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How to Create and Name Membership Levels

MemberClicks Avatar MemberClicks March 7, 2023
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9 min read

Thinking about creating membership levels for your organization?  

There are two key benefits to having different membership levels:

1) It’s effective to help you extra money off members who can afford to — and want to! — pay more. These members are usually more engaged in your organization. Plus, it ensures that your other members can afford your membership fees.

2) Member journeys are changing. What people are want from an association membership has shifted. Having different levels is a great way to meet potential members where they’re at and to provide different options for different member types.

Whether you want to create a membership level for students and early career professionals or you’re plotting out premium membership levels with added bells and whistles, we can help you figure out what membership levels will work for your membership program, what kinds of benefits to offer, how much you should charge and what to name your membership levels.  

What are membership levels? 

Membership levels are different membership tiers that membership associations, non-profit organizations, recreational services, or businesses offer. Typically, they are at a number of different price points with different corresponding levels of benefits or perks.

Having different levels allows members to choose the membership benefits and price they actually want.  

Why create membership levels? 

Some membership organizations only offer one membership level at one price point. Those organization are often leaving money on the table from members who can afford to pay more. They’re also potentially missing out on early career or student members who aren’t able to pay the full membership price just yet but still could benefit from being members now.

Membership levels allow organizations to:  

  • Appeal to broader audiences 
  • Let members with different budgets find a level that works for them
  • Maximize their revenue from their membership 
  • Upsell members 
  • Retain members 
  • Offer better perks to a select group 
  • Give members more choice around their engagement and expense 

What types of organizations create tiered membership levels? 

Any types of organizations that offer memberships can offer membership levels including:  

  • Associations 
  • Non-profits 
  • Chambers of commerce 
  • Parks and recreational services 
  • Businesses 
  • Individual creators 
  • Consultants 

Why are membership level names important? 

There’s a lot in a name.

Engaging, descriptive and relevant membership names help make the overall membership more appealing to different audiences, give members a clear idea of what to expect and can help you convince members to join at more expensive levels. 

After all, wouldn’t you rather be a part of the ‘Distinguished Advisor’ membership tier for a professional association than the ‘Senior Citizen’ tier? One sounds prestigious and the other… just makes you feel old. 

Similarly, the ‘Up-and-Comers’ or ‘Emerging Professionals’ tier sounds much more interesting than the ‘Under 25’ tier.  

You can also use names to make premium membership tiers sound more prestigious. For example, who wouldn’t want to be part of the ‘Founders’ Circle’ tier?    

Now that you’ve gotten a feel for why names matter, lets get into the action of naming your tiers.

Naming your membership levels 

So, how do you come up with a great name that’s engaging and appeals to your potential members?

Understanding Membership Tier Criteria 

Membership names are typically developed around particular criteria or characteristics inherent in the membership tier.  

  • Payment schedule: Some membership organization offer both annual and monthly memberships and give special perks to annual members. Organizations likely to name their tiers after their payment schedules include parks and recreational services, individual creators and consultants.  
  • Professional tier: Professional associations are more likely to use someone’s professional tier as part of their membership level name. In these membership orgs there might be membership levels representing trainees and students, early career members, professionals, and retirees. Some might even have different tiers for people with different professional certifications.  
  • Level of nonprofit support: Non-profits that are focused on fundraising often have membership tiers based on how much an individual or organization donated in the past year.  
  • Resource access: Parks and recreational services, businesses and creators will often have membership tiers that indicate which resources the member has purchased access to.  
  • Benefits access: Non-profits, businesses and professional associations often have membership level names connected to the benefits that the members get access to.  
  • Content delivery: Some memberships have different content delivery options. For example, a small publisher who runs a book club membership might have both a digital and book tier of their membership. Professional associations also sometimes use this to name their tiers.  
  • Number of users: Businesses, parks and recreational services and professional association can sometimes name the tiers after a group membership. For example, they might offer individual, family or business memberships. 
  • Subscription length: Increasingly, membership organizations of all kinds are starting to offer membership tiers for people who have been loyal members where they’re able to access extra perks or get a discount. This can sometimes lead to membership named after the number of years you’ve been a member.  

All the above criteria can provide inspiration for membership level names alone. But some organizations can also use more than one of these criteria in creating their tiers. In these cases, their level names could be based off a combination of these criteria.  

For example, a nonprofit organization might have a “Founding Circle Platinum” membership tier that identifies members who have given at least $10,000 a year for the last five years. In such an organization, a member might join the Platinum tier after donating $10,000 but only become a Founding Circle member after donating at that level for five years or more.  

Tips and Best Practices 

When it comes to designing a membership tier and naming it, it’s important to do it the right way – intentionally. Here are some things to consider:  

  • Consider your brand, identity, and value proposition: What does your organization stand for? How can you make your membership name relevant to your organization’s brand? What kind of value are you offering your members? The answers to these questions should inform your choices. For example, an aquarium might have a membership tier for kids called the Junior Marine Biologists.  
  • Take a look at what other organizations are doing: Why reinvent the wheel when someone already went through all the effort? Research how other organizations similar to yours are creating the membership levels and what kinds of membership level names they’re choosing.  
  • Think about your target audience’s interests and budget: Segment your members and prospective members into a few buckets and then consider 1) How much money they might be able to spend and 2) What kinds of perks will interest them enough to convince them to spend it.  
  • Ensure that differences between levels are clear: While you want to offer value to all your membership tiers, if you don’t offer more value to higher membership tiers no one will choose them. Make sure to differentiate them effectively.  
  • Create a sense of progression or growth between tiers: If you make moving up tiers seem prestigious or part of people’s natural evolution through your organization more people will be willing to do so. Find ways to spotlight members who progress from one tier to another – and how it improved their life, career or experience within your organization.  
  • Reflect your program’s goals by nudging members to particular tiers: Know which members you’re targeting to upgrade to which tier and customize your communications and renewal notices for those members to encourage them to upgrade.  
  • Get creative: Think out of the box when it comes to what to name your tiers and what kinds of benefits would entice people to move up the tiers. For example, if you work at an art museum, you might offer your highest tiered members the opportunity to come to an exclusive sit down dinner inside exhibits before they open – or even the opportunity to attend a sleepover at the museum once a year.  

Membership Level Examples to Consider 

Okay! Now that we’ve talked about what you need to consider when creating a membership level and how to name it, let’s get into some examples.  

1. President’s Tier Members at a Chamber of Commerce 

Such membership tiers typically represent how much a company donated towards the Chamber of Commerce that year. Often, these types of memberships come with perks like a certain number of free tickets to all events, the ability to sit at the President’s table once a year at a monthly luncheon, and sponsorships.  

2. Family Fun Memberships at a municipal pool 

This membership tier name represents how many users are included in the membership. Generally, the benefit is that you get a discount compared to purchasing memberships for everyone in the family individually.  

3. Patron Memberships at an art museum 

This membership tier name refers to the amount that the member donated to the art museum that year. Benefits might include things like special advance access to exhibits, a discount in the gallery’s store, guest passes and invites to exclusive events.  

4. Forest Explorer Memberships at a conservation and trail maintenance organization 

This membership tier name could be for youth members of a conservation organization. Benefits might include a subscription to the organization’s youth publication, special events for youth and early access to new trails.  

5. Emerging Professional Memberships at a professional organization 

These memberships are often for professionals under 25 years old who are students. It could also be for early career professional who can’t afford a full membership. Typically, the benefits are similar to normal memberships with the exception of any benefits that cost the organization extra money. These are often excluded since the lower cost of membership isn’t enough to cover the costs. Plus, these members probably won’t use them.

6. Inner Circle Memberships for an individual creator 

These memberships are premium memberships offered to people who support an artist or creator. Benefits could include things like access to special posts or content, invitations to online events, or even one-on-one consultations with the creator.  

7. Accelerator Memberships for a consultant 

These memberships are related to resource access. The benefits often include full access to resources and content and even a consulting package with a set number of hours of help.  

8. Heritage Circle Memberships at a non-profit 

These memberships are connected to non-profit support. The benefits can include special Heritage Circle events that give the members access to experts at the organization and other supporters.  

9. Power Users Memberships at a business 

These memberships are focused on benefits access. The benefits could include a certain number of points or hours of support or help. For example, many design agencies now sell memberships where you get a certain amount of graphic design help every month.  

Click through to learn about MemberClicks’ membership management software tools, MC Trade and MC Professional.

10. Platinum eBook Membership at a publisher 

This membership name refers to both the level of support and the content delivery method. They often include eBook access to all of the small publishers’ books in return for monthly support.  

There’s a LOT in membership names

Excited to start brainstorming the benefits you’ll offer in your membership tier? Already have a catchy name for one of your tiers? Excellent!  

It pays off to get creative and create an effective and thought out strategy for your membership levels. After all, the better they resonate with your audience, the more money you’ll bring in.  

Before launching your levels, be sure to workshop them with some of your existing membership. Their feedback will be key to creating membership levels that really excite your current and future members. Ultimately, this is what will drive additional revenue for your organization.  

Tracking member relationships in your AMS

If you’re a large trade organization, chamber or have complex member-to-organization relationships, you may find it hard to track these relationships in your AMS. MC Trade is built to make this reporting and member organization easy as 1.2.3. If you’d like to see MC Trade and our member-relationship abilities in action, book a demo with us!

Free Member Retention Guide

Ready to retain members and keep them coming back forever and ever? This guide will teach you everything you need to know about member retention. We cover all the basics, like the first steps to member retention and how to map out your member journey. From there, we dive a bit deeper into retention tips.