The pandemic has forced associations to reevaluate lots of processes, and that includes how they collect membership dues. With no one in offices to receive paper invoices, online installment payment options look like they are here to stay—which is a good thing.
A lot of associations are discussing the pros and cons of installment payments for membership dues, especially given the current climate of economic uncertainty. I followed up with Melody Jordan-Carr, vice president of membership at the American Trucking Associations—who gave some great advice on Collaborate [ASAE member login required]—to find out why monthly dues installments work at ATA.
ATA is a trade association and so dues amounts vary. It offers monthly dues installments in addition to quarterly and semi-annual options. For smaller company members, who are really focused on their quarterly revenue, having a monthly payment means they don’t have a big expense up front when they join or renew.
“It allows them a little bit of room to breathe,” Jordan-Carr said. It also gives them flexibility to align their payments based on their fiscal year without having to take the hit from a big invoice all at once. “It’s what’s best for them. It gives them options,” she said.
Marketing General Incorporated’s 2020 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report offers some good news on installment options. Twenty-five percent of all respondents in the survey said they use an installment option; among trade associations, 32 percent offer installments. This method works well for automatic renewal programs, said Tony Rossell, senior vice president of MGI and the report’s coauthor.
“We typically see a 10 point higher renewal rate for members who participate in them compared to those who do not,” he said.
An added benefit of installment dues payments for ATA is that they provide an opportunity to communicate with members more often, Jordan-Carr said.
ATA’s regional sales representatives have been checking in on members more often during these past few stressful months, reinforcing what ATA is doing on a daily basis to support them. They remind members about industry-friendly legislation that ATA is pushing to get passed and other work being done on their behalf, instead of just asking for their dues payments. The sales team is usually focused on recruitment, but this year has concentrated much more on engagement and retention, Jordan-Carr said.
“We’re cultivating the relationship so we can have that chance to talk with them, to engage with them,” she said. “It is all about how we can make it easier for the member.”
Meanwhile, the membership team is paying especially close attention to where members are in their renewal process. If they know a member is usually late with payments, often because their fiscal year is different, the team doesn’t have to “sound the alarm,” she said. But for members who joined recently, who they don’t know as well, Jordan-Carr’s team watches more closely to determine if they need to devote a little more time and energy to them.
Some associations fear members will only join for certain benefits, like an in-person meeting, and then drop off if there is a monthly installment plan. Jordan-Carr said ATA has not experienced that kind of attrition. “If we do see that fall-off,” she said, “it is usually because there’s a tremendous budget issue with that company.”
Do you have membership dues installment strategies that are working well for you, especially in the pandemic? Share your experiences in the comments or send me an email.