A Strategy for Addressing Member Consolidation

Members are rapidly consolidating as organizations take over smaller ones, which puts a financial squeeze on associations because of diminishing membership dues revenue. Here are some tips for managing a growing concern.

It’s a safe bet that not many association professionals are sitting around hoping for another challenge to add to the mix, but they keep coming. Here’s one: a rapidly growing trend toward member consolidation, which is adding a lot of financial pressure to an already stressful situation.

Like many association leaders, Alan DeYoung, executive director and CEO of the Wisconsin EMS Association, has been focused on nondues revenue since he began his tenure at the beginning of 2018. WEMSA’s membership dues revenue is only 30 percent of its entire budget.

Since WEMSA is a state association, it has a narrow market because there are only so many licensed EMS providers in Wisconsin. “I literally know all 18,000,” DeYoung said. The EMS profession, like many others, is struggling with staffing and more departments have to consolidate.

WEMSA’s strategy is to focus on whatever the consolidator body is, in this case counties that come in and take over all the villages, cities, towns, and different departments that comprise WEMSA’s membership. DeYoung has found that personally reaching out to those county directors at the outset and offering help is a good place to start.

Membership Incentives

“As they grow bigger, we’re going to gain all those members,” DeYoung said. WEMSA has membership tiers to incentivize companies to add more people, so the group emphasizes to the larger departments that the more employees they list, the better membership deal they will get.

For example, if an organization lists up to 10 people for $300, there is no savings because the individual membership is $30. However, if the organization moves up to the next tier, they can list 20 people for $450, and instead of $30 per person it drops down to $22 per person.

Membership Value

WEMSA’s individual membership is only $30 per year because many of its members are volunteers. “We have to make sure they see the value in it immediately—some type of long-term value,” he said.

Many of WEMSA’s members typically only thought of the group as having two member benefits: a discount to its annual conference and the print magazine every quarter. “There’s just so much more in terms of the membership value that we’re really pushing this year,” DeYoung said. WEMSA offers several different benefits, including mental health webinars, free continuing education, an online community, and more.

WEMSA is also building a retired membership option because the community is still very involved post-career. As part of that, WEMSA partnered with the National EMS Museum on a dual membership program. “The museum is something a little bit more unique,” DeYoung said. “It gives a different kind of value to our retired members.”

Ultimately, DeYoung hopes this strategy will help them get ahead of the trends WEMSA is seeing. “I know we’re limited in our membership and as more groups consolidate, it’s going to get even worse,” he said. “So, I want to be prepared for the future.”

Lisa Boylan

By Lisa Boylan

Lisa Boylan is a senior editor of Associations Now. MORE

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