The Becker Blog

Recent Graduates, Your Fees, and Your Association

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Have you investigated the demographics of your association recently? I mean really investigated them. Have you noticed numbers slowly decreasing over the past 5 years and not been able to really put a finger on why? Chances are fairly good that if you take a close look, you’ll notice that older professionals are leaving your association with fewer younger professionals and recent graduates replacing them. Students that paid $35 for their membership are leaving when they graduate (as they are pushed to join the $100 membership category).

It’s not that recent graduates aren’t passionate or excited about what your association does and stands for. It’s not that your student members graduated and suddenly are no longer excited. Believe me, we are excited. We just spent 4-5 years in school accumulating over $35,000 in debt to know the field and to have the qualifications to join your association. So why aren’t we?

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Well, you may have read about it, but not yet recognize it as a reason. If you’ve seen any news media in the last year, you know that young people are struggling to gain meaningful work in their field after completing their post-secondary education. A great many graduates are stuck in low-skill, and low wage work, or left battling for unpaid internships which only the affluent can take on comfortably. Those that are not as well off and accept an unpaid internship (in hopes of landing a paying job) simply can’t afford to pay association fees while struggling to pay their student loans.

The bottom line is that recent graduates are hurting financially more than ever before. It’s hurting the national economy as we aren’t buying homes, buying cars, and making investments, and it’s likely hurting your association.

I’ve spent a great deal of time lately investigating the fee structure of a number of associations in Canada and the US, and many aren’t taking this financial hardship into account. Though, there are a few shining associations that attempt to tackle the financial situation of so many recent graduates by reaching out to us with “Student/Unemployed/Underemployed Memberships” at a dramatically decreased rate from the “Professional/Individual” fee. As a recent graduate, if I see an association doing this, I think three things immediately:

1) That you understand the situation we are in and see the bigger picture;

2) While we may have less current financial liquidity, you still value us and value the future of the field and;

3) You understand that 10 recent graduates paying $40 for a membership generates more revenue for the association than 2 recent graduates paying $100.

These things create a very positive feeling towards your association where I feel valued and respected which makes me much more likely to join.

An economically sensible membership fee structure makes your association accessible. It keeps recent graduates in your membership when they move from students to temporary baristas and interns. And we all know that it’s easier to keep a member or a client than it is to replace one that has left.

This is just one area that you should be considering when looking at recent graduates in your membership.

In my next blog we’ll look at engaging younger people and more recent graduates.

Becker Associates has been providing cutting-edge service and advice to non-profits for over 30 years. To find out more how we can help your association attract, retain and engage Gen Y and Millennials, contact Meg Black or Seamus Gearin.

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