Yesterday I read an interesting article in Associations Now entitled “Must Member Dues Always Be Monetary?” by Joe Rominiecki. If your chamber is using a tiered dues structure, or considering one, this idea for an alternative in dues payment may be of interest to you.
When I bought my first house from a builder, he said we could complete several specific tasks or his crew could. If we chose to do so it would save us money on the home’s purchase price. This “sweat” equity was easy enough to do in a weekend, didn’t take much skill, and it allowed the builder to save a couple of days work. Since time is money to them it was worth their while to extend this option.
In the house example, both sides were satisfied by what they received. We saved money, so did the builder (from a time standpoint). Would allowing members to “pay” for membership through volunteer work be advantageous for your chamber and the member?
Should Chambers Offer “Sweat” Equity for Membership?
There are many small business owners who could use the connections and learning opportunities available through chamber membership, but the cost of dues is simply not in the budget. Introducing an opportunity for them to volunteer in lieu of paying member dues would give both parties something of value. This isn’t a free membership. It’s bartering for services. If you’re considering something like this here’s some food for thought:
Do You Need Volunteers?
If your chamber has a large staff and your members are already very good about volunteering you may not need an army of volunteers. In that case, the benefit for the volunteer member is much greater than it is for the chamber.
Have You Figured Out What Membership is Worth?
If volunteer members will “work off” their monetary membership dues, it’s important that you give some thought as to what membership is worth in respect to hours of volunteering. Also will you give them a flat number of hours to volunteer over the course of the year and allow them to pick assignments or will you tell them where to be and when? Who will be the heavy if someone is not meeting their agreed upon hours and how will it be handled?
Can You Keep Them Busy?
If you have a lot of people opting into this new form of membership payment you’ll need someone to manage their hours and make sure everyone has enough to do. Using technology may make the tracking easier but you still need projects for them.
One of the benefits to opening up volunteering as payment for membership is that it draws people into the chamber who may not otherwise join. Plus it makes them a part of the process and invested in your organization. Unlike members who write you a check and you wonder if you’ll see them again, these members are going to be involved because it’s part of their payment plan. They may get so involved that you might start viewing this tier of membership as a farm team for grooming future leaders.