Do you charge association components for services?

That seemingly simple question related to association member chapters sparked what I hope will be a discussion around the real issue. The question was posted on the ASAE Component Relations discussion group by an association exec looking to bolster a case to her board to charge components for the cost of collecting their dues because it utilizes resources without reimbursement and incurs – again without reimbursement – credit card charges.

I propose that the wrong question is being asked.

The real question is one most associations continue to dodge: what is the return on investment from components? That is, why do we have components … what role are we asking components to play? By answering that you will know if the cost of supporting components is a marketing expense, member service expense or simply a general admin expense – and whether to recoup costs or simply budget for them.

With all components (chapters, SIGs, councils, COPs…) we have many qualitative, fuzzy costs that often are difficult to assess. So somewhere along the road, the question is what are we trying to accomplish here and to what extent are our components helping us accomplish that.

If we are paying components to deliver a service for the association, the question becomes what is the value of that service and to what extent is it creating value that drives the income side of our P&L either through improved retention, better recruitment, higher levels of participation in other revenue generating programs (e.g., more people at conference, more books sold, more purchased seats for webinars …).

One response to the original thread started with “Unfortunately, my response will not bolster your case ….”  Simply, they don’t charge because it provides better customer service for members. For this association, the question was asked at least in part. Have you had the conversation in your association?

PS: Shameless plug here – these are the kind of conversations we’re having in the ASAE University on-line Advanced Component Relations…check it out and join us in a few weeks!