Budgeting for Membership Marketing in Challenging Times

by Tony Rossell

Right now, every line of an association’s budget is under scrutiny.  So how do you make a case for sustaining and even increasing your membership marketing budget?

Here are the four essential values that members bring to an association that make a fully funded membership marketing budget a priority.

·       Lifetime Value – Membership stands out as producing an outstanding return on investment compared to many of the products that an association offers. At the typical renewal rate of 80%, an average member will stay with an association for five years.  So, a $150 annual dues rate represents an income stream of $750 in lifetime value. On the other hand, customers come and go. Some of our data analysis shows that customers renew year over year at a rate as low as 7%. Having to replace most of your customers each year is a less efficient use of marketing dollars than getting and keeping members. 
·       Customer Value – Besides offering a dues revenue stream, a member also represents a significant value as a customer for an association. Almost any association will find that members pay to attend meetings at a higher rate than non-members and are the top buyers of all of an association’s offerings. Effectively a member is paying you to become a customer. So by producing both a dues revenue stream and non-dues revenue, members represent an economic multiplier for an association.
·       Stability Value – Member dues bring financial stability to an association. Many associations are challenged now with face to face training and conference cancellations.  It has been a shock to many budgets—however, members signup for a year at a time.  So, associations with a strong membership dues base maintain a predictable income stream. Of course, membership counts might decline for some during an economic disturbance, but the decline is typically incremental compared to the loss from a significant event cancellation.
·       Mission Value – Members are the cornerstone for accomplishing the mission of an association through their volunteering, content creation, networking, and support of advocacy. And they typically provide these vital services at no cost to the association. An association without members becomes a publisher or meeting company.
One other important consideration for budgeting is the enormous need in the world now.  People are looking for guidance, community, and solutions. This challenging time offers associations the opportunity to meet needs through the value provided by their membership. You will never know if your association can be the source of that help unless you reach out and invite members to continue with you and to join. Now might be the ideal time to invest in your efforts to get and keep members.

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