Associations have a long and storied history as thriving communities of individuals and companies with common interests and goals. They serve as educators, advocates, idea forums, and compilers of industry research and best practices. Interestingly, throughout their history, associations have, in many ways, remained unchanged in form and function. In fact, it’s not uncommon to see organizations celebrating the very notion of stability and consistency. Probably nothing exemplifies this more than the concept of annual membership. Certainly, there have been some changes to the way members pay (for example, installments, multi-year, recurring membership, etc.), but the concept annual dues remains largely intact.
As part of our product development strategy, NimbleUser has been conducting extensive research into membership trends outside of the association industry. That research has determined three trends we believe have a broad application to the association industry. The emergence of these trends can be primarily attributed to the expectations of Millennials. Considering the source, we believe associations should take notice, as Millennials are the tip of the iceberg, with Generation Zers following close behind.
Millennials have grown up with the ability to individualize almost every experience they have, especially as it relates to accessing services and information. Fitness industry leaders have recognized this trend, and transformed the way they think about and offer gym memberships. Instead of annual membership fees, they allow customers to tailor gym access to their specific needs. One example of this individualization is allowing users to pay for specific activities (for example, yoga classes, spin classes, etc.). To do this, they’ve created the concept of a “class pass” that allows members to opt-in to class access at different levels and various locations.
Another trend is the expectation of flexibility in accessing membership benefits. This includes the concept of transient membership or the ability to suspend membership during periods they’re not actively using the benefits. It also includes the concept of perpetual membership that doesn’t require members to opt-in on an annual basis, but instead allows them to opt-out when they decide the membership is no longer valuable.
Our research also shows that members are willing to pay a premium for exclusive access. This can come in the form of concierge-level service or premium services that provide value they can’t get elsewhere. An example of this would be museum memberships, where members have access to special exhibits before the public or behind the scenes tours of the institution.
So, what does this mean for associations? As we discuss in Part 4 of our eBook series, “Transcending the Traditional,” the very structure of associations lends itself to embracing these trends and transforming the way you think about membership.
About the Author: Dan Stark is the Director of Product Strategy for NimbleUser. His role is to ensure Nimble AMS anticipates the needs of associations. He has 25 years of nonprofit management experience including more than 10 years as an executive director of two different organizations. He has a wealth of experience in governance, strategic planning and change management. With the rare combination of experience as both an association and technology company executive, Dan inherently understands how to leverage technology to drive innovation. He lives and works in West Chester, Pennsylvania.