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A Fresh Look At ACS Dues And Member Benefits

by Joseph S. Francisco and Bonnie A. Charpentier
February 14, 2011 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 89, Issue 7

Joseph S. Francisco, ACS Immediate Past-President
Credit: Peter Cutts Photography
Credit: Peter Cutts Photography

In order to conduct a broad review of the American Chemical Society’s dues and membership benefits, the ACS president and board of directors last March established the Task Force on Society Services & Associated Dues Pricing Models. The task force was charged with reviewing and making recommendations regarding ACS dues categories, pricing models, and membership benefits. At its December meeting, the Committee on Professional & Member Relations (P&MR) and the full board reviewed the group’s final report. We want to share with you some key findings and next steps.

Bonnie A. Charpentier, Chair, Board of Directors
Credit: Peter Cutts Photography
Credit: Peter Cutts Photography

The task force was chaired by D. Richard Cobb, 2010 chair of the Committee on Membership Affairs, and included representatives from the following other committees: Budget & Finance, Local Section Activities, International Activities, Chemists with Disabilities, Technician Affairs, Younger Chemists, Divisional Activities, Economic & Professional Affairs, and Education. The task force began by eliciting feedback from individual ACS members as well as local sections, divisions, and committees regarding all facets of member dues and benefits. The task force also relied on several key data sources in this area, including the 2010 Membership Satisfaction Survey. Input was sought on many factors, including quality of service to members, recruitment and retention of new members, and satisfaction and retention of current members.

The task force divided its findings and recommendations into two sections: dues and membership benefits. A summary of each is provided here.

Dues. The task force set out several key issues and recommendations. These recommendations included monthly or quarterly (as opposed to annual) dues payment options; discounts for certain groups of members, such as high school teachers, perhaps based on wages or the economy of the home country; discounts during the first few years of membership, when the risk of nonrenewal is particularly high; institutional memberships; and bundling of dues with meeting registration.

The task force also recommended test-marketing different dues options before they are implemented. In the past, because of bylaw restrictions, ACS tended to make dues or other pricing changes binding through bylaw revisions and then gauged the impact only after full implementation.

Another task force recommendation urged consideration of “institutional memberships,” which would allow a company, university/college, or government agency to purchase a certain number of discounted memberships. The task force also suggested that dues category information be minimized in the bylaws to allow greater flexibility to respond to market needs more quickly.

Member Benefits. Survey data and input from society members indicate that the top three member benefits are scientific information, networking, and professional advancement.

The task force reviewed member feedback on the full range of ACS services and determined that satisfaction with ACS is quite high among members. However, the task force also learned that while journals, Chemical & Engineering News, Chemical Abstracts Service, and national meetings consistently rank as the most popular and important ACS services, most members are unaware of the full range of ACS benefits. The task force recommended that more input should be solicited from members about the benefits they would like to have rather than simply asking members to rate the benefits presently offered. The recommendation was also made that benefits should be better publicized.

The task force noted that some benefits that are the least used or valued by a majority of members may be of high value to smaller member groups. In such cases there are three options: A particular benefit could be kept in place regardless of cost relative to extent of use, the benefit could be done away with, or it could be modified to increase the value of the benefit to more members.

The task force recommended that a follow-on group be charged with reviewing the suggestions in the report and defining the economic impact and implications of their implementation. Better surveys and additional follow-up from surveys to find out what benefits mean to members and what additional benefits they might find of value are also endorsed by the task force.

On P&MR’s recommendation, the board is requesting that the Committee on Membership Affairs, working with the Budget & Finance and Constitution & Bylaws Committees, further develop the report as appropriate and bring back specific actions to P&MR in the coming year.

We are grateful to the task force and to members who provided input for their efforts toward better meeting member needs. If you have suggestions, please don’t hesitate to contact the Committee on Membership Affairs at, or either of us at or Member input is critical to the design of our member service programs.

Views expressed on this page are those of the author and not necessarily those of ACS.



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