Membership Hack: Pay-What-You-Can Members

SHAPE America is testing a new way to recruit and win back members: letting them decide how much to pay in dues.

How to hack it? This year, SHAPE America, the largest U.S. association of health and physical education professionals, tested a bold membership offer: SHAPE allowed prospects to pay what they can in dues. “It’s a pretty revolutionary idea,” says Senior Membership Manager Matt Rankin, CAE. Members could opt into a free digital-only, open-access membership, or they could name their price.

Why does it work? The pay-what-you-can pilot has quickly added to SHAPE’s membership ranks. Rankin’s team tested pay-what-you-can in limited ways, offering the option to state-affiliate members, renewing members, and long-lapsed members of four years or more. “These were people who were already prospects,” Rankin says. “While we were completely underwhelmed by the amount of dues it generated, we think there’s tons of long-term value. We’ll know in six to eight months if they bought a book, went to an event, or participated in an advocacy effort.”

What’s the bonus? Surprisingly, the results were favorable even for current, dues-paying members. Rankin tested pay-what-you-can with a few renewals, and many members maintained the dues they were paying previously. “It wasn’t a race to the bottom,” he says.

(wragg/Getty Images Plus)

Tim Ebner

By Tim Ebner

Tim Ebner is a senior editor for Associations Now. He covers membership, leadership, and governance issues. Email him with story ideas or news tips. MORE

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