52% of association CEOs/Executives say they plan to raise membership dues in 2023.

A perfect storm of constantly shifting factors–including the war in Ukraine, supply chain ruptures, and surges in demand–is contributing to rising inflation, which is at a 41-year high. During the pandemic, a lot of associations hit the brakes on increasing dues, but many are realizing that it’s now unavoidable.

In a recent poll conducted by Avenue M in early October with 25 association CEOs/Executives, 52% shared they plan to raise dues in 2023, 24% said they would not, and 20% said they weren’t sure.

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One CEO panelist, who plans to raise dues in 2023, shared, “We haven’t raised dues throughout the pandemic, and now we need to do some increase or we will have to do a huge jump later.” Another panelist, who also plans to raise dues next year, said, “The cost of doing business has risen–we need to keep delivering on value.”

One executive shared that their group implements an annual increase in alignment with the consumer price index (CPI) and they were reluctant to break away from that. Because last year’s CPI rate was so high, they used a three-year CPI average to determine the increase. “The new dues went into effect on September 1. So far, no complaints.” A couple of respondents stated they were unsure if their boards would agree to an increase.

It’s never an easy decision to raise dues. But there are ways to mitigate the potential backlash and successfully raise dues without causing too much friction.

Read our quick summary of the following articles and click the links below.

How Much Is Too Much for a Membership Dues Increase?
Finding the sweet spot for how much to increase dues is not easy. The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) realized that slow and steady was the way to go. The group had raised dues sporadically in the past but has since settled on a consistent yet moderate increase.

NACDL raised dues annually and was able to maintain an 82% retention rate. A key reason for its success was surveying members first to find out if the group was delivering on value. More than 60% of members said that the value of membership far exceeded its cost. That’s when NACDL knew it was OK to proceed with an increase.

A Successful, Drama-Free Way to Raise Member Dues
If you’re reluctant to approach your board with a proposed dues increase, you’re not alone. But it is possible. Susan Avery, CAE, CEO of the International Association of Plastics Distribution (IAPD) had been with the group for a couple of years and noticed that a proposed dues increase lingered on the board meeting agenda every year, and nothing happened.

Avery took matters into her own hands and met with some of IAPD’s members to see how they dealt with increasing prices with their own customers. Basically, their customers told them they knew prices were up in general, and so they weren’t surprised or upset if they experienced increases.

Avery took those insights and sold a dues increase to her board by explaining that a small, steady increase would benefit IAPD and would not alienate members because they were aware of globally rising costs. IAPD instituted a 3% annual increase more than 12 years ago and has not received any significant member pushback.

A No-Cost Way to Both Raise Membership Dues and Benefit Members
Another way to get board buy-in is to tie the dues increase to an association goal. The former CEO and president of the Synthetic Turf Council (STC), Dan Bond, CAE, knew members wanted an industry market report because they had been asking for one for years.

So when he went to the board, he framed the dues increase as something that aligned with a central STC goal of providing members with valuable resources–like the industry market report– they couldn’t get on their own. It worked. When commissioning the report, Bond factored in its cost to the dues increase–10% a year–so the group could offer it to members for free. It turned out to be a win-win.

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Contributor: Lisa Boylan

(Image: Adobe Stock)