Without an effective sales pitch and a comprehensive implementation plan, good ideas die. Joint membership is one of those good ideas for associations with a chapter network. Also known as unified membership, the joint membership model packages national and chapter memberships together. Members pay either the national association or the chapter for both memberships in one dues payment.
Chapter staff and leaders must feel invested in any decisions made about membership, even when those decisions can theoretically be made without their approval. Before making your plan public, create talking points for the chapter representatives on your project team and any other chapter champions of your plan.
Make sure the talking points include:
Ask chapter reps to provide feedback on the talking points. This feedback will help you develop a stronger ‘sales’ document you can distribute to chapters and other stakeholders, for example, national staff and leaders.
Schedule a virtual town hall to discuss the plan with chapter staff and leaders. Encourage chapters to bring their questions and concerns. Enlist the help of an experienced facilitator so the discussion remains informative and productive.
Your association’s policy and governance culture will determine how early you need to involve the board in discussions about a joint membership model. Your executive sponsor can provide guidance on this issue and act as the liaison with the board on the plan’s progress.
Consider whether any revisions must be made to your association’s bylaws and/or chapter affiliation agreements. Who needs to approve these bylaw changes – only the board? The membership? When can that approval take place – at a regularly scheduled board meeting, an annual membership meeting, or a time of your choosing?
What about chapter affiliation agreements – how, if necessary, are those amended? Will you require agreement from each chapter?
Other approval issues may arise:
Think through the entire member recruitment and renewal process with chapter representatives and national staff from the finance, membership, component relations, and IT departments. Walk through all the different scenarios related to membership type and member transitions.
Now’s the time to nail down how the join and renewal process will look for the member, and how the money and data will flow between national and the chapters.
Make a plan for the renewal process too.
Next, think about technology.
Start thinking about the best time to launch. Do you have a standard renewal anniversary date for all members? Should you consider the fiscal year or other association calendar events?
Get your project team ready. Make sure everyone knows the plan, timeline (and deadlines), and their roles and responsibilities. Communicate regularly about the project’s progress with chapters and other stakeholders.
Talk to others who have been down this path. Ask the ASAE Collaborate community if anyone would be willing to talk to you about their experience. Ask your AMS vendor for referrals. Or, talk to us – we know of many organizations that offer joint membership. Once you find your joint membership ‘mentors,’ ask them about the challenges and surprises they encountered and the lessons learned along the way.