A friend of mine was lamenting the other day that soon she’ll have fewer health care benefits. Looking to cut costs, her employer switched health care plans and decided to eliminate some “frills.” But the kicker: She’ll be paying more.
Unfortunately, as businesses continue to recover from the recent economic downturn, and now with the introduction of the Affordable Care Act, this scenario will probably become more common.
As much as businesses would love to provide full coverage for all their employees and their families, some just can’t. In addition, many employers are no longer offering optional benefits, such as life and accident insurance.
Associations can easily grow their memberships by offering voluntary benefits, which are traditionally benefits that employers offer as all-employee-paid options. In fact, offering such benefits may be the most effective method for increasing non-dues revenue.
“The impact of offering voluntary benefits to your members is two-fold,” the authors wrote. “First, providing members with access to valuable benefits and savings opportunities can greatly improve the perceived value of their membership, help increase their engagement and boost retention rates. Second, it can drive non-dues revenue for your organization through commissions or revenue sharing with benefit providers. And obviously, the more benefits you provide, the greater the opportunity for engagement and revenue.”
Experts argue the voluntary benefit market will continue to grow, so now is the time to jump on board, Genius Ave. said.
Examples of voluntary benefits include critical illness, identity theft protection, accident coverage, preventive care/wellness screenings, supplemental medical coverage, legal assistance and, yes, pet health.
Perhaps one of the most popular options is discount programs. According to the report, only 24 percent of associations provide discount programs for their members. But who doesn’t love a discount? Good discount programs include gym memberships, prescription drugs, office supplies and pet products.
So how does an association decide what to provide? Ask your members. Conduct a survey and collect data about what members truly want. It’s important, Genius Ave. says, to offer diversity. Make sure you offer a range of options to meet the social and economic demographics of your membership.
And it’s best to partner with one company that can provide a multitude of options, rather than scoping the industry for multiple providers. Once all that has been established, communication and marketing are musts.
“Overall, individuals feel that the most important attributes of voluntary benefits are ‘cost’ and the fact that these benefits are ‘guaranteed issue’ – or available without underwriting,” the authors wrote. “Members will also value that you have carefully vetted offerings for value and reliability and that they are able to leverage your organization’s buying power for affordable rates. Your communications should carefully reinforce these attributes while promoting the specific emotional benefits of each product in terms of an individual’s key interests and desires: convenience, security, exclusivity, good health and peace of mind.”
When communicating with your members, it’s best to use multiple channels, especially to reach younger audiences. So try social media, email and text messages.
It seems like a lot, so start small. Perhaps start by providing life insurance. Or maybe solicit your community to form partnerships with local businesses. (Cross advertising works incredibly well.)
I’d like to learn more about voluntary benefits so I can help spread the world. So tell me: What does your association offer? What seems to be the most popular?