Friday, August 14, 2009

Monthly Installment Dues Billing: A Case Study

Posted by Princess Eva Angelica at 8:32 AM

Everyone wants to increase their membership recruitment results and renewal rates and here is one tip to do just that – monthly installment billing of dues.

If you think about it, our society has moved to a month by month financial focus. Your cell phone, internet, car payment, and service contracts are paid each month. In fact, our likelihood to purchase these products would be greatly diminished if we were required to pay for the year in advance. We are also more likely to continue the services when the payments are automatically debited from our credit card or bank account.

However, most membership organizations do not offer the opportunity to pay monthly. A member is typically required to pay the full dues up front.

Over the past several years, we experimented with making monthly installment billing available to members. I wanted to share with you today a case study from one organization that has tried this program.

Let me start out by admitting that putting this type of program in place is an administrative challenge. Credit cards expire and have transaction fees. In the case of electronic funds transfers (EFT), bank accounts open and close. So this type of change will require staff time and programming time. The higher the dues payment, the more beneficial this type of program will be.

For my case study group, the idea to test installment billing was first raised as a method to increase response rates on membership acquisition mailings. Research showed that the $225 price tag for dues was an impediment for members to join.

So we built a head to head acquisition test for this organization. The control offer with the $225 price went to 37,640 prospects and the same package offering the additional option of an automatic credit card payment of $18.75 a month went to 37,623 prospects. The results were impressive. The control package generated 436 new members for a 1.16% response rate. However, the test package with the installment option produced 657 members fro a 1.75% response rate.

Clearly many prospects were more willing to join if they had the option to pay monthly.

The next question was how will members who select the monthly installment renew compared to members who pay up front. Our latest data reports on members who renewed on time. The on time renewal rate for members NOT on the installment plan is 55.7%. However, the on time renewal rate for members participating in the installment plan is 82.0%. The non-installment member rate will probably rise to 70% when late renewal payments are included. But even when late payments are included, a potential twelve point lift in renewals is a major improvement.

The bottom line for this organization is that making an installment dues option available to members has caused an increase in the work load for staff, but it has helped produce more new members, more revenue and a better renewal rate. It may be something that more membership organizations should test.

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