Nonprofits Learning from For-profits

Sometimes we believe the nonprofit world is an exception to all the marketplace rules, but over the past several years, associations have learned to quickly respond to the online demands and expectations of members.  So let’s look at some of the practices in for-profit businesses that have been effective and implement them in our associations.

It is likely that one area each association spends an extended amount of time in is renewing members. We spend time (as staff or volunteers) emailing, mailing and calling the members to ensure we get the dues payments.  This adds to more paper, time and sometimes email spam, to our messages about our association services. Membership renewals are an endless treadmill!

So let’s take a chapter from the for-profit playbook on auto renewals.  In an article in Success (May/June, 2015), the authors suggest that auto renewals offer benefits to both the association and the members alike, including:

  • Member Convenience – it allows members to enjoy uninterrupted service and avoid the hassle of manually processing a check or credit card payment.  Members receive a notice in advance and if they want to cancel their membership they update their online record, otherwise, no action is necessary.
  • Automation – let the machines do some of our work!  Programmed renewals allow for automation of much (if not all) of the process.  Let staff work on more mission-centric functions of your organization.
  • No Decision Points – sending a dues invoice each year provides an annual decision point for members and invites scrutiny:  “Did I get my money’s worth this year?”  “What am I getting for my dues dollar?”  Since many of the association’s benefits are throughout the year and not just one-moment in time, re-evaluation is based on the most recent experience.

Auto renewals are now a common practice at health clubs, Netflix, online applications and many other commonly used services. When considering auto renewals, check to see if your membership management software allows for this function.  Also, consider implementation.  Make a strong business case for moving to this function.  Most importantly, don’t forget to continue to promote and provide strong value to your members throughout the year.

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