Value vs. Cost: How Do Your Dues Compare to Member Value?

Value vs. Cost: How Do Your Dues Compare to Member Value?
How Do Your Dues Compare to Member Value?

When was the last time you adjusted or evaluated your dues model?

Does your model still reflect the value of your offerings?

Do your members agree?

There are several reasons to consider reassessing your association’s dues structure – ensuring financial sustainability, staying on par with similar associations, or confirming your structure is consistent and easy to comprehend. Reassessing your dues model can lead you to discover areas of improvement or confirm you are right on track.

Evaluating your model can prepare your association for the shifts that come with market changes. But for many associations, it’s been years since they evaluated their dues models, leaving them in the dark over how they compare and unaware of how members value their services, information and offerings.

Not having a full understanding of how your members perceive value relative to the cost of dues can limit an association’s ability to respond to their members’ needs and take advantage of opportunities for long-term growth. Our client, Utilities Technology Council (UTC), recently found itself in this position. By taking action and working closely with McKinley, they were able to complete a successful and rewarding assessment. Here are some takeaways from our work together and some key steps your association can take to follow UTC’s lead.

Assess Your Membership

The first step is to confirm or refute your assumptions and gain new insights. If your association is anything like most organizations,  you likely don’t have processes in place for regular research and evaluations and are concerned, or simply curious, about how you measure up to your members’ perceptions.

UTC came to McKinley after it noticed a shift in member needs and felt it needed to evaluate several areas within the association. Together, we worked to weigh UTC offerings relative to membership preferences and ultimately, we were able to confirm its value proposition was still relevant and strong.

This finding was exciting for several reasons, but most importantly because it led to the discovery that its overall value was greater than what members were paying, and dues were much lower than other industry trade association memberships. Through conversations with members, UTC was able to confirm this finding, as several members agreed they had been undercharged for membership.

Once your organization completes an assessment, you have the opportunity to make important, strategic decisions. For UTC, the confirmation of its value combined with the increased desire for advocacy on behalf of the industry and other programming led it to uncover that there was a clear opportunity to evaluate its dues structure.

Plan and Delegate

For many organizations, if their value is lower than the cost of membership, they might need to consider how they can improve their current offerings or add additional services and offerings to meet member needs. For UTC, it had the opposite challenge since its value was greater than what it was charging for dues.

No matter the outcome of the assessment, to move forward with an efficient plan based on the findings, associations must recognize that leadership and processes are essential to turning results into action.

Working closely with McKinley, UTC moved forward with a plan for developing a new dues structure. Its first order of business was establishing internal leadership positions to serve as points of contact.

By incorporating a Dues Committee, a primary staff liaison and an external consultant, UTC was able to rely on team members to delegate tasks and effectively manage the entire process. The committee also served as an internal focus group to gather insights and data.

When rolling out something as ambitious as a new dues model, it’s essential for associations to clearly outline roles and responsibilities of key stakeholders and plan for feedback and input accordingly, to ensure that everything runs smoothly. Without it, roles can be confused, miscommunications occur, and disorganization can lead to inefficiencies and poor results.

Building Support for Your New Model

To ensure evidence driven recommendations that take into consideration both member needs and organizational sustainability, a key component of this process is collecting existing and additional research and financial data. This, combined with the role volunteer leaders play to own the recommendations and champion the change, increases the chances of approval from your board.  While UTC was able to conduct member research and provide additional data, other organizations may need to conduct further data collection before moving on to implementation.

After the committee agreed on the updated structure, UTC worked with McKinley to develop a communications plan to ease its members into the transition. An organized communications plan is essential to educate current members on the changes to the membership structure and help minimize potential member attrition over the following renewal cycle.

Because of that, the dues structure was unanimously approved and passed.

How Can Our Association Do That?

By reassessing your dues and evaluating your membership, you can uncover insights that lead to improvements for both your members and the overall sustainability of your organization.

Like UTC, all associations naturally experience shifts over time. It’s the way you react to those shifts that can be defining. By putting processes in place for consistent evaluations, you not only can ensure that your association is meeting member needs but that your dues structure is aligned with your value — and that it never goes overlooked.

Learn more about UTC’s dues restructuring process and its projected impact here, and contact McKinley Advisors to begin your own assessment.