How can membership business models, based to some extent on the concept of exclusivity, flourish in an environment increasingly driven by collaboration, openness, and participation?
The prevalence of collaboration tools, social networks, and search capabilities combined with the proliferation of accessible content, has made maintaining membership rolls challenging.
To make matters worse, potential new members often have expectations that conflict with those of existing membership.
How can a membership organization meet the competing needs of different groups and still sustain itself and serve its larger mission?
Could we pull non-members into the planning and execution of events or activities in which they may be interested, giving them a connection to the organization, the mission, and the existing membership before they’re faced with a decision to “join”?
In some cases, could providing interaction with non-members increase learning opportunities for our current members?
Could we offer non-members features, like credential verification and access to credentialed online communities, for free and then offer them opportunities to pay for additional products or services they want to consume?
Could ideas like this be the basis of “custom membership,” where different levels of interest or affiliation are offered at different price points?
Perhaps we could use a model based on flow. The flow of people through an organization over time where their relationship with the organization changes as their needs change. Payment models could also vary based on their consumption and contribution.
Is membership a sustainable concept at all in the era of open participation?