In Pursuit of the Perpetual Member

In Pursuit of the Perpetual Member

We invented membership. We own this stuff. We built it and own it and live it. Members are our life.

And now they have exploited it for their own nefarious purposes. You have to be a “member” to shop here. You have to be a “member” to buy our shoes. You can be a “member” and we’ll give you your choice of a lite, regular, or robust membership tier. You become a “member” and you’ll never have to think about it again; don’t worry we’ll take care of you.

And aren’t they brilliant!

They, of course, is our for-profit brethren and they are making the methodology of membership shine again.

We, the associations and organizations who began the concepts and constructs of the membership model, should turn around and learn from them. Because they are doing it expertly. Giving members – their customers – what they want, when they want it. Giving their members the option to be a customer for life and never expire.

We have tried our member-get-a-member campaigns. We have ambassadors and point systems. We send direct mail and we urge the managers and educators of our industries to promote membership and reward joining. We get members to join when they get a discount on our conferences and then say goodbye to them until the next event they want to attend.

So with pitchforks raised, let’s take this back. We in the membership business must sharpen our tools, re-envision our work, begin a revolution to be better and to be now.

Perpetual membership can be that thing. Don’t keep doing what you’ve always done. Let’s start doing what works for our friends at Costco and Netflix and Just Fab. Let’s reimagine our membership models and start employing some of these proven methods.

  1. Give members the option to automatically renew their dues. You can save the work you have to do in that renewal cycle by giving an option to members to automatically renew at the end of their term. Invest in a tool that allows you to do this and it will pay for itself in the savings you can reap from diminishing the work you do and the communications you send in that renewal cycle.
  2. Offer an installment plan. It certainly works for Netflix. For a small monthly fee, they are delivering their services to you. Consider how this might work for your organization. Does it become a perpetual membership, or do you feel you must make the reengagement at the end of each year? Either way you are continuing a relationship on a monthly, quarterly or annual basis without having the member have to make a new decision to remain engaged each year. It’s an opt-out process, rather than the opt-ins that most of us see in associations today.
  3. Give options and choices in services. Who hasn’t seen the bronze, silver, and gold plans on websites or a lite, regular, and plus-sized service tier? Giving people choices in how much of you they consume is an expected perk. Perhaps one of your tiers is even free. Hard to conceptualize this, but even Mail Chimp and Survey Monkey have free tiers. Why should not the National Association of Simians do the same?

We’d love to hear your ideas for reconstituting membership models today. Comment below and let’s hear more ideas.

Want to explore perpetual membership for your organization? Read about a tool that might help you implement a perpetual membership program for your association.


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