Mark Athitakis is a contributing editor to Associations Now.
If you have members outside the U.S., pay attention to how they prefer to pay for products and services in their home countries. You may need to expand the payment methods you accept.
Associations that sell products, services, and memberships internationally are often primarily concerned about pricing. But just as different countries might have different philosophies and markets that affect how much people pay, those same forces may affect how people pay.
The local payment preference may not be the familiar American method of paying by credit card online. In Kenya and China, for instance, mobile payments are common. In sub-Saharan Africa, according to a 2017 World Bank report, 21 percent of adults have a mobile money account. So in cases where traditional banking might be less common, an association may need to be flexible in terms of how it handles payments.
The technology association IEEE offers electronic memberships in many countries with low per-capita incomes. About 10 percent of its payments from around the world come via PayPal, and it’s currently in the “discovery, planning, and implementation phase” for additional electronic payment methods, according to Eugene Khusid, IEEE’s senior program manager for information management.
Meanwhile, India is more comfortable with a proprietary e-payment system called a challan, IEEE has learned. “It’s much easier and more common to use the challan payment rather than an international credit card, especially for students,” says Vera Sharoff, senior director for information management. And because India represents a large member base, IEEE has been working to accommodate it. That may not necessarily be the case in every country. “If there’s three people that want a certain type of payment, I’m not sure we would revise our whole system around it,” she says.
However, Sharoff says associations ought to keep regular tabs on what their members want as payment methods diversify.
“Know your base,” she says. “We did a survey many years ago about what types of things would make paying for membership more feasible for certain countries and grades of membership. Survey your members and see what they want.”