Good Reads You Might Have Missed: Dues Increases

In a time of inflation and in the wake of a long pandemic, associations might find themselves debating an existential question: Should we raise dues? Here are a few ways to respond to just that question.

If you’re a subscriber to Netflix, you know how grumpy people might get about a dues increase … which isn’t exactly the greatest news for membership pros who are considering raising prices to keep pace with the times.

But thoughtfully handled dues increases can go well—if you have the right strategy. With that in mind, here are a few pieces from the and Associations Now archives on managing dues increases with care:

Is Now the Right Time to Raise Dues? Ah, the eternal question. This February 2022 piece, featuring an interview with Joy Duling, founder and CEO of the Joy of Membership, breaks down considerations around raising dues after the height of the pandemic. “When organizations made the decision to adjust prices, they didn’t necessarily give a lot of thought to what would be on the other side,” Duling said.

A No-Cost Way to Both Raise Membership Dues and Benefit Members. This piece, from November 2021, discusses how the Synthetic Turf Council tied a dues increase to an industry market report that added value to membership, justifying the bump. “It was very important to have the right message that the dues increase was paying for an industry report that members had been asking us to do for a long time,” said the council’s then-president and CEO, Dan Bond, CAE.

‌Avoid Sticker Shock With Gradual Dues Increases. Kicking the can down the road a little has its benefits. That’s the lesson Jessica Silwick of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology learned. After a decision to increase membership dues by 6 percent in a year proved unpopular, the group chose a more gradual approach, with a maximum increase of just 2 percent per year. “It’s a small impact,” Silwick, the group’s chief financial officer and chief operating officer, said. “And we currently have a record of only increasing rates by 1 percent over the past few years.”

A Successful, Drama-Free Way to Raise Member Dues. The gradual dues increase was a lesson that the International Association of Plastics Distribution learned more than a decade ago. Rather than making a big show of a major increase, the organization decided to do automatic 3 percent increases each year, a move it first made about a dozen years ago, said the group’s CEO, Susan Avery, CAE. “I think in all those years we’ve had maybe one or two calls or emails about it,” Avery said.

‌How Much Is Too Much for a Membership Dues Increase? Too much gas and you might get burned. This 2017 piece highlights how the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers was early on the trend of consistent, gradual dues increases. According to Michael Connor, then NACDL’s membership director, a survey helped define the path. “More than 60 percent said they felt the value of member benefits outweighed the cost of the membership,” Connor said. “That helped us to confirm what we already were thinking—that a dues increase was needed.”

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Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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