Membership and conference pricing for INFORMS: A new approach

My recent post on recruiting to INFORMS caused lots of interest (and some agreement) on the INFORMS Board of Directors.  I learned that many INFORMS members drop out in years that they don’t attend a conference.  This makes economic sense since members receive steep discounts at meetings, and thus the incremental cost of membership is close to 0 for those who attend conferences.  A related difficulty is that many students drop out of INFORMS after graduating because of the steep increase in membership costs.

Here I propose a new pricing scheme in which costs of membership are decreased, costs of meeting are increased, and the meeting discount for members depends on how long the participant has been a continuing member of INFORMS.  I illustrate with a scenario as to why this pricing scheme may be of value to INFORMS (and possibly other professional societies as well).     In this scenario, the cost of annual membership is reduced to $60 per year (a decrease of $84 from its current $144);  the base price of the conference increases by $100;  and, attendees of the national conference are given the following benefits and price reductions.

  1. Non-members are given a free 12 month membership if they register early, and a free 6 month membership if they register late.
  2. Those who have been continuing members of INFORMS for one year or less (prior to registering) would be given a $60 discount. 
  3. Those who have been continuing members of INFORMS for more than one year would be given a $120 discount.

The reason for the changes is to give incentives for continued membership.  Those annually renewing members who attend a national conference once save the full price of membership. And those annually renewing  members who attend a national conference every three years, have only a $20 per year incremental cost of membership.  So, there is far more incentive for  members of INFORMS to maintain an active membership.  Also, student members would not see a large increase in membership fees.

The net revenue under this scenario is approximately the same as under the current pricing scheme if the following assumptions hold.

  1. INFORMS reduces its real costs of serving each member around $25, possibly by not including a free hard copy of a journal with membership. 
  2. The membership level increases from 10,000 to 13,000.
  3. The attendance levels of the national conference are not affected.
  4. The incremental cost to INFORMS for a periodically renewing member is comparable in cost to an annually renewing member.

While the net revenue is about the same, the vitality of INFORMS and its potential influence would go up.  This is not a final answer, but perhaps it points in a useful direction.

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3 Responses to “Membership and conference pricing for INFORMS: A new approach”

  1. Stephen Nash Says:

    You are proposing a new pricing policy for conferences as a way to encourage membership in INFORMS. But the statements in your earlier post (01/08/09) seem to raise deeper questions. Is it really just about saving a couple of dollars on a meeting?

    Why should I join INFORMS (or any other professional society)? I can get the journals via my university, and I can attend the meetings whether I’m a member or not.

    What is the value of becoming a member? Can the collective effect of a strong professional society be translated into a tangible benefit to an individual?

    Stephen

  2. jimorlin Says:

    Actually, my proposed change in pricing was designed to provide an incentive for members to renew assuming that they were interested in attending conferences either frequently or semi-frequently. Basically, the scheme was set up so that annual renewing had little or no incremental cost (relative to not being a member), provided the person attended conferences at least once every three years.

    I don’t have a good rationale for joining INFORMS for those who do not attend conferences (or attend them very infrequently).

  3. Michael Trick’s Operations Research Blog : INFORMS: 30,000 members or 5,000? Says:

    […] real dues.  $30 gets you in the door:  everything else has a price tag.  Jim Orlin provided one vision of a lower cost […]

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