Tiered membership could benefit associations, new gen professionals: association consultant

Associations can take the cue from Netflix and other for-profit companies that have subscription model or tiered membership, according to certified association executive and consultant, Mary Byers.

Among the reasons she cited for even considering the shift from single membership model: it appeals to a new generation of members, the fresh graduates and new professionals who are used to paying subscription fee to access many programmes and services; brings recurring revenue and in some cases, increased revenue stream; helps to grow membership; and provides real time data to improve one’s services.

Associations could learn from the many models of tiered membership applied by for-profit organisations

In a webinar hosted by the Philippine Council of Associations and Association Executives (PCAAE), Byers said tiered membership also allows choice. A membership may be expensive but on one end, an association may offer free trial and free membership category, thereby allowing it to capture other markets that it may not have while giving potential members low risk trial before going on full membership.

Citing examples from the commercial world, Byers said streaming video service Netflix has three-tiered membership from which subscribers can choose the fees with corresponding benefits and services. Mealkit Hello Fresh, Harry’s men’s grooming and shave supplies, Birchbox beauty and grooming, and others deliver their products at their subscribers’ homes with assorted benefits to choose from that are tweaked from time to time.

Tiered membership strategies may be of interest as a number of associations wrestle with reduced revenue that comes as a result of lost membership in 2020 due to the pandemic, she pointed out.

In recommending a three-tiered model, she said: “Occasionally, you see four tiers but you don’t want to get too many because it gets overwhelming and intimidating.”

When the membership software of Arkansas Bar Association would not allow them to go to three membership categories, they went for two – member and member plus, the latter proving to be the more robust category. The two categories provide opportunities for more revenue and for members to choose a higher level of service.

In changing the membership model, associations should consider what the tiers are, pricing, benefit per tier, benefits that should be in the low, middle and high tier. And as some things may work and some may not, Byers suggested trying the new tiered model for new members only, and experimenting every three to six months.

She believes that associations could find flexibility to pilot a tiered membership, especially as technology enables them to cast their nets more widely and bring in qualified people.