Forming a Membership Scheme
Membership schemes for partnerships are a key source of income, and help to ensure commitment and engagement from local members. For an annual fee or subscription, businesses, community groups or individuals can become part of the town centre partnership which in turn is an investment in their wider local environment.
Many places set tiered membership levels and fees to ensure equitable contributions from a broad representation. The most common are tiers for businesses, often based on rateable value or number of employees. In some places new arrivals and start-ups get the first year discounted, and you may want to consider free membership for not-for profit stakeholders or other groups who can offer substantial in-kind support.
The members, often via a Board or Core Group, decide how their money, raised through the membership fees, is spent to deliver the priorities they have agreed in their Business Plan. In return for their membership subscription, as well as influence and networking, you will need to offer your members benefits to secure their support and to justify their expenditure. Various incentives, services, discounts and opportunities can be provided including:
Advertising in publications
Newsletters or e-bulletins
or more ambitious schemes like shared trade waste recycling to reduce costs.
These offers and benefits can evolve and change each year as the partnership develops, and some are discussed in more detail elsewhere in his guide.
At the time of joining it is valuable to get each member to provide information about their business or organisation (contact details for example). This forms the basis of your membership database and will help you keep in touch with the right people and measure the diversity within your members. For example if each member has told you how many employees they have, their gross annual turnover and floorspace they occupy, you can add them up and state the total floorspace etc that your partnership collectively represents without divulging any individual member’s figures. Those stats are powerful tools when sat around a bargaining table.
It is also advisable to require new members to sign up a confidentiality agreement at the time of joining so that discussions at meetings can be open and frank. This means that you can, for example, have the Editor of the local paper at a meeting where new ideas are floated or controversial issues are discussed without fear of being quoted in the local press before you're ready.