How Affinity Programs Can Help Members During the Pandemic

Affinity July 27, 2020 By: Brian Haney, CAE

The coronavirus crisis has created hazards, risks, and potential risks for members that could be mitigated with the proper insurance. Associations should consider affinity programs to help support members and generate modest nondues revenue during this time.

As the association community grapples with event cancellation and virtual nimbleness amid the COVID-19 crisis, it is critical to also recognize the risks faced by your members. They may be wrestling with myriad financial and insurance-related issues and would welcome your guidance and help. This crisis may present an opportunity to become a better partner to your members in supporting their vital business needs.

As I scan the industry landscape and observe what forward-thinking corporations are doing, I see a common theme in those that are leading well during this pandemic. They have focused almost entirely on caring for people and placed the rest of their agenda and deliverables secondary to that. How can associations do the same for their members? Engage in two-way conversations and collaborate with members to improve your association’s value proposition.

Association member companies are struggling with virtualizing their workforce, cutting costs, covering payroll, and navigating sales and revenues to online models. Many are examining the various insurance coverages to find any form of relief. As an association leader, you might be able to help members and generate modest revenue through affinity programs. Affinity programs are benefit programs designed strategically to meet the needs of the members, often addressing important business needs, such as insurance protection. In many affinity programs, the Association receives a percentage of the sale as a referral commission. To be successful, there must be a true price advantage and value for the member.

As I scan the industry landscape and observe what forward-thinking corporations are doing, I see a common theme in those that are leading well during this pandemic. They have focused almost entirely on caring for people and placed the rest of their agenda and deliverables secondary to that.

Here are three areas to consider with affinity programs:

  • This pandemic has shined a light on both the need for and value of good insurance. If you have not offered an insurance affinity program before, now might be an ideal time to consider developing one. With the heightened focus on insurance and an increased awareness of its value, your members receptivity to opportunities to better protect them moving forward may never be higher. They are also looking to save on costs anywhere they can. As the insurance industry adjusts to this crisis, carriers might be open to opportunities for group buying and to offering better pricing for reduced adverse selection risk.
  • If you have an existing affinity program, now might be a good time to ramp up your marketing efforts. While no organization wants to be seen as taking advantage of this crisis, this as an opportunity to examine how you’ve been marketing your program and see if your plan needs to be adjusted or reframed in light of the crisis to better engage with members to meet them where they are. Don’t sell more now, educate. Take a member-first approach and offer free learning resources so members can understand what they have, and what they have access to.
  • If your existing affinity program has not been performing well, now might be an ideal time to evaluate what isn’t working. Is there an issue with the provider supporting the program? Perhaps its pricing has become less competitive over time? For insurance programs, do you need to talk to the underwriter and renegotiate the rates, or potentially shop providers? Has the vendor partner or broker supporting the program stopped marketing it actively or become disengaged? Is there a need to reenergize the staff, or evaluate their role in promoting it? Or does the program need to be sunset and a new one considered that might better suit member needs in light of this crisis and based on industry trends moving forward?

Develop a listening ear and use this time to engage with your members in meaningful ways. A survey does not hurt, but consider hosting a series of member-driven townhalls where your members set the agenda. The associations that will grow through this crisis will be the ones that set aside agendas and sit next to their members, place their arms around their shoulders, and say, “Hey, how are you doing? Is there anything I can do to help?”

The power of that kind of messaging and engagement will not only lead to the right affinity programs, but will build considerable relational value that will last long after this pandemic is over.

Brian Haney, CAE

Brian Haney, CLTC, CFBS, CFS, CIS, LACP, CAE, is vice president at the Haney Company in Silver Spring, Maryland.