The Changing Face of Association Membership

Beth Farrar, Senior Marketing Manager, Nimble AMS

December 29, 2020

    Associations have a long 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.

    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 ideas of stability and consistency.

    Perhaps nothing exemplifies this more than the concept of annual membership. Certainly, there have been some changes to the way members pay (for example: monthly installments and multi-year memberships), but the concept of annual dues remains largely intact.

    But it might be time to alter your thinking about membership. As part of our product development strategy, the Nimble AMS team has conducted extensive research into membership trends outside of the association industry.

    That research has uncovered three trends we believe can be applied to the association industry.


    Younger generations 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 typical annual memberships, many now allow customers to tailor gym access to their specific needs.

    One example of this customization is allowing users to pay for specific activities, such as yoga classes or spin classes. 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.

    Tips for personalizing the member experience

    Download the guide to discover ways to leverage your association technology, ideas to consider, and steps to get started.


    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 when members are not actively using the benefits. It also includes the concept of perpetual membership, which 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 access to exclusive membership benefits. This can come in the form of concierge-level service or premium services that provide value that members can’t get anywhere else. An example of this is museum memberships, in which members have access to behind-the-scenes tours of the institution or early access to special exhibits before the general public.

    So, what does this mean for associations? The very structure of associations lends itself to embracing these trends and transforming the way you think about membership now and in the future.

    Learn more about membership trends affecting associations

    Download the Association Trends 2020 research study.

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