I was recently asked the question “How do associations turn freeloaders into paying members?” I personally think this is a loaded question. While you may be able to convert some of your members through the right marketing and recruitment plans, the idea of converting everyone is unrealistic. “Freeloaders” who show up to events, participate in webinars, and benefit from the great work your association does is just something you have to deal with. But this can work to your advantage.
In a November 2012 post for Associations Now, Joe Rominiecki encourages embracing freeloaders. “Most associations have a mix of free and paid products. Commonly, they offer either content, events or membership for free, and try to funnel people toward paying for the other two”. He goes on to say “In any of these cases, there are freeloaders…there are probably more freeloaders than buyers. And that’s OK; as long as you can generate adequate revenue from the buying portion.”
I agree with what he is trying to achieve with this post – that “scaring off freeloaders would mean its pool of potential buyers would dry up”.
If however, you are no longer benefiting from their presence anymore, it may be time to start making these freeloaders pay to play. I encourage you to make it a gradual, affordable process:
One final thought – has your organization focused any research towards why these “freeloaders” have never joined your association? Asking questions relating to why they have never joined, why they do not see the benefit of being a member, etc. may help you re-focus on your vision, mission and values, and re-structure your brand to be more appealing to these people!
What else could you be doing to convert freeloaders?
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