Is it Time to Increase Membership Dues?

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July 12, 2023

There’s no denying it – the cost of doing business is rising, and membership dues are no exception. So, how do you convince members that they need to pay more? This can be a tough question—but it’s also an important one. In this article, we'll discuss how to justify an increase in dues so that you can continue providing value to your members without draining their wallets (or yours). 

Are you charging the right amount for membership already? 

Established associations likely have membership dues in place already, but how do you know if it's a fair price? There are many factors to consider when deciding how much to charge for membership. First, compare the rates at other organizations in your industry. You don't want to be out of line with the competition. Otherwise, it's likely that people will go elsewhere if they can get something similar for less money.  This is also a good time to reevaluate what you offer and if those services are being used by members, or are of interest to potential members. You certainly don't want to overcharge for benefits that aren't adding value to your target audience's lives or careers. 

Next, you should research the overall costs of running the organization. What are the biggest expenses? And are there ways to reduce these costs? Once you know what your costs are and how much revenue each member brings in, you can calculate how many memberships will be needed to break even. If you can hit that goal in less than a year, your memberships are likely worth the price; however, if it takes longer than that, then you might want to reconsider the cost. 


Should dues be increased? 

To ensure long-term financial health and stability, associations and nonprofits must increase membership rates as the cost of business rises. Many organizations have been increasing their membership rates during the past few years to account for:  

  • Inflation: The United States has experienced consistent inflation for years and still is. This means that expenses will continue to rise, and the cost of goods and services will keep going up over time. The price of everything from food to utilities has increased significantly during the past few years, and if your organization does not raise its dues, then it will lose money in the process. 
  • Budget Shortfall: Another reason why your dues could need to be raised is if you are experiencing a budget shortfall. This could mean that the money coming into your organization has decreased while its expenses have remained the same or increased slightly. If this is the case, then it is important to raise your dues so that you can balance out your budget at the very least.  
  • Increase in Membership: If your membership has increased significantly over time, then it is important to increase your fees accordingly so that you can cover these new members, as well as continue providing valuable services for those who have been with you from the beginning.  

The benefit of raising your dues is that it will help ensure you can continue providing services for your members and the community as often as possible. If you do not raise your fees, then there’s a chance your organization will lose money each year, meaning its future could be in jeopardy. 

How do you justify an increase? 

You need to be able to first explain why the increase is necessary and how it will benefit members in the long run. For example, maybe your association wants to expand its services. Or maybe the cost of doing business went up due to factors beyond your control, such as inflation.   

From there, remind members how much you're offering and why it's worth paying more so that people can see the benefits they'll receive from remaining part of your organization. The most effective way of doing this is by listing out all the benefits they receive as either members or sponsors and then highlighting specific examples where these benefits have been helpful in the past. For example, members get:  

  • Discounts on products from partners  
  • Exclusive access to a members-only website, where they can find industry news, product reviews, and more 
  • A monthly newsletter that includes recommendations on how to use the products sold to the industry and how they can benefit members' professional lives 
  • Regularly scheduled live webinar invites, where members can ask questions and learn from industry experts in real-time 
  • Access to exclusive social media groups, where members can connect and network with other like-minded professionals

The bottom line is this: If you're going to talk about an increase in the cost of membership, talk about the benefits of membership within your association, and do it in a way that's relevant to your target audience. Ensure they get real value out of the membership and can see exactly how you can help them reach their goals.  Creating surveys is a great way to get an idea of what you can offer to both gain and retain members.

 

Conclusion 

Many organizations are hesitant to charge more for memberships because they don't want to lose members. After all, nobody likes paying more for things if they don’t have to. However, remember that if you're not charging enough, then you can't continue providing the same level of value for long. And if your members understand this as well, they’ll be more willing to stick with you.  

 

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