When the subject is membership, no association should be happy with the status quo. As the economy continues to improve, the assumption is that people will have the means to join their field’s professional association. But times change, and today’s younger professionals aren’t joining associations at a rate that replenishes retiring members. Associations now face an interesting challenge – how to entice the millennials who now make up the largest workforce age group to make an association investment. Many see it as an opportunity to introduce a hybrid membership model to accomplish just that.

Hybrid Membership Model Defined

Traditional association membership models work with members paying similar, annual dues for an individual or business membership. A hybrid membership model takes a marketing concept called “product line extension” and applies it to an association’s membership products. Many associations see offering a range of membership options as a strategic way to gain new members. Hybrid membership options range from group sales to organization-based models. Properly implemented, these new models may help associations increase current member engagement, new member numbers, and revenue.

  • Group Sales can offer businesses significant savings over individual memberships. Different associations define a “group” differently, but it can be as few as four employees from the same business. Most group sales models offer discounts of 5-30% off individual membership fees. Enrolling as a group also saves time and money by simplifying the enrollment process. Some businesses offer employees free association membership as part of their benefits package.
  • Tiered Service Levels are just what they sound like. Members can select from a small set of tiers that offer progressively more benefits. Tiered memberships are particularly helpful for increasing revenue. It’s a simple concept: people will pay up to the limit they can afford. When associations make it possible for more members to join, they make more money, because the people paying less would not have joined at the “full-service” rate.
  • Specialized Offers extend the benefits of other membership models with additional complementary options that are focused on specific member interests or markets. The offers can range from courses to career counseling. Specialized association memberships are often marketed as accommodating a member’s busy life. Many specialized offers are structured to help members navigate career challenges and explore continued or higher education in their field.
  • Organization-Based Packages are typically offered in specialty fields and include access to particular association benefits, such as a members-only website or premium literature. Members also have the option of participating in community and career resources, such as industry-specific online forums.
  • Hyper-Bundling is a relatively recent development in membership strategy. Associations bundle a package of programs and services with an organizational membership. This approach offers associations a more efficient sales process and allows members to better budget. A side benefit: it creates a culture of engagement and has been shown to result in higher retention rates.

How Hybrid Memberships Will Benefit Associations

Hybrid memberships will change the way associations engage with current and new members. To implement a hybrid membership structure for your association, you need to:

  • Understand what your members want and need.
  • Develop benefits that address and solve member desires and problems.
  • Assess the financial investment involved in providing those benefits.
  • Create a hybrid membership model that makes it easy for people to join and aligns with the way your members want to pay.
  • Be flexible and test new membership models, adjusting accordingly.

Associations making the move to a hybrid membership model are more reflective of today’s culture and behavior. It’s a smart move towards providing a membership experience that is as unique as each member.