Dues Payments Via Check on the Decline

By: Joe Rominiecki

The paper check is still common, but signs show that other forms of payment for association dues will likely surpass it soon. [Titled "Check's in the Mail?" in the print edition.]

One day, perhaps in the not-too-distant future, the paper check will retire to a museum to join the ranks of other old favorites like the typewriter and the rotary phone. That day may not be tomorrow, but signs are clear that it's coming.

In 2009, the Federal Reserve said checks made up less than 25 percent of all noncash payments in the United States. In retail settings, that number is in the single digits.

For associations, the paper check is lingering but on the decline. ASAE research in 2012 showed that 88 percent of associations collected at least some portion of their dues payments via check—still the vast majority but down from 98 percent in 2006. (See graph below.) More striking is the decline in the average portion of dues paid via check, down from 67 percent of payments in 2006 to 43 percent in 2012.

Improved e-commerce systems are enabling associations to collect more dues via credit and debit card online. The Globalization and Localization Association, for instance, only processes about a dozen checks per year and doesn't mention it as a payment option on its website. With members dispersed around the world (just one in six GALA members is in the United States), efficiency is key.

"Our preferred method of payment is credit cards, because it's so simple," says Laura Brandon, chief operating officer at GALA. A new e-commerce­ platform nudges members in that direction. "The system contributes to more self-service, which is great for us."

In the business-to-business setting, the dwindling of check payments may be gradual. The Institute of Food Technologists receives about a quarter of its dues payments via check, often from companies paying for mul- tiple employees, says Sharon Kneebone, IFT director of membership. As long as some members still prefer checks, IFT will accept them.

"As my EVP likes to say, merchandising 101: Don't put a barrier between me and giving you my money," she says.

Joe Rominiecki is a senior editor at Associations Now in Washington, DC. Email: [email protected]

Checks Checking Out?

Most associations collect at least some dues via paper check, but not as many as in the past. Meanwhile, several other payment options are seeing increasing adoption.

Source: Benchmarking in Association Management: Membership and Components Policies and Procedures, ASAE, 2012

Percent of Associations Collecting Dues Via Various Payment Methods

Paper check:

  • 2006: 98%
  • 2012: 88%

Credit or debit card online:

  • 2006: 54%
  • 2012: 69%

Credit or debit card by phone or in person:

  • 2006: 51%
  • 2012: 67%

Bank electronic transfer:

  • 2006: 24%
  • 2012: 42%

Automating billing by credit card:

  • 2006: 6%
  • 2012: 16%

Any other way:

  • 2006: 11%
  • 2012: 12%

Joe Rominiecki

Joe Rominiecki is a contributing editor to Associations Now.