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Understanding Membership Types:
A Comprehensive FAQ Guide

Jennifer Cote Avatar Jennifer Cote June 30, 2023
Table of Contents
7 min read

When it comes to attracting, retaining, and delighting your members, the types of membership you offer play a big role. The right membership types can help improve your member engagement and member retention. 

Depending on your organization’s purpose, your ideal member profile, pricing, and benefits, some membership types may make more sense than others. By taking the time to optimize your membership types, you’ll be making an impact on your organization’s success for years to come. Let’s explore different membership organizations, pricing models, member benefits, and how to decide what membership type is right for you. 

Click through to learn how you can leverage MemberClicks software to optimize your membershp types and boost the member experience.

What is a membership type?

Membership types define the finer details of the membership levels in your membership program. You likely have a leveled hierarchy for the different kinds of membership in your organization. Your membership type specifies the priced package of benefits and features members have access to at that designated level.

What are different types of membership organizations?

A membership organization is a group or nonprofit where people with a common interest or field of work pay a fee to access exclusive benefits, features, and community.

An organization’s membership types will be unique to their membership program and the relationship they have with their members – what services and perks they offer and what interactions they’ll be having.

Different types of membership organizations will have varying membership programs such as:

Professional/Trade Associations 

A professional/trade association is an organization where members have the same profession or work in the same industry. These organizations focus on professional development, building connections, and promoting the interests of their members.


Usually focused on a dedicated cause or community, nonprofits offer benefits and exclusive experiences to their members that progress or raise money for their mission, rather than for profit. 


Members of a club are united by a particular goal, activity, or interest. Examples include sports, political or religious affiliations, or hobbies. 

Parks and Recreation

These organizations are focused on improving their local community. Their member programs and activities are typically geared towards parks, recreation, and environmental conservation.

What pricing models can membership organizations have?

Depending on your organization’s expenses as well as the benefits, services, and features you want to offer your members, your types of membership will have different pricing. In the end, your pricing needs to cover both your organization’s variable and fixed costs while still appealing to your members.

There are three common membership pricing models to choose from:

One-Time Fixed Fee

With this pricing model, members pay once for lifetime membership to your organization. This is an appealing and easy-to-understand model for members, but unfortunately it doesn’t always translate to a reliable source of revenue in the long run. However, you can balance this unpredictability with other sources of non-dues revenue

Recurring Fixed Fee

This pricing model is one you’ll see used the most. Members pay a fixed fee on a regular basis, such as monthly or annually. This pricing model gives your organization a sustainable and reliable source of revenue, which is why it’s so popular. If you’re feeling nervous about membership renewals, you can offer early-bird discounts and other incentives to encourage members.

Tiered Pricing

Tiered membership pricing is popular for organizations because it appeals to distinct member personas. From the options available, members can choose their level of engagement and fee based on their individual needs, interests, or budgets with the opportunity to upgrade to access to more benefits.  

What popular benefits can membership organizations offer?

When it comes to your membership types, there’s a wide range of impactful, engaging, and creative benefits your organization can choose from. The right benefits for your organization depends on your budget, your goals, what your competitors are offering, your member needs, and your mission. 

Some of the most popular member benefits included in different membership types are: 

  • Networking opportunities – Having access to community and leading industry professionals can make a huge difference for your members. Networking opportunities can come in the form of lunch and learns, conferences, workshops, online communities, or social groups. 
  • Mentorship – These mutually beneficial relationships can help new and upcoming members and long-standing ones. They offer personal and professional growth, offer skill development, and networking opportunities, just to name a few benefits. Mentorship programs are also known to boost member retention and member engagement, which is a win for your organization! 
  • Educational development – Offer professional development for your members through a Learning Management System (LMS) on your membership website. This can be through the form of online courses or professional training. You may also want to incorporate gamification to keep things interesting.
  • Professional certifications – Certifications can open doors for your members by giving them a new set of skills. Not only does offering this benefit boost your organization’s reputation and general member satisfaction, it also helps your members advance their professions, personal goals, or gain access to new jobs. 
  • Coupons and discounts – Who doesn’t love a good deal? These perks can come in the form of exclusive coupons and discounts for products and services unique to your members’ interests and needs. They can also be used as incentives to encourage membership renewals.
  • Exclusive events and experiences – These can include cocktail nights, getaways, and galas. Exclusive events and experiences are known to increase member engagement and retention. They also make your members feel appreciated, while also attracting potential new ones. It’s an excellent networking opportunity and gives you a chance to promote your organization without coming off too salesy. 

Which membership type is most suitable for my organization?

No two organizations are truly alike. Think carefully about what makes your organization unique, such as your mission and purpose. Your ideal membership types are a representation of that. Picking the right type of membership is all about understanding both your organization’s overall goals and your members’ priorities.

Here are some tips for deciding what membership type is right for your organization:

Decide on Criteria

Before you begin, look at your registration data and see if there are overarching themes. This will help you define what criteria you want to use to differentiate different levels of membership. But remember, nothing is set in stone. Your criteria will likely change and evolve as your organization does. The bottom line is deciding what baseline criteria will make members eligible for certain types of membership over others. 

Examples of criteria include:

  • Levels of experience
  • General interests
  • Demographics
  • Area of expertise

Listen to your members

Evaluate your membership types through your members’ eyes. Decide whether or not they make sense based on member interests and needs. This may involve consulting on or creating member personas that include information about ideal members. The features and benefits of each member type should attract and convert prospective members that fit those profiles. You may even want to conduct a member needs assessment to evaluate your member base and better refine your offered benefits. 

Reflect on Data

If you’re not sure where to start, you may also want to look at existing data from surveys and polls. The best way to understand how to engage and retain your members is through regular feedback. Your members can tell you a lot about areas of improvements or tweaks you can make to really make your membership program shine. Finally, ask long-term members if you can interview them to get more in-depth information. Ask questions about what’s convinced them to continue to be a member, what perks and benefits stand out, and what they see as areas of improvement. 

Invest in Sources of Non-Dues Revenue

Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to make your membership types perfect. As you learn more about your members and how to improve your organization, your membership types will change. It’s a good idea to have other sources of non-dues revenue so you’re not relying solely on member fees for income. These alternate sources of revenue can even be a part of your membership program. 

Examples of non-dues revenue include:

  • Events
  • Merchandise
  • Individual Donations
  • Major Gifts
  • Corporate Giving
  • Cause Marketing
  • Peer-to-Peer Fundraising
  • Crowdfunding
  • Grants
  • Loans and Program-Related Investments

Choosing a Membership Type for Your Organization

When you take the time and care to optimize your membership types, you’re making an investment in your organization. Picking the right membership types all boils down to understanding your members and what resonates with them to create a positive experience. 

Look at member feedback and data to see how you’re meeting needs, as well as what member benefits and features your members love and could do without. And if a piece of data piques your curiosity, take advantage of it and send out a survey about that specific point. 

Remember, membership types, like any other part of your membership program, should be iterated on as your organization and member base changes. The more you’re listening to your members and improving your member experience, the more you’ll see better results year after year. And who doesn’t love that?

Further Reading:

Schedule a demo to learn how MemberClicks can help you create the right membership types for your organization.
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.