State Network Membership

Membership Models of State Networks

​Under a membership model, individuals, groups, or institutions pay a fee or register as members to gain access to that which an organization provides. Each state network determines whether it will engage a membership model and, if so, what its corresponding membership structure and goals are. Goals may include revenue generation, increased visibility for the network, and marketing programs or events hosted by the network. Your state network’s membership model should align with its overarching goals and strategy and present a clear sense of the value that your network brings to its members. It should address issues such as:

Membership levels

Individual or institutional memberships are the two most common approaches by state networks. Some networks offer both options.

Membership cost

Your membership model should be clear about whether your network will provide free or fee-based memberships.

Membership fees

If your network chooses to use a membership fee structure, determine how much you will charge members. Base your decision on how you plan to use the membership fees. Whether you will use them for developing new programs, providing scholarships, or to offset administrative costs associated with operating your network, consider the overall costs and how much is needed from membership revenue to support the network’s goals.

Collection of membership fees

Some state networks roll membership into conference registration so that anyone who attends their annual conferences is automatically considered a member. Others allow members to renew their membership and pay online. Still others send annual renewal letters to institutional members. No matter which fee approach you use, a strategy for collecting membership fees should be part of your model.

 Tips for Collecting Membership Fees

Start early with your outreach to individuals or institutions to give people time to take action. Ideally, your initial outreach should be two to three months ahead of your membership cycle’s end date.

Personalize your reminders to increase the likelihood of the message being seen.

BONUS TIP: If you already use Microsoft Outlook, you can set up a bulk email message that is personalized by following Microsoft’s instructions.

Membership recruitment and retention

Be sure your network has a plan to not just retain members but also recruit new members. Use various communications and outreach strategies to excite members and potential members so that they see the value of their membership regularly. Social media channels highlighting accomplishments, programs, and events of the network, for example, can assist with not just sharing about your network but also inviting individuals and institutions to join the network.

Membership management

Membership applications, records, and data management should be part of your overall membership model.

Your membership model may include numerous aspects, but the key to its success lies in your ability to align the state network’s goals and strategy with the value members and potential members seek. The model provides a practical way to depict your network’s membership levels, structure, and fees while also providing key information to recruit, retain, and manage your membership base. When considering what membership model may work best for your state network, here are a few questions that you and your state network’s planning board should consider.

What unique value will your state network provide to its members?

Whether members are individuals or institutions, you should be clear about the benefits you will provide them. Think about the goals your members may have, and how your network may help them achieve the goals. Also think about how you will assess whether your network is in fact meeting their goals, and thereby supporting your membership model.

What will your network be able to consistently offer to its members?

Every state network is volunteer-led. While some state networks may have staff support, most do not. Be clear on what offerings, programs, events, and resources your network can consistently provide to its members and careful not to overpromise.

What membership structure makes the most sense for your state network?

State networks have varying membership structures, but most provide membership at one of two levels: individual or institutional. Think about which membership structure best aligns with the goals and strategic plan for your state network, how many membership levels your network can manage, and whether money from members is needed to support the network’s activities.

What marketing and outreach strategy will your network use to recruit and retain members?

Any successful membership recruitment and retention plan, particularly for fee-based models, will need a solid marketing and outreach strategy. Based on the leadership structure of your network, who will keep track of members and how will you keep members engaged you’re your network? The feedback loop between your state network and its members should provide clear guidance to your network about whether members sense a return on investment with their fees or time committed to participate with your state network.

Gender Inclusion

The ACE Women’s Network holds inclusion and gender equity as core values to its work. We encourage state networks to have inclusive membership policies and practices. Here is an example of a gender inclusion statement:

 ​ACE Women’s Network Statement on Gender Inclusion

The ACE Women’s Network is a national system of networks within each state, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia that work, with assistance from the American Council on Education (ACE), to advance and support women in higher education. The state networks share a goal of developing programs that identify, develop, encourage, advance, link, and support (IDEALS) women in higher education careers within that state.

The ACE Women’s Network holds inclusion and gender equity as core values to its work. Any individual who is committed to supporting and advancing women in higher education is welcome to participate in the ACE Women’s Network without regard to gender, gender identity, and gender expression.

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