I was speaking with a colleague recently about how an association he is affiliated with asked him if he wanted to pay $10,000 to gain access to their membership. I have had the same experience with some associations that I am affiliated with. The concept blows my mind. Last year, I joined a manufacturing association for $500 so that I could attend events and network with some business owners. I suggested that maybe I could put on a 1-2 hour workshop for their members that would provide tremendous value for the attendees of the session. We agreed on the topic and there was consensus as to the value it would bring. That was when they dropped the doozy on me…"this program sounds great, so how would you like to pay the $1,500 sponsorship fee?" My jaw dropped to the floor. They were asking me to pay $1,500 in order to provide THEIR members with a session that would benefit their businesses. Is there any logic in that? I refused outright and ended the conversation abruptly. I also asked for my money back on the annual membership dues.
This epitomizes what is wrong with our associations today, they are all looking for short-term cash grabs. The focus of an association should be to provide the best opportunities for their members to learn, to grow and to share information to improve their lives and their business results. What I suggested to this organization was that by putting a price on speakers and forcing a sponsorship fee, they were not ensuring any quality or value being delivered to their members. Imagine one of the members asked how the association found the speaker…."oh, they were willing to pay the $1,500 sponsorship fee." If you were that member, wouldn't you have preferred to hear "because they are the best at what they do." Using a fee to determine who speaks to association membership is short-sighted and just plan stupid. It disregards the value that members get because the fee does not correspond to value for members. In a time when associations are losing members at a regular clip, you would think they would smarten up and raise the profile and the quality of the events they put on and base their session decisions on the credentials of the speaker and not their ability to pay a silly fee.