MGI Membership Dues Survey

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Membership marketing – acquiring, engaging, upgrading, and renewing members – is the cornerstone for associations and relationship driven organizations. Whether you are an association professional or …

Membership marketing – acquiring, engaging, upgrading, and renewing members – is the cornerstone for associations and relationship driven organizations. Whether you are an association professional or a relationship marketer, join the discussion on the Membership Marketing Blog and share your ideas and counsel.

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  • A number of the questions from this research were repeated in the 2011 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report. The data held constant. If you would like more informaton on this topic, please visit my blog at: http://membershipmarketing.blogspot.com/.
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  • 1. Membership Dues Increase Study Best Practices: The Why, How, and Outcomes of Raising Membership Dues Presented by Tony Rossell, SVP Marketing General, Inc. November 2007 - -
  • 2. Methodology - -
    • Research Purpose
    • The purpose of the current research is to understand best practices for implementing dues increases within associations as well as determine effects of raising dues on association membership, revenue and acquisition rates.
    • Survey Instrument
    • The survey is self-administered and consists of 20 questions. Responses are tabulated along two axes: marginal counts and cross-tabulations. All closed-ended questions are analyzed by number and percent of responses.
    • All questions are cross-tabulated by percentage of dues increase, whether a special offer was provided, percent of membership change after dues increase, percent of revenue change after dues increase, percent of acquisition change after dues increase, post-increase renewal rate, type of organization and number of members.
    • Sample Selection and Data Collection
    • Surveys were sent to 10, 347 American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) members via postal mail on August 6, 2007. Respondents were give the option to complete and return the survey or to complete the survey online at a specified Web address. The study was closed early September. Approximately 57 surveys (18%) were completed online and the remaining 267 were returned via postal mail or fax.
    • Sample selection was completed by MGI .
    • Response Rate
    • With 324 participating organizations, the response rate for this project is approximately 3.1%.
    • Margin of Error
    • Standard Error is a statistical term that describes the likelihood of achieving the same result in a similar study. At the 95% confidence level, we are assured that if we were to do this test n times, the same result +/- the margin of error would occur 95 out of 100 times.
    • A sample size of 324 carries with it a margin of error of +/- 5.4 percentage points. That means that if all the recipients were surveyed, we could expect that the results of that survey would not vary more than +/- 5.4 percentage points in 95 out of 100 instances.
  • 3. Executive Summary
    • Frequency and Timing of Dues Increases
    • The majority of associations (66%) report that they raise dues only when necessary, compared with about 18% of associations that raise dues annually.
    • Organizations raising dues on an annual basis are more likely to raise dues by a lower amount (1% to 10%) than those organizations raising dues as needed.
    • Percentage of Last Dues Increase
    • Close to 60% of associations most recently raised dues only by 1% to 10%.
    • 21% of associations raised dues by 11% to 20% and 10% of associations raised dues by 21% to 30%.
    • Effects of Different Levels of Dues Increase
    • Membership
    • Overall, membership rates remained unchanged after a dues increase. Associations that raised dues by 21% to 30% had the lowest percentage of membership increase and a significantly higher percentage of membership decline after raising dues.
    • Associations raising dues by 11% to 20% overall had the highest rate of increase and the lowest rate of decline for membership.
    • Revenue
    • 72% of associations reported increases in revenue after the dues increase. Associations were most likely to see revenue increase by the same percentage that membership dues were raised. For example, associations raising dues by 1% to 10% saw revenue increase by 1% to 10%.
    • Associations raising dues by 11% to 20% had the highest percentage of revenue increase, no reported revenue decrease and the lowest percentage of unchanged revenue.
    • Acquisition
    • 50% of associations report that acquisition rates remained the same. Overall, about 21% saw acquisition increases after membership dues increased and only 5% reported acquisition declines.
    • Associations raising dues by 11% to 20% report the highest percentage of acquisition increase (28%) and the lowest percentage of unchanged acquisition.
    • Associations raising dues 21% to 30% report the lowest percentage of acquisition increase and the highest percentage of unchanged acquisition or declines in acquisition.
    - -
  • 4. Executive Summary
    • Renewal Rates
    • Pre- and post-increase renewal rates varied very little, suggesting that the act of raising the dues itself is not a factor affecting the percentage of renewal.
    • Differences were seen depending on the level of dues increase. Overall, renewal rates were best when dues were increased by 1% to 10%, having a lower proportion of associations reporting a renewal rate below 80%. However, renewal rates at the 90% level or higher were basically equal across all three increase levels.
    • Conclusion
    • While the majority of associations most recently raised dues at 1% to 10%, findings show that the association membership will support an increase as high as 11% to 20%, demonstrating increases not only in revenue, but in membership and acquisition. However, anything over 20% shows a diminishing rate of return, with larger decreases in membership and acquisition rates, and declining renewal rates.
    - -
  • 5. Sample Characteristics - - Type of Membership Individual 48.5% Organizational 43.0% Other 7.9% Don’t know/no answer 0.6% Number of Members 5,000 or less 68.7% Over 5,000 30.7% 5,001-10,000 9.1% 10,001-15,000 6.1% 15,001-20,000 2.9% 20,001-25,000 1.5% 25,001-30,000 1.5% 30,001-35,000 1.8% 35,001-40,000 0.3% 40,001-45,000 0.3% 45,001-50,000 0.3% 50,001-55,000 1.2% 55,001 or more 5.8% Don’t know/no answer 0.6%
  • 6. Frequency of Raising Dues - -
    • Two-thirds of respondents indicate dues are raised as needed.
    • 18% of respondent organizations raise dues annually.
    (N=342)
  • 7. Frequency of Raising Dues - -
    • Organizations that raise dues annually are significantly more likely to raise it only 1% to 10% each time, while those who raise it as needed are significantly more likely to raise dues 11% to 20% or 21% to 30%.
  • 8. When were dues last raised? - -
    • 34% of organizations have raised dues this year.
    • Almost 20% last raised dues in 2006 and about 15% last raised dues in 2005.
    • Associations primarily offering organizational memberships are significantly more likely to have raised dues in 2007.
    (N=342)
  • 9. Average Percentage of Last Increase? - -
    • 59% of associations raised dues between 1% and 10% for their most recent dues increase.
    • 21% raised dues by 11% to 20% and about 10% raised dues by 21% to 30%.
    • Associations raising dues 1% to 10%: Significantly less likely to provide a special offer; significantly more likely to see either an increase of 1% to 10% or no revenue change; significantly more likely to show no change in acquisition rates; significantly more likely to demonstrate an 80% to 89% post-increase renewal rate; significantly more likely to offer organizational memberships. Post-increase renewal rates are highest at this level of increase.
    • Associations raising dues 11% to 20%: Significantly more likely to show a revenue increase of 11% to 20%; significantly more likely to offer individual memberships. Overall, post-increase renewal rates drop with a rise in the percentage of dues increase.
    • Associations raising dues 21% to 30%: Significantly more likely to show a decline of 1% to 10% in membership; significantly more likely to show an increase of 21% to 30% in revenue. Overall, post-increase renewal rates drop with a rise in the percentage of dues increase.
    (N=342)
  • 10. Range of Dues Increase - -
    • 16% of associations have raised dues by more than 20% in the past 10 years.
    • 5% or fewer associations have raised dues by more than 30% in the past 10 years.
    • 32% of the associations that have raised dues above 20% in the past 10 years report a 1% to 10% decline in membership as a result, with little to no change in the rate of membership acquisition.
    (N=342)
  • 11. Justification for Most Recent Raise
    • 54% of associations indicate keeping up with inflation is the justification used to support the dues increase.
    • 48% report that the addition of new programs or services is the justification used to support the increase.
    • Close to one-quarter mention increasing advocacy as justification for an increase in dues.
    • Directionally, the proportion of associations offering inflation as justification for a dues increase decreases as the percentage of the dues increase grows.
    • Associations citing the additions of new programs and services are significantly more likely to raise dues 11% to 20% and to have provided a special offer as incentive.
    - -
  • 12. How Was Increase Announced?
    • 44% of associations have announced their most recent dues increase through a letter or e-mail to the association and/or through a letter in the renewal notice.
    • 40% of associations announced the increase through an article in the association newsletter or publication.
    • If the announcement was made via some form of written communication, associations are significantly more likely to provide a special offer for joining/renewing.
    • Directionally, associations announcing an increase through the newsletter or publication saw a 1% to 10% decline in membership.
    • Associations that sent a letter or e-mail to the membership are significantly more likely to see an increase in revenue of 11% to 20% or 21% to 30%, as well as an increase in acquisition of 11% to 20%.
    - - (N=342)
  • 13. How Far in Advance Was Increase Announced? - -
    • About one-half of the associations made the dues increase known to the membership within three months of it taking effect.
    • 30% of associations announced the change in dues four to six months before it was implemented.
    • Only about 10% of associations made members aware of the increase a minimum of six months ahead of time.
    • Associations that notified members three months in advance are significantly more likely to have seen a 1% to 10% decline in membership.
    • Associations planning to raise dues by 21% to 30% are more likely to announce this increase much further in advance.
    (N=342)
  • 14. What Special Offers Were Made? - -
    • Only about 16% of associations provided some type of special offer to lessen the impact of the dues increase. Those who offered an incentive were significantly more likely to be implementing a dues increase of 11% to 20%.
    • Directionally, associations that offered an incentive saw a decline in membership of 1% to 10%. Associations that did not provide a special offer were significantly more likely to see a membership increase of 11% to 20%.
    • Furthermore, associations that provided a special offer were significantly more likely to have post-increase renewal rates below 80%, whereas associations not offering an incentive were significantly more likely to see post-increase renewal rates at 80% or higher.
    • It is important to point out that the differences seen between associations that provided special offers and those that did not is more a function of the percentage increase in dues rather than the presence of an incentive offer.
    (N=342)
  • 15. How Has the Increase Impacted Membership? - -
    • 54% of associations report no change in membership since the dues increase.
    • 16% report an increase in membership while 12% report a decline in membership.
    • There is an inverse relationship between membership, and the percentage of dues increase. Associations reporting a decline in membership are significantly more likely to have increased dues by 21% to 30%. This proportion is reduced as the percentage of the dues increase becomes smaller.
    • Similarly, the proportion of associations reporting a membership increase rises as the percentage of the dues increase decreases.
    • Not surprisingly, post-increase renewal rates are affected by the impact on membership. Associations reporting a membership increase are more likely to report higher renewal rates, while those reporting a membership decline are significantly more likely to show post-increase renewal rates below 80%.
  • 16. Post-increase Percentage Change in Membership - -
    • One-third of associations report that membership either increased by 1% to 10% after the dues increase or remained the same.
    • Only 8% indicate a membership increase of more than 10%.
    • 17% of the associations saw up to a 10% drop in membership as a result of the dues increase.
    • Associations that saw an increase of up to 10% are significantly more likely to have raised dues by 20% or less. Not surprisingly, the increase in membership led to a revenue increase of 1% to 10% and an acquisition increase of 1% to 10%. Additionally, this group was significantly more likely to report renewal rates of 80% or higher.
    • Associations indicating no change in membership from the dues increase report 90% or higher renewal rates.
    • Associations whose membership declined by 1% to 10% are significantly more likely to have raised dues by 21% to 30%. Renewal rates for this group are significantly more likely to be less than 80%.
  • 17. Time Needed to Regain Membership Levels - -
    • This question is difficult to interpret. In the online version, the question should have been answered only by those people who indicated in the previous question that there was a decline in membership. However, the question did not include a skip pattern and all questions in the survey were in mandatory format preventing continuation of the survey unless the question was answered, even if it was inappropriate to do so.
    (N=342)
  • 18. How Has the Increase Impacted Revenue? - -
    • 72% of associations reported revenue increases after the dues increase, and 10% indicate revenue remained unchanged.
    • Associations that saw an increase in revenue are significantly more likely to report an increase in membership as well, whereas those reporting no change in revenue were significantly more likely to report a decline in membership.
    • Associations reporting an increase in revenue were also significantly more likely to report acquisition increases up to 20% and renewal rates of 90% or higher.
    • Associations with declines in revenue were significantly more likely to show renewal rates below 70%.
  • 19. Post-increase Percentage Change in Revenue - -
    • About 50% of associations report that revenue increased by 1% to 10% after the dues increase went into effect.
    • Directionally, renewal rates are more likely to increase with the smaller revenue increases, most likely because the smaller revenue rates are directly associated with smaller dues increases.
    • For associations reporting no change in revenue, renewal rates are more likely to be lower.
  • 20. How Has the Increase Impacted Acquisition? - -
    • About 50% of associations report that membership acquisition remained the same.
    • 21% report increases in membership acquisition after the dues increase. Associations that raised dues 11% to 20% were more likely to see an increase in acquisition.
    • Associations reporting an increase in acquisition were significantly more likely to see overall membership increases of up to 20%.
    • Associations indicating that acquisition rates did not change were significantly more likely to see overall membership increase by only 1% to 10% or remain unchanged.
  • 21. Post-increase percentage change in acquisition - -
    • Approximately 45% of associations indicated that there was no change in member acquisition after the dues increase.
    • 28% report an increase in acquisition by 1% to 10%, and 7% of associations report increases in acquisition of more than 10%.
    • Associations that raised dues by 11% to 20% have a greater percentage of increase in member acquisition.
    • There is a strong correlation between the reported percentage change in acquisition and the percentage change in membership and revenue: Associations reporting an increase of 1% to 10% in acquisitions were more likely to see overall membership and revenue increases by the same percentage.
  • 22. Overall Pre- and Post-increase Renewal Rates - -
    • There is a strong positive correlation between the pre-increase renewal rates and the post-increase renewal rates (r 2 =.91).
    • There is virtually no difference in the pre- and post-increase renewal rates. There is a slight drop in the proportion of associations reporting a post-increase renewal rate of 90% or higher, but not to a significant degree.
    • Directionally, there is a higher proportion of respondents indicating a post-increases renewal rate of 80% to 89% when the increase was only 1% to 10%. When the dues increase rises, the proportion of associations seeing this level of renewal drops.
    (N=342)
  • 23. Pre-increase Renewal Rates by Percentage of Increase - -
    • Associations raising dues by 1% to 10% report the highest overall percentage of membership renewal before dues were increased.
    • One-half of the associations raising dues by 21% to 30% report renewal rates of 90% or higher before the dues increase.
    • Associations offering organizational memberships are significantly more likely to show renewal rates of 90% or higher.
  • 24. Post-increase Renewal Rates by Percentage of Increase - -
    • All three levels of dues increase show virtually equal proportions at the 90% or higher renewal rate.
    • Higher levels of dues increase (over 10%) are more likely to have renewal rates around the 70% to 80% threshold, while associations raising dues by only 1% to 10% are more likely to see renewal rates at the 80% to 89% level.
  • 25. Pre- and Post-increase Renewal Rates by Percentage of Increase - -
    • By comparison, associations raising dues by 1% to 10% have the highest pre-dues increase renewal rates (see dark blue line), with a higher proportion of renewals above 80%. After dues are raised, however, the percentage of associations reporting renewals at 90% or higher drops.
    • Those associations raising dues by 21% to 30% show the highest percentage of renewals pre-dues increase (see dark purple line). But this group shows the biggest drop in renewals after dues are raised.
    • Associations raising dues by 11% to 20% show the least affect by dues increases, remaining relatively consistent before and after dues increases were implemented.
    • Interestingly, the proportion of 90% or higher post-dues increase renewals ends up being relatively equal among the three increase levels. ,
    (N=342)
  • 26. Selected Verbatim Responses
    • What lessons have you learned and what would you do differently the next time an association you work for raises dues?
    • Dues increase caused somewhat higher lapse rate.
    • Communicate, communicate, communicate
    • We have learned to raise dues a minimal amount (about 4%) every three years and to make sure that we let our members know by as many means possible that the dues are being increased and why. It helps most to point to an improved member program or benefit as the reason for the increase. Giving a deadline for payment that allows members to pay at the old rate for another year is also important. We typically do not raise Student Member dues as often, keeping that as low as possible.
    • I would do nothing differently - our dues are based upon the CPI as of December - the increase is modest - we do not make a big deal out of the increase - our members understand the cost of living and doing business increases annually.
    • Raise dues on a consistent basis, don't wait until there is a financial issue.
    • Communicate in advance of the annual meeting.
    • Larger increases to avoid having to go back frequently for adjustments
    • We provided a new benefit that was attractive to the existing members and prospective members. We increased membership as a result of the additional benefit package. The dues increase offset the expenses of offering the enhanced benefits.
    • The impact of dues increase is negligible with respect to acquiring new members; with a slight impact on retaining members/loss of members.
    • Don't be afraid to increase dues.
    • Don't wait 20 years before the first increase!! I would prefer incremental increases because members don't tend to question them as much. A jump in $50 is very noticeable.
    • I think the assumption that dues "have" to be raised is a mistake. I think associations need to focus on other non-dues revenue first and then look to dues to balance operating expenses.
    • We increased our dues several years ago by about 30%--this caused a large impact on our member #s. We now vote annually to increase dues by the CPI and have not had an impact on our membership numbers.
    • Members recognize the need to support increased cost of operation, especially if they see an increase in services provided by the organization.
    • At this organization dues at any rate do not impact renewals or recruitment.
    • Plan for membership acquisition and presentations prior to increase to lock in more new members before increases.
    • Our association's goal is to institute annual gradual dues increases, however recently it has come to light that our top competitors have not increased dues in a significant number of years, causing our dues rates to be well above.
    • Lessons: Communication is key; dues do impact growth. Differently: more research into price elasticity of membership dues
    • Member organizations will accept dues increases as long as they regard the cost of the membership as a good value. There is a vital relationship between cost and value received.
    • We would be more conservative about what impact a new dues schedule would have. Went from basis of employee count to total sales--not sure members are honest with their sales figures.
    • Just do it! People everywhere face increased costs.
    • We have always treated it as a business decision and have never made a big deal about it with the members.
    • Offer early renewal to lock in old rate. Greater advance info to members.
    • I would be more vigilant in protesting the increase with my board. It was poorly timed and implemented. I think the only effective way is to put in a 2%-3% "no fan fare" raise every other year or so. It must be consistent, with the perception that the organization is just keeping up with inflation.
    - -
  • 27. Questions?
    • Tony Rossell
    • Senior Vice President
    • Marketing General, Inc.
    • [email_address]
    • 703-706-0360
    - -