partnership structure doesn’t only provide associations with more cash but also with access to new potential members, technology, and research sharing.

“It’s definitely about expanding reach; it’s about growing those resources,” Myers said. “It’s about finding ways that you’re complementary—and how can you be complementary not only as an association, but how can those complements provide value for your membership.”

Several associations have already entered into for-profit partnerships to embrace these benefits, such as the American Heart Association, which announced a new partnership with Google in November.

Myers thinks associations are more comfortable with this change as partnerships become less formal and more natural through increased interconnectivity and networking relationships via various social platforms.

“We have more of an interconnected world that we’re all exposed to just in our daily lives, and that’s finding its footing in the association space as well,” she said. “So where these would’ve been really foreign concepts before, people are more comfortable with it.”

Alex Beall

By Alex Beall

Alex Beall is an associate editor for Associations Now with a masters in journalism and a penchant for Instagram. MORE

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