Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

November 15 2012

A New Win-Win Tool for Your Association and Your Members

By David McMillin, Staff Writer

As associations continue to work to deliver more value to members, one company is hoping to help you do that via an unlikely channel: their credit cards. Virginia-based Affinity Center International is partnering with associations to offer a new AchieveLinks rewards program.

Here's how it works:

1) Your association offers members a credit card with your logo.

2) Your members earn "links" when they make purchases at certain retailers - - the program currently has more than 800 merchant partners, which range from home improvement stores to office supplies and more.

3) Your association earns revenue for each purchase while your members earn links.

4) Your members rack up links, which they can cash in on a variety of rewards.

Fueling Financial Assistance

While many of those rewards include traditional offerings such as travel and electronics, your association can include a range of rewards specific to your organization.

"The association has a way to help members offset the costs of dues or conference fees and travel costs," David Carrithers, founder and president, Affinity Center International, says.

As more organizations elect not to cover the expenses of individual memberships for professional associations, offsetting those costs is crucial. 

"Loyalty programs continue to soar in popularity because they provide a way for someone to become a member without having to dig into their own pockets to cover their dues," Carolyn Clark, vice president, marketing and communications, PCMA, says. "It's why PCMA has reciprocal relationships with Hilton and Starwood. We know our members are always on the road, and we offer opportunities to put all that traveling toward paying for their dues."

Reinforcing Why Membership Matters

It's no secret that the value of membership has come under the microscope within the past few years, and many organizations are taking proactive steps to enhance their membership benefits.

"Today's world forces associations to constantly reevaluate their offerings to deliver more," Clark says. "While your members may join your association for specific reasons such as networking or education, you always need to be on the lookout for opportunities to become an even bigger part of their lives."

Carrithers says that AchieveLinks is meant to help associations fulfill that bigger role by moving from a model that asks members to support the association through dues or time to one that rewards them for doing what they normally do - - make business and personal purchases.

In addition to reinforcing the value of membership, the program can also reinforce a positive image of your brand. Carrithers says that AchieveLinks goes further than many traditional rewards programs with Link Up for Charity, which allows donations to the association's foundation and/or charity of choice

What About the Other Cards in Their Wallets?

Many banks have already been using the merchant-funded model to supplement their rewards programs and reward consumers for their everyday purchasing behaviors. Your members are probably already using other rewards credit and debit cards, too, and Carrithers says that earning links doesn't actually require signing up for a new card.

Instead, members can sign up and make purchases through the AchieveLinks website with their existing card. However, Carrithers adds that they will earn links at an accelerated pace if they opt to enroll in the program's co-branded credit card.

For more on how the AchieveLinks program can benefit your association and your members, clickhere