Are Your Dues a Commodity?



I keep reading about associations considering lowering their dues or even, *gasp* considering “freemium” memberships.  This seems to be a race to the bottom and an admission that associations are simply offering a commodity.
One reason we focus on data mining rather than surveys in trade associations is because most are designed to measure price sensitivity.  For example, members are asked to assign values to a number of scenarios for dues packages.  The researcher can find the optimum value by aggregating the results from all of the responders to come up with a new dues rate and determine price sensitivity.  If your dues are extremely price sensitive, they are likely becoming a commodity.  
We hope that our client associations are offering value that isn’t completely price sensitive and we help to identify and build upon that value.  Association offerings that may be considered “priceless” include:

  • Moving the needle on key legislation that will impact your members
  • Changing public perception about your members’ industry
  • Affecting regulations before your members are hit with new fees
  • Providing synthesized information pertinent to your members’ business issues
  • Designing networking that leads to business opportunities for your members
  • Developing standards or certifications for the industry that have bottom-line implications for your members.

 The trade associations we see successfully maintaining or increasing five-, six-, and seven-figure dues are almost always offering at least one of the “priceless” items.
Trade associations that are not commanding top dues levels are often focusing on generic education, stagnant trade shows, events that do not bring your targeted level of executive, and repurposed industry information from a third party that hasn’t been tailored for your members.  These offerings still have some value; however, we now see trade associations focused on these “commodity items” have dues levels moving toward the level of an individual member association. 
So perhaps the real question is not about dues, rather: “Are your services a commodity?”
 Patty Leeman, MBA, CAE, is The Moery Company’s Chief Analyst. Follow her on Twitter and connect with her on LinkedIn.


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