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Why Your Booster Club Should Never Sell "Lifetime" Memberships

by Jim Connelly, founder of BoosterSpark

Booster clubs are always looking for new ways to fundraise. Some think they can increase their financial success by selling "lifetime memberships" at a higher price than standard memberships. Unfortunately, they don't realize the ways their well-intentioned invention will hurt their club in the long run.

When you sell a membership, you are entering into a sales contract that must be honored for the duration of the agreement. The duration of a lifetime membership is infinity. Infinity is a long time, and many things can change in the future:

1. FUTURE BENEFIT AVAILABILITY
It may not be possible for your club to provide some plan benefits two or more years from now. Inevitably, for reasons beyond your club's control, some benefits may no longer be available, or affordable, or sensible in the future. For example, your plan might include free admission to athletic events, but your athletic director, district, school board, conference, or state leadership could cancel that benefit someday. The sudden unexpected loss of a major benefit would upset your lifetime members. They might demand refunds years from now due to the broken sales agreement.

2. BURDEN ON FUTURE CLUB LEADERS
Your club's future leaders will have to deliver the benefits you defined years earlier. Forever. Future club leaders might have reasons why your lifetime plan benefits are no longer in the best interests of the club, but will be powerless to cancel the plan.

3. LOSS OF FUTURE REVENUE
Even if the first two concerns don't scare you, this one should. When you sell lifetime memberships, you hurt your club's future revenue potential. Membership renewals generate large sums for booster clubs every year, but lifetime members have no incentive to continue supporting the club financially after Year One. Your goal should be to sell membership renewals every year to existing members so you can replenish your club's bank account and maximize the positive impact you can make on your community.

If you want to maximize this year's revenue, there is a simple solution: raise your prices. A funny thing happens when you sell memberships at a higher price point: there is a higher perceived value, and that increases the likelihood someone will buy. If you're not familiar with perceived value, think of an Under Armour shirt vs a Fruit of the Loom shirt. Under Armour charges as much as 10 times more than Fruit of the Loom for a shirt, and people nationwide seek out that higher priced shirt.

Too often, clubs chase smaller upfront sums at the cost of future revenue.

4. PLAN PRICE CHANGES
Your club will eventually increase membership plan prices. When they do, and lifetime membres do not buy renewals at the higher price, your club looses financially.

5. DATABASE ISSUES
Membership databases require a defined expiration date of some sort. "Infinity" causes many problems with member data.

BEST PRACTICE
The best thing your club can do is sell a membership renewal — at then-current prices — every year. And, be sure you ar not underpricing your plans. If you do not have plans priced at $100, $250, $500, and maybe even $750 and $1,000, you are hurting the your club. Learn more about designing and pricing booster club membership plans here.

Who Wrote This? Jim Connelly, founder and lead developer of BoosterSpark, is past president of a booster club in the Chicago suburbs that donated over $40,000 to his children's high school annually. The Illinois State Board of Education presented Jim with the Those Who Excel Award of Meritorious Service in 2017 recognizing his extensive booster club service. During his tenure, he created and coordinated an annual 5K fundraiser, managed an engraved brick fundraising campaign, created a sponsorship program, enhanced an existing membership program, increased sales of spirit wear, initiated new volunteer recruitment programs, guided the volunteer team that won the $5,000 Buffalo Wild Wings Spirit Challenge two consecutive years, launched an informative club website, ensured the club was properly insured, researched 501(c)(3) compliance, and increased annual club revenue. Professionally, Jim has been a business consultant trusted by companies in over 100 industries since 1996.
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