True Costs of Joining an Organization

By Mike Maddaloni on Monday, September 07, 2009 at 12:20 PM with 0 comments

As human beings, most of us want to belong to something. Looking around a large city like Chicago or even a small town, there will certainly be options on organizations to join. Where the focus here of The Hot Iron is around business and technology, I will use that angle to talk about joining related organizations. However when you read through this, you will see this applies to most all organizations.

photo of portion of Chicago Athletic Association sign

The cost of joining an organization is important to consider because, unless money is no obstacle to you, how much you spend or invest is probably of importance to you. I have broken down cost categories below, and things to consider and ask about when looking to join an organization. Of course, before going into the process of evaluating organizations, you may want to consider a budget or amount you can truly afford to spend. If you’re not sure, then be cautious and accountable along the way. Note this piece is about cost, and not about what you get for the costs, which I will address in the future if there is some interest from you the readers.

Direct Costs

Direct costs of an organization are those that are obvious. If an organization has an annual fee, that is a direct cost. Many times this figure is all that is talked about when joining, though there may be additional direct costs, such as costs per meeting or special events. Some organizations do not charge an annual fee but instead just charge per event or meeting. Which ever way it is done, it is important to find out what the direct cost structure is, as even if you will be paying for this over time, at the end of the year it will all add up.

Indirect Costs

Even after you have asked what it costs to belong to an organization, there may be additional costs of being a member that are not obvious, or official to the group. Some organizations have informal gatherings or just plain happy hours where most of the business or value of being a member can come from. Official meetings or events may be just that – official, structured and may not have the opportunity you would like to network or connect with others. If it means you need to go to the pub afterwards to really get to know people, unless they are running a bar tab, you will have to shell out a few more bucks to get the value of membership. This is also a question to ask – not necessarily from a cost standpoint but to ask if members socialize after official gatherings. You can do the math yourself based on their answer.

Time Costs

If you put any value to your time, then you should consider it when joining an organization. Even if you ask the question about how much time is required to get full-value from an organization, the true answer will come from further investigation and direct experience.

Some organizations are “member organizations” where the members run all aspects of what is done, as well as serve on its Board. As a general member, your time commitment may be lower. But over time, it may increase dramatically, especially if you find interest in being a leader in the organization. Trust me on this – it happened to me, in a good way, when I was involved in the Boston Jaycees, and eventually served as its president.

Some organizations have paid staff who manage the day-to-day of the organization, or there may be a hybrid of staff and members. Whatever the structure, it helps to ask around how much time is required to get the full value from the organization. Keep in mind this value may be on the higher side, as those who are regulars at meetings or events are probably the ones who are more active.

Baptism By Fire

Maybe this section heading is a little on the harsh side, but the only real way to find out the cost commitment to an organization is for yourself. Just be aware going in that you may end up spending a little more than you planned without even realizing it at first. This may not necessarily be a bad thing, as it means you may have found an organization that is a win-win for you.


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