A Contribution to Acronym’s Big Ideas theme…
If your association couldn’t charge dues, would your members pay you for the experience of belonging? It’s a serious question. The dues value versus member benefit proposition has been thriving for decades. Associations have been selling it and thankfully there have been an abundant number of buyers. Until now. With the economy in the doldrums, the enlightened self-interest of members sends them in search of cheaper alternatives to the services and solutions your association customarily provides. Dues it seems are dispensable. Experiences however are not.
Our appetite for self-revelation—the experience of learning, seeing, feeling or living into something new—appears insatiable. And if we can’t experience it ourselves, many it seems will gladly live vicariously through others. There is a hallucinatory pastime feeding a celebrity saturated culture captured by People, US Weekly, OK, Star, and In Touch magazines, the E! television channel, and myriad alleged newscasts about stars. While White House gate crashers, adulterous governors and golfers, misanthropic politicians, and avaricious financiers rise and fall on the swells of the voracious 24/7 celebrity news cycle, real people and serious work is being done elsewhere.
While the desire for meaningful experiences has been twisted by a popular, media-drenched culture, there are social entrepreneurs, innovative nonprofits and forward thinking leaders busily creating experiences so emotionally compelling they are fueling an astonishing rise of donors, members and funding sources unseen in previous decades. It is important to remember that although the Internet boom and bust of the late 1990’s slowed growth, it did not eliminate innovation. Likewise today’s economic downturn has not destroyed all of the world’s wealth.
If as some suggest, the world is will turn away from the material and financial excesses of past decades, then surely the renewed human desire for revelation and fulfillment offers an unbounded opportunity for associations, professional societies and the philanthropic community to illuminate and elevate the experience of belonging well beyond dues. It is beyond time to think about it. It is time to act.