Build the Best Voluntary Benefits Package for Members

Membership Associations Now September/October 2014 By: Samantha Whitehorne

A new whitepaper shows that associations should invest their resources in effective member retention efforts while pursuing opportunities to increase nondues revenue. One way to do the latter: Offer members voluntary benefits, such as identity theft protection.

The need to attract and retain members is a constant demand for associations. But when members aren't sticking around, the reasons they say goodbye shouldn't be a surprise: Ineffective marketing, economic hardship, a lack of engagement, and low perceived value are the usual culprits.

Organizations can't necessarily address economic hardships that cause a drop in membership without reducing dues or fees. But according to a new white paper by Genius Avenue, a membership and marketing software provider, they should invest their resources in effective member retention efforts while pursuing opportunities to increase nondues revenue (which can offset membership losses).

One way to do the latter is to offer voluntary benefits to members, which can include anything from critical illness coverage to identity theft protection and wellness screenings. While these programs can increase member engagement, improve the perceived value of membership, and boost retention rates, they may also drive nondues revenue through commissions or revenue sharing with benefit providers. Here are three recommendations from the white paper for building a voluntary benefits package.

1. Take Advantage of Trends and Industry Shifts

Voluntary benefits have gained popularity in the last decade, and this trend is expected to continue due to industry shifts, including healthcare reform. For example, rising group medical insurance costs and the availability of coverage through government exchanges may make it less attractive for employers to offer and manage employee benefits. Associations can take advantage of this change by offering voluntary benefits such as critical illness plans that help cover out-of-pocket medical costs and living expenses.

2. Choose Benefits That Appeal to a Broader Base

Not all your members are the same, so don't create a benefits package that assumes they all want the same things. Select a mix of offerings related to health, pets, entertainment, and other interests to cover all your member demographics. You may also want to consider surveying members to see what products they're most interested in.

3. Consider the Enrollment Process

The simpler it is for members to sign up for a program, the more likely they are to participate. It may make the most sense to offer a single, web-based enrollment system that acts as an online benefits marketplace. This "one-stop shop" can increase the number of benefits purchased, which translates into increased nondues revenue for your association.

Need another reason to consider voluntary benefits? According to Marketing General, Inc.'s 2014 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report, only 24 percent of association executives reported taking advantage of discount programs to help engage their members. Doing so will clearly set your organization apart.

[This article was originally published in the Associations Now print edition, titled "Bet on Benefits."]

Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editorial director of Associations Now in Washington, DC.