Planning to Discount Your Membership Dues? Reconsider.


Recently, I’ve been hearing some discussions centered on membership discounting strategies. Overall, I think it’s something to think more than twice about. And, here’s why:

#1 We work hard at our organizations to build up the membership value proposition. So, when we discount it; it actually drives down the value of membership. In some cases, I’ve seen memberships being offered at 50%, or “Join for the first year for half,” and 2 for 1 deals. Discounting undermines the overall value of the organization and is a negative strategy.

#2 Membership isn’t inventory sitting on the shelf. Let’s not treat it that way.

#3 Typically, I see discounting happen when budgets are getting a little tight and folks aren’t hitting their goals. So, are you ready and able to have a strong sales and renewal process in place. When people renew – the price of their dues goes up 100%. Now you’ve got problems. If you want to go with a prorated approach, I’m actually in favor of having the member pay full the first year and prorate year 2. However, remember – the problem is not the price; the challenge is the perceived value. Bottom line: drive up the perceived value and keep your dues steady.

#4 Now, I understand cutting a deal. I’ve had to cut deals during the recruitment process. This is a situation I often confront. But, I don’t want to “deal” as an overall marketing ploy. I’ll do an individual deal – especially for some of the organizations we work for who have a $20,000 membership fee, for example. But, I would sign that recruit and let them know the deal is a special circumstance; not a regular occurrence. Be sure there is a full understanding that the dues will increase to the regular rate over time; perhaps, over a period of 3 years so your organization has a step up on year 1, 2, and 3.

Remember, joining your association has immense value. When things get cold out there, use a dues reduction as a last resort.