To Free Or Not To Free: Exploring Non-Dues Memberships

The rules of member engagement are changing. “Everybody does it” is no longer a strong enough reason to compel people to join your association. That’s why membership incentives are more popular than ever.

In today’s world of social media and the tools that surround it, anyone can form a group or a following. If so, should people have to pay to belong?

A recent, bold incentive that some professional and trade associations have tried is free membership – who doesn’t love a freebie? While it sounds cutting edge, ADG went on a mission to find out who is doing it and how they make it work.

The end result of our search? We have yet to find an association that charges no dues at all. Even those with mostly free memberships have one or more premium options.

The Power of the Pod: Grow Your Association With Podcasting

Even if you’ve never heard one, you probably know about podcasts – downloadable audio files on a variety of topics, from crime to comedy, politics to pop culture. A recent New York magazine cover story on the podcast phenomenon estimated there are now about 660,000 podcasts in production, reaching more than 60 million listeners.

Podcasting was born in the mid-2000s, shortly after the first portable mp3 players hit the market. The word “podcast” is a portmanteau of “broadcast” and “iPod,” making it a somewhat archaic term, as nowadays most of us listen to them on smartphones, not iPods.

Associations have begun discovering the power of podcasts as a tool to reach members, other stakeholders and the public. We don’t expect them to replace other communications media, but they can go places where others can’t – literally.

Unlike videos and webinars that are best watched, and newsletters that must be read, podcasts don’t require eyeballs – just ears. They can be consumed in the car, on the job, at the gym and anywhere else a smartphone can go.

ADA-Compliant Websites: It’s Not the Law (Yet), It’s Just a Good Idea

Your offices have wheelchair-accessible doors, hallways and restrooms. You have designated parking spots out front. You welcome service animals. Your association has gone above and beyond the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Nobody can accuse you of being inaccessible or unwelcoming to those with disabilities.

Or can they? How ADA-compliant is your association’s website?

For every person who visits your association’s brick-and-mortar offices, hundreds or even thousands more are checking it out online. Is your website’s virtual presence as accessible as your physical one?

Federal government sites are required by law to meet the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), version 2.0, outlined by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). New York State has an executive policy requiring the websites of state agencies – and entities the state contracts with – to meet similar guidelines.

#GivingTuesday, Association Style

Most of us who are Generation X or older can remember when there was only Thanksgiving and the day after Thanksgiving. The latter, since many of us have the day off, is traditionally a big holiday shopping opportunity. Over the years, it acquired its own designation – Black Friday – and became a retail phenomenon, with special promotions and store hours.

In 2005, the term Cyber Monday came to be applied to the Monday after Thanksgiving – when consumers, especially those without internet access at home, returned to work and used their office computers to shop online (on their breaks, we hope!).

Seven years later, in response to the Black Friday/Cyber Monday commercialism juggernaut, New York’s 92nd Street Y and the United Nations Foundation created a new movement: Giving Tuesday – or, as it’s frequently styled for the social media age, #GivingTuesday. Since the movement began, hundreds of millions of dollars have been donated to charities on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving.

Many charitable organizations have incorporated Giving Tuesday into their fundraising efforts, and many non-charities, from businesses to professional associations, encourage their employees, members and friends to participate.