Making The Membership Fee Work For Your Chapter

NERO National recently announced that it is reinstating the annual $15 NERO membership fee. Noah Mason posted  here  about the need for a fee, and Bill Tobin addresses some of the critiques about it here. Rather than talking about the pros and cons of the fee itself, I’d like to brainstorm some ways that you (as a game director) might be able to retain your players and soothe some of the [understandable!] frustration surrounding annual dues. Think about it this way: if you implement a plan to help cover your players membership fee, it could actually draw people to your chapter.

  • Reimburse players for their membership fee after they’ve attended at least three of your events during a calendar year. (make sure to communicate with other nearby chapters who might be using this promotion so that players don’t get reimbursed multiple times!) This rewards loyal players and incentives repeat customers.
  • Some players feel it’s unreasonable to pay two different membership fees. If you charge a local membership fee for insurance and database access, roll this price into the cost of your event ticket instead. That way, players are only paying for one membership and won’t be tempted to move to another chapter to avoid your local fee.
  • Plan a local membership drive. This could be a great opportunity for community-building. Host a movie, pizza, or game night and charge everybody five bucks to attend. This money can be put towards poor college kids, NPCs showing up to check out the game, first time players, or other people for whom $15 a year is a dealbreaker. People who are generous enough to donate straight into the fund should be blasted in the face with goblin points and regarded as local heroes.
  • Pay your players’ dues if they donate $15 worth of props, costume, spell packets, food, or other goods that you would otherwise have to buy. For example, a player could bake a bunch of pies and serve dessert to everybody in trade for their membership dues.  This way, you’ve made the membership fee pay for a direct and visible benefit to your game.

Any other constructive ideas? Leave a comment and share!

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  1. #1 by Tobin on April 28, 2011 - 6:52 pm

    I really dig points three and four. Three helps build your community outside the game. And remember, not all the money has to go towards membership – some of it could go towards raffle prizes (which could be the $15 membership), the party, or props for the year.

    Four is amazing, and gives yet another avenue of benefit beyond goblins. Players who do jobs that no one wants (cleaning out storage areas, running tavern, writing detailed local packages) could receive a credit towards membership.

    One final thing you can do is put together a survey/voting system for the year, where people vote on best moments, most improved player, best sportsmanship, etc, and winners of those votes can get their memberships paid.

  2. #2 by Eric on April 29, 2011 - 12:26 am

    Dan, I hate to seem negative, but

    1) A lot of chapters barely make any money as it, and just couldn’t afford it. The ones that could afford it, more than likely couldn’t pay for all their members.

    2) Again, the reason those chapters charge a membership is because they can’t afford not to. If they raised their game cost they might lose out of chapter members as well. It’s make more sense (to help keep the chapter afloat) for national not to charge a membership to the chapters that already have a membership fee.

    3) Very feasible. This is a great idea.

    4) This one is iffy. A lot of times, I get my players to donate stuff because we can’t afford to go get it. So paying their membership fee would be out of the question. Other times we’d probably be able to do it, however; it be a case when you wouldn’t be able to do it every time.

    • #3 by Bill on May 2, 2011 - 2:05 pm

      The trick to the donation thing is that it has to be something you would otherwise have to buy. This wouldn’t be wants, it would be needs.

      When used that way, it effectively becomes a loan to you (the player buys it and you pay the player back by paying the membership after the event when you’re cash rich).

  3. #4 by John on April 29, 2011 - 10:14 am

    Something else to consider would be the purchase of monthly memberships. Lets say month 1, player pays $5, chapter covers the remaining $10. For the next 2 events the player has to pay an additional $5 fee until the chapter is reimbursed. My organization offers monthly memberships, but they don’t roll up into a yearly as soon as the cost is equal, like this plan would. The only problem with my proposal is if the chapter is covering for too many new players who don’t return.

  4. #5 by JJ on April 29, 2011 - 5:15 pm

    1) A lot of chapters barely make any money as it, and just couldn’t afford it. The ones that could afford it, more than likely couldn’t pay for all their members.

    Yeah, this. These are good ideas for having the local chapter take some of the financial blow for the players who can’t afford the extra fee… but that assumes that the local chapter can afford to take that financial blow themselves, which most probably can’t.

    I don’t think I know of any larps that are tremendously successful financially-speaking. Most of the time, any money that is made is immediately poured back into the game in the form of props/costuming/whatever, and that assumes they actually are making money. At a game with only 30 players, assuming that the chapter helps them all with the fee, that’s $450 a year. Does that come out of the props budget? Food for NPCs?

    Setting aside the question of whether or not we want to/should pay the fee, I honestly think most players can afford the $15 way easier than the chapters can.

    JJ

  5. #6 by Daniel Burke on May 1, 2011 - 2:11 pm

    @ John – Regarding new players – waive their membership fee.

    Treat them like a Gym or Magazine would. The goal is not to charge someone for their $15. The goal is to get them to become members and charge them hundreds of $$ over many years. This is a long term investment process on the chapter in the player and on the part of the player investing in the game.

    As such, not unlike other businesses that use the long view model…come down for a trial run. Try it out. See if you like it. If they do, they can pay their membership fee at their second event when they re-write the character.

    The more we can do to eliminate potential negatives for new players and make their introduction and (hopefully) continued participate in the overall game, the better the health of the game will be.

  6. #7 by Daniel Burke on May 1, 2011 - 2:20 pm

    I would expand on point #4 Dan to not just goods but also services.

    Someone who can actually design graphics or do web design? People with skills that can be used to repair things at the campground (plumbing and carpentry are the most obvious)?

    Another good one – Someone who can offer up storage for Chapter Gear local to the campground? Not having to worry about chapter logistics as everything is within 15 minutes of the game is HUGE.

    Not quite as tangible but still having value, I’m sure we could come up with a lot of things like this, which overall the goal would be to get the players to INVEST in the chapter while remaining players. As opposed to keeping themselves are players but still separate from the chapter.

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