Free months of membership? Thanks! I'll take it!
When I ask associations why they “grace” members months of membership the answers I tend to hear are as follows:
1. This is the way it has always been done
2. Lots of our members end up coming back at some point any way so why would we shut them off
3. Our processes are not set up to get a renewal notice until real close to their expiration date so it would not be fair to shut them off at expiration.
To me, unless you can guarantee that 100% of the members that you give free months of membership end up coming back I see no legitimate reason to enact this practice. I feel this way for a few reasons as follows:
1. You are rewarding your members for renewing late in the hopes that they will come back. Reality is that they will not all come back so those folks that do not come back get a period of membership for free.
2. You are losing money because you are not getting dues for this free period yet you continue to pay to serve these soon-to-be lost members.
3. You are training your members to renew late and unless you maintain their original renewal date you will end up giving even current members months of membership for free.
I don’t understand why many associations are so hesitant to start the renewal process earlier and then shut off members who have not paid when they expire? To me losing access to the things you are no longer paying for is the definition of expire. Shutting folks off when they expire allows you to use it as the stick to make people renew on time. For example, what if the association I described above had locked me out of the members-only sections of the website the minute after I didn’t pay my dues when my membership expired. I use the website regularly so the next time I would have gone the website and tried to log in I would have realized my membership had expired and I would have renewed right then and there instead of waiting the 3 months after I had officially expired to renew my membership. I did renew eventually but a lot could have happened during the 90 days I was expired and still receiving benefits that could have led to my not renewing. Is this something that associations can risk? As a membership professional, I think not.