Stop Sticking It to Consultants & Industry Partners

Many 501c organizations -- and this relates to professional societies and trade associations -- follow a very similar membership model. The organization establishes different member types, sometimes related to career arc and sometimes related to revenue. What differs is the amount of dues that are paid. 

The amount of dues (which are really participation fees) varies based on what tier you fit into, and these tiers are defined by the group you want to join. Now, one would think that the more dues one pays, the more one gets. We all know that this is not necessarily the case. (See this opinion piece for more on this topic: http://associationsuccess.org/article/a-little-less-costco-a-little-more-american-express)

Many associations have accepted this as a "best practice" because, well, that's what everyone else does. So it must be best, right?

Remember when your Mother asked you if "everyone else is jumping off a bridge, does that mean you should too?" Your Mother was right. The conventional wisdom, group think, "best practices" are NOT necessarily the optimum choice in most situations. It's just the easy one.

As the association world has aged, changed, and in many cases refused to evolve, the dues kept creeping up but the benefits of paying them kept creeping down. This is especially true for Consultants and Industry Partners, whom are treated as if they are an occupying force that need to be tolerated rather than equal members in the organization they are supporting with time, money, and intellectual property. 

We then do them the courtesy (she typed sarcastically) of then sticking it to them for sponsorships and advertising, on top of charging much higher dues than "regular" members. To make this treatment extra special, we also tell them NO most of the time: NO, you can't go into the exhibit hall unless you bought a booth. NO, you can't go to this event because it's for "regular" members. NO, you can't serve on this committee because, well, you are a CONSULTANT or an INDUSTRY PARTNER. The horror!!

Yet, associations tell Consultants and Industry Partners that their dues are higher because they get "access" to their target markets. But if the dues are higher because of the opportunity to raise marketplace awareness, why are they precluded from participating in certain member events when they are paying membership dues? And why do Consultants and Industry Partners have to pay for everything else -- and pay dearly for it?

Consultants and Industry Partners are people too. They don't live on the Dark Side because they represent a for-profit company, that by the way, wants to invest in your non-profit organization. The only Dark Side here is the attitude that some people deserve to be treated poorly for being different. 

Don't expect anyone to thank you for treating them badly. And don't expect them to stick around either. 

Radio Free 501c out. 

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