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FAR October Flash Newsletter

Mary Byers, CAE, discussing changing business models for associations

On October 17, 2018, FAR welcomed Mary Byers, CAE, to provide our audience with insights on helping to improve our organizations. She delivered two presentations, one in the morning and one during the FAR luncheon.  

The morning presentation was titled

“Shrink to Grow: A Counterintuitive Path to Relevance.” Participants in this session listened to Mary talk about the new environment in which organization are operating. This new environment is constantly changing because of several factors. Included in these factors are need for returns on investments, technology, competition, generational preferences, time, and mergers. Often the tendency of associations are to try to do more things for its members. Ms. Byers encouraged the audience to be internal organizational leaders, facilitating the difficult discussion about shrinking what the organization does. Ms. Byers provided a matrix tool to help FAR’s audience in leading this discussion at their own organizations. The matrix is useful for developing a more objective method for evaluating the relevance of programs and services.

During her luncheon presentation,

“Changing Business Models”, Ms. Byers discussed changing models of membership pricing and their relevance for evolving associations. She discussed free, tiered, all-access, subscription, and auto-renewal models for pricing and collecting dues.

Her main points during this presentation were:

  • Associations must be financially sustainable to be able to serve members. It’s not selfish to consider what’s good for both the member and the association. In fact, it’s unwise not to consider both.
  • Like it or not, what happens in the for-profit arena often becomes an expectation for associations. Young people who subscribe to a wide variety of services now will expect the option. 
  • Though tricky, it’s possible for the traditional “annual membership” and a “subscription” to co-exist, placing the choice in the hands of members—the ultimate in customer convenience.

During her presentation about different membership models, Ms. Byers played a clip of Ralph Johnson, previous CEO of the Colorado Veterinary Medical Association. The clip may be found here:


PDF versions of both presentations may be found


Mary Byers, CAE, is a strategic planning facilitator, leadership conference speaker and sought-after retreat architect. She’s also the author of Race for Relevance: 5 Radical Changes for Associations. She may be contacted at

https://www.marybyers.com/ .

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