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Engineering Societies and Associations Associate/Sponsoring/Sustaining Memberships

Many regional and specialty engineer societies and associations are looking for extra revenue.  One of the traditional ways for associations to find some using their web site is to create “Sustaining” or “Associate” or “Sponsoring” memberships, which essentially give those types of members a variety of ways online to market themselves to the association’s base membership.

Just for some examples of such, you can review some here.

Some of the primary ways for an association to provide benefit to these kind of members are:

  • Allow for graphic banner advertising on the web site that links to the “member” web site.
  • Provide a vendor search capability, and allow such members to have expanded entries.
  • Provide the ability for Sustaining Members to provide content of value to base members through web site or email list, such as examples of how a software package has been used.

There are more, once you understand how this kind of membership can relate to your base membership.

One of the key things an association needs to recognize is the importance of pricing this membership appropriately.  Too many sustaining members can limit the value of link advertising to the buyer.  Too few makes it appear that the sustaining membership is not valuable.

Know what number of memberships of this type your organization wants to serve, and price based on that.  The benefits you offer can limit the number of memberships you can take at this level.

For example, if you want part of the value of the membership to be an online scroller on all pages that links to the Sustaining Member’s web site, there’s a limit to how much space you can provide for that.  Selling 30 of them reduces the visibility of the banner, which reduces the benefit of the link, so there better be more value available to that member than just this feature. 

But selling just 5 or 6 of these membership levels could provide them with constant visibility could be a big plus to such “sponsoring” members.

On the other hand, a search engine of vendors can be quite useful to your base membership if there are many participants, and the search engine has appropriate complexity.  This can be a “more the merrier” approach.

There is a lot more your organization can do in this arena, but in order to figure it out, you have to get started with such a membership level.  Take a look at what some of the engineering associations are doing above for ideas. Realize that there are a lot of national and regional companies with marketing money specific for these kinds of memberships.  You can actually find them using Google if you’re savvy.

And market this level.  If done well, marketing not only brings prospective associate members to your door, but also promotes those who have already paid for that membership, as long as you are driving interest to your web site.

Engineering groups have other online options they can provide for sustaining members, such as:

  • Sharing Technical or Professional Papers
  • Employment Notices
  • Online Webinar Hosting

As well as the traditional offline offerings, such as visibility at conferences.  The secret is understanding how to sew the organization’s memberships together in a way that best advantages ALL membership levels.


Kessler Freedman, Inc.