Hybrid and Emerging Membership Models

As membership in associations across industries declines, chambers are experimenting and adopting emerging membership models and integrating new ideas to better fit member needs. See more emerging models on the Multiple Membership Models page.

Research & Ideas

  • The Future of “Membership” Models - Cathi Hight shares emerging trends in dues and questions to contemplate for envisioning the future of your organization. (Winter 2018)
  • Emerging Hybrid Membership Models - Presentation by Mick Fleming and Greg Melia (ASAE) at the 2015 World Chambers Congress. See slides 28-47 for numerous association and chamber models.
Chamber of the Year
  • Membership Focus Group Summary Findings - Chamber of Commerce of Huntsville/Madison County (AL) - The aim of this membership study is to discern how members, organized in segments, value their membership in the Chamber in order to clarify how to improve retention, increase membership and increase Huntsville Regional Economic Growth Initiative investment.
  • Lean Startup Strategy: Take Your Innovation in Smaller Bites (ASAE) - Instead of making a big bet, you can make a number of small ones, and those small bets, after much iteration and changes, are optimized into a stronger end result. (Aug 2016)

Investors & Partners Model

Chambers are re-phrasing their membership levels and benefits to reflect a model of investment, shareholders, and partnerships. This model is often the upper level(s) of a Tiered Dues structure.

Individual Membership

“From 2011 to 2015, the percentage of associations offering a combination of both individual and company memberships more than doubled, from 13 percent to 29 percent, among respondents to Marketing General Incorporated’s Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report (registration required).” - Hybrid Membership Models (ASAE, Oct 2015)

See contrasting models on the Multiple Membership Models page.
  • Greater Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce (CA) - Offers Associate and Retired membership levels for individuals not engaged in business.
  • Greater Kirkland Chamber of Commerce (WA) - Offers an Associate membership for individual, non-business or non-profit members.
  • Hermiston Chamber of Commerce (OR) - Offers 2 tiers of individual memberships and lists benefits for each tier.
  • Pullman Chamber of Commerce (WA) - Offers affordable memberships ($60) for individuals to become involved with their community through participation in community activities, committees, and special events. Individual memberships do not include use of promotional opportunities. Student membership is $30 or 8 volunteer hours offering a way for WSU and Pullman High School students to gain business experience and become involved in the community.

Including Young Professionals in an Individual Membership Model

  • Chesterfield Chamber of Commerce (MO) - Membership is free to young professionals who work in/own businesses that are members of the Chesterfield Chamber of Commerce. Membership is also available for those individuals whose places of employment are not members of the Chamber.
  • SYP! - Spartanburg Young Professionals (SC) - SYP! Is coordinated through  the Spartanburg Area Chamber of Commerce and individuals can join for $40 a year.

Subscription / A La Carte Services

“Nearly 1 in 10 young adults spends at least $200 monthly on subscription services.” ( Instamotor survey)

As subscription to services is on the rise and membership to associations declines, chambers can harness the power of subscription and à la carte services as an introductory offering to broaden potential members' understanding of the value of a Chamber membership and develop trust in ROI. Subscription services likely fall under non-dues revenue but can also promote membership, add value to benefits, reach into niche market needs, and could be rolled out in a small-scale mode.

"Subscription services don’t necessarily have to compete with your membership model. They could be based on a business-to-consumer model, offering services to a larger market beyond your members. They might even prove useful for promoting what your industry does." - Subscription Strategy: Why a Monthly Service Plan Could be a Savvy Play (ASAE, Jan 2018)

FAQ Are there examples of chambers who have changed their membership model to include an a la carte feature that is inclusive of non-members? Learn from the Lancaster Chamber's model.

Demystifying 'membership lite': Why membership and subscription serve different goals - Poynter (Sept 2018)
  • Highlands Ranch Chamber of Commerce (CO) - No matter which investment level a business may choose, events, programs and services are available on an  à la carte basis to enrich any level of membership.
  • Wenatchee Valley Chamber of Commerce (WA) - Organized membership and benefits in a tiered dues structure with six tiers, a “Friend of the Chamber” membership and á la carte options.
  • West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce(CA) - Tiered structure wherein members can opt for a benefits package from an à la carte menu better tailored to their needs & matters. 
  • Winter Park Chamber of Commerce (FL) - Offers affordable membership rates starting at $345 and provides selection of à la carte services, like social media promotion, inclusion on maps, and sidewalk sale permits that member can opt in / out.

Subscription and A La Carte Service Ideas

  • Basic marketing package, such as inclusion on the Chamber website, print directory, or mobile app
  • A specified number of social media posts promoting an event or product
  • Attending networking events
  • Speaking, presenting, or sponsoring a chamber event
  • Ribbon-cutting service
  • Subscription to members-only e-newsletter

Freemium and Pay What You Want (PWYW)

"Freemium for associations is less about adopting a new business model than it is about conferring 'member' status on prospects for free and granting a few low-cost (and perhaps already free) benefits to them. Freemium models can get people in the door and may help associations with their mission-based desire to broaden their reach and become more inclusive. Pay careful attention to the balance an association strikes between building a customer base through free offers and earning their dollars with premium ones." - A Look at Freemium Models (ASAE, July 2016)

Find out about the Charlotte Chamber's inclusion of an Access Level membership with free services and access in Dues Disruption: Revenue Reimagined - Presentation slides from the ACCE 2017 Annual Convention in Nashville

If "the notion that inclusivity trumps dues dollars in the pursuit of an association’s mission," the freemium model may be an area to explore. - When Free Membership Fits Your Mission (ASAE, July 2014)

In the chamber world, 'free' cam be a tier of pricing that could increase revenue overall depending on a chamber's needs and strategies. - Making Free Chamber Membership Work (Frank J. Kenny blog)

Pay What You Want (PWYW) is a version of the freemium model that also includes an ask. In one stroke, it asks the person considering paying for a benefit to also consider supporting a cause or mission. - Pay What You Want (ASAE, Feb. 2015)
Freemium and PWYW can be used as one piece of a broader membership model. A freemium model can be used as one variation of a “get them in the door” tactic and offered as a bottom tier in a Tiered Dues model. These are benefits your chamber is likely already providing for free that could be acknowledged in a base-level free tiered structure or integrated into a PWYW model:

  • 1st time event attendance (such as a monthly mixer or business expo)
  • Inclusion in social media chamber groups
  • Access to member list / business directory, and referrals (on website or printed)
  • Community publications (tourist guides and apps, relocation information, etc.)
  • Community news (through printed brochures, chamber blogs, e-newsletters, calendar of events, or podcast)
  • Listing an event on the community calendar
  • Job listings
  • Chamber SWAG
  • Attend community meetings hosted by the chamber
  • The opportunity to purchase advertising or sponsor an event
  • The opportunity to volunteer at the Chamber

Recommended Reading

Related Chamberpedia Pages

Chamberpedia Home | Membership Management | Hybrid and Emerging Membership Models

Last Updated: 10/15/2018

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