Emerging Membership Models

An evolving marketplace is driving a lot of creativity in membership packaging and models. In Abila’s 2016 Association Predictions, we highlighted an emerging shift away from traditional membership models, focused on a one-size-fits-all dues structure. These emerging membership models are more reflective of current culture and also create greater opportunity for sustained growth.

Hybrid Membership

While the majority of associations have focused on offering either an individual or corporate membership, we are seeing the hybrid membership model grow rapidly in popularity. The latest Marketing General report cited 29 percent of associations are now offering a combination of both individual and corporate memberships. This emerging model allows associations to reach and better serve more members without straying too far from its core mission.

Before implementing a hybrid membership model, your association should re-evaluate the onboarding process for new members. How can the process for an individual member be scaled and optimized for corporate memberships? You also need to make sure your database is set up to support hybrid memberships, for example tracking “inherited memberships” in your AMS to differentiate what members are a part of corporate memberships versus individual memberships.

Tiered Membership

Thirteen percent of individual membership associations now offer membership dues based on a tiered structure of increasing benefits and/or dues based on member-selected benefits they want to receive (a la carte). As members develop in their careers, they have an opportunity to step up their level of engagement and tier level. We’d recommend looking at the different engagement levels of your members when building out the tiers. Start with the top tier of your most ideal engagement and tier down from there.


Instead of selling add-ons to members throughout the year, some associations are opting to set up hyper-bundling, offering pre-purchase opportunities for events, programs, and services when purchasing or renewing a membership. There are added savings benefits and value to the member, as well as setting precedence for engagement throughout the year. The types of bundles that will work for your organization will vary depending on the products importance to your members. To determine which bundles and price points work best, experiment with different packages and savings offers and track sales results.

Getting Started                              

It’s important to build a model that’s sustainable for your organization, supports your overall growth strategy, and allows you to provide the greatest value to your members. The more informed you can be about your current members, the more visibility you’ll have into membership trends and opportunities.

Here are a couple of starter questions to get your team thinking outside of the traditional model: 

  • Who funds membership, participation, and content?
  • How will you identify membership prospects? 
  • What membership structure changes can expand your organization?
  • How can membership growth create new product and market opportunities?
  • How do you engage members of all varieties?
  • What technology will you need to succeed? 

About the Author

Amanda Myers brings 20 years of experience to her role as Product Marketing Director with Abila. Her broad background includes developing highly effective national campaigns, online tools, and Super Bowl ads for household brands including Sears, Land’s End, Enfamil, Marvel, and Samsung. The last five years have seen Amanda leverage this expertise to empower thousands of nonprofits and associations in driving similar levels of success with a strong focus on helping leaders optimize their constituent data and digital channels for exceptional results.

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