Is ‘Perpetual Membership’ the Norm?

Auto-renewals are part of my personal and professional life.

On a personal level, I subscribe to services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Verizon, a wine club, a fitness center, and for vitamins. Professionally, I pay for services like Microsoft 365, Dropbox, Internet, and marketing. Most of these services are deducted from our bank or credit card accounts monthly. No one asks us if we want to renew—they assume that we are receiving value and get paid automatically. I think most of us are engaged in the auto-renewal economy.

So, why aren’t more associations, including Chambers of Commerce, leveraging auto-billing or auto-renewals for memberships?

Staff members can spend up to 20% of their time chasing renewals.  When renewal letters or invoices are sent out, you’re asking members to consider the value of membership again while staring at their annual invoices. Should you alleviate members from having to make a renewal decision each year and let them tell you when they’re no longer receiving value?

The article ’Perpetual Membership’ Study is an Auto-Renewal Reality Check’, states that in 2016, about 48% percent of associations offered members installment payment options and 26% were using auto-renewals. About 50% of those that offer installment payments for dues have seen an increase in retention rates. More recent surveys indicate that the auto-renewal option is growing. The National Association of Neonatal Nurses and The Air Conditioning Contractors of America were the association early adopters. The Chester County Chamber of Business & Industry and the Killeen Chamber of Commerce have offered automatic renewals with frequency options for a quite a while.

Common reasons given for not offering auto-renewals or installments include the need to contact members to update expired credit cards, using PCI compliance technology and keeping members for a long period of time. Newer technologies provide services that virtually contact customers and ask them to update their financial information. This should help to reduce admin time to contact members.


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If you decide to join the auto-renewal bandwagon, you can learn a lot from others who have gone before you and avoid many of the common pitfalls. Ask peers in your industry, trade or professional associations for advice. As more and more organizations adopt this trend, there will be plenty of best practices to glean insights from and benchmarking opportunities to optimize processes!

If you’re still on the fence about joining this growing trend, realize that auto-renewal memberships aren’t exclusive to membership-based organizations. In fact, auto-renewals and recurring payment revenue is used with many for-profit companies of all sizes, as you’ll learn from Robbie Kellman Baxter, author of The Membership Economy, who served as the consultant that helped Netflix and SurveyMonkey develop their recurring revenue model.

Are you ready to join the auto-renewal economy? What are you waiting for?


Cathi Hight helps organizations manage constant change, develop customer-centricity and “work smarter, not harder”. She is President of Hight Performance Group and the developer of The Member Retention Kit, A New Approach to Tiered Membership and Work Smarter, Not Harder. Learn more at


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