With improvements in online technology and database integration, it is possible for associations to begin offering member benefits immediately after an online membership application has been submitted. The question is whether it's smart to do so.
There are a few reasons why your association may not want to immediately begin offering benefits when the membership application is submitted:
- The association may have a review process that is required before membership is accepted in full.
- The association may be taken advantage of as people join only for the discounts, and then cancel membership soon after, demanding a pro-rated refund.
- The association may be taken advantage of by people who submit applications that they know will be rejected during the review process, ensuring all of their dues are refunded; in the meantime, they take advantage of the member discounts and member access.
Most of these concerns can be overcome through the following measures, however:
- During the association membership review process, limit the access of the non-approved members to only those areas which provide benefits that cannot be taken back. For example, the association may not wish to provide access to its intellectual property such as libraries, data, etc.
- Create a policy that any discounts given to non-approved members will be retroactively billed if their membership applications are not approved. For example, if a discount was applied to an association convention registration, but the member was later not approved, the difference could be charged to the credit card used during that registration or deducted from the refund of membership dues.
These simple measures may prevent most fraudulent membership applications, although other measures may also be required based on your association's dues structure.
Given the need for these measures, why should your association consider offering member benefits immediately upon submission of the application? There are three principal reasons:
- The immediate availability of the association membership benefits may provide greater incentive to join the association.
- The immediate availability of the association membership benefits may provide greater incentive to register for events, purchase association products and enroll in association services.
- The immediate availability of the association membership benefits may also make for a more satisfying member experience. The immediate receipt of membership information including a username and password, along with access to some or all member areas and discounts, lets a member take advantage of the association's offerings while their level of enthusiasm is high.
Offering association member benefits immediately does have challenges but they can be overcome in most cases. Moreover, the immediate offering of benefits can provide incentive for members to join and take advantage of other association offerings. The result could be higher levels of membership and non-dues revenues.
Does your association offer immediately member benefits upon application? Has this ever caused any problems?