Associations are appreciating their chapters more than ever. As the number and quality of online educational and networking opportunities continue to increase, chapters provide a unique professional experience for members. “They provide that ‘extra-special sauce’ that is so important to belonging to an association community: face-to-face interaction,” said Marilee Yorchak, CAE, executive director of the Digital Analytics Association.
How do associations encourage members and prospects to double-down on their membership commitment? Many of them offer a joint membership package.The joint membership model, also known as unified membership, packages national and chapter memberships together. Members pay for both in one dues payment either to the national association or the chapter. In 67 percent of associations, national collects the dues, according to the 2016 Chapter Benchmarking Report published by Mariner Management & Marketing.
The unified model is required for membership at 31 percent of the associations that participated in the Mariner survey. Peggy Hoffman, Mariner’s president, sees a growing number of associations adopting the joint membership model despite the recent interest in an “a la carte” menu membership model.
Associations offering three types of membership – national-only, chapter-only, and joint membership – often promote joint membership at a discount to encourage prospects to join both the national association and their local chapter. The national association usually absorbs the cost of this discount since it has the larger budget and more efficiencies of scale.Whether your association requires joint membership or offers it as one of your membership options, you’ll discover the many benefits it has for your association, chapters, and, most importantly, your members.
Members join an association’s local chapter to network and develop relationships with their peers – the #1 reason members join associations, according to the 2016 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report, published by Marketing General Inc. (MGI).
By offering a joint membership, you now have an opportunity to promote the value of national membership to these prospects.However, joint membership is only of value to members if the national association and its chapters offer different but complementary member benefits. Joint membership must offer more value, not the same value as a national or chapter membership alone. Members should not only get access to a wider network of peers but also access to a wider and more diverse selection of resources and benefits.
Joint membership provides the foundation for a more collaborative relationship between national and its chapters. You’re in it together – both invested in your members’ national and chapter membership experience. You’re no longer rivals but partners who look out for each other and help each other leverage your strengths to provide value to your shared members.By tying themselves more closely to national, chapters serve as national’s pipeline for leaders, attendees, customers, and online community participants. Instead of developing separate marketing and recruitment materials, you can now share this responsibility. Or, more likely, national can take on the heavy-lifting of marketing, allowing chapters to focus their limited resources elsewhere.
If chapters collect dues, the launch of a joint membership program provides an opportunity for national to automate, streamline, and standardize dues and membership processes. These changes will relieve the workload of chapter staff and leaders, and also save time and prevent headaches for your finance, data management, and membership teams.
Do what you can to make it easier for chapters to focus more on value delivery and less on administrative tasks. Technology that increases the transparency, speed, and accuracy of the dues collection, disbursement, and reporting processes will benefit both chapters and national.
When national collects the dues for joint membership, the chapter’s administrative burden is alleviated – a welcome relief for chapters run by small staffs or volunteer leaders. They get more time to focus on their mission of delivering value to members.Joint membership gives members an opportunity to broaden their association experience with just one click. But is it right for your members? Our next post will explain how to decide if joint membership is a good option for your association and chapters.