Should our association require advertisers to be association members?

The idea of requiring advertisers to be members is built on sound principles. After all, companies that are targeting your association members could greatly benefit from the additional benefits of membership, especially in-person networking. And, of course, additional members are almost always good for the association.

However, the requirement of membership for advertising in your association publications could be costing your association advertising revenue. That is particularly true if your association is local or regional in scope.

The reason for that is because many national advertisers do not have the time or resources to participate as an association member, even if they agree in principle that it would be a good idea. Moreover, national advertisers and their agencies aren’t used to placing media in vehicles that charge unusual fees.

Obviously, non-association magazines don’t charge a membership fee to place advertising – you simply pay what is on the rate card. While it can be argued that the advertiser could roll the membership cost into the advertising cost from a financial standpoint, it creates confusion and potential accounting errors because it is a once per year fee that doesn’t come through on an advertising invoice. In the case of associations that lobby, it might not even be fully tax deductible, creating even more work.

While your target audience may be important, your association’s media offerings may not so compelling versus your competition to merit the inconvenience of your membership requirement. It’s easier for the advertiser to just deal with someone other than your association. The advertisers probably won’t tell your association what the problem is – they will just flip through to the next rate sheet on their list.

As an alternative, your association might consider waiving the membership requirement for non-local advertisers or national advertisers. Or you may have a separate price for non-members. Either option will likely satisfy the needs of the advertiser.

Has your association ever required membership of advertisers? Did your association see a difference in revenue when it changed the policy?

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