Chris Anderson, editor of Wired magazine, is predicting that free is the future of business and this month's issue summarizes his thesis. Read the article linked here, listen to the podcast--well, for free. Well reasoned, amply illustrated with examples of stuff being given away free--freemiums--such as free beer for watching a performance, it's a valuable read.
Catch the buzz, pass it on, but before you go consider what free-conomics means for your association. Just keep in mind: there is NOTHING new here for those of us in the association community.
"Altruism has always existed," Anderson writes, "but the Web gives it a platform where the actions of individuals can have global impact. In a sense, zero-cost distribution has turned sharing into an industry. In the monetary economy it all looks free — indeed, in the monetary economy it looks like unfair competition — but that says more about our shortsighted ways of measuring value than it does about the worth of what's created."
Anderson's message is a kick in the pants for those who think of members as customers, and what associations peddle as products. (Thank you, Chris. Maybe they will believe you.)
Although paid staff, labor, is an enormous number in your budget, it's nothing compared to the value of the time members invest in your mutual success. How are these altruists paid? Again, those with a flair for the obvious think it's the sad forms of recognition doled out at your annual meeting. That's just a symbol of something so much more.
Member's payback is measured by the REACH--how many and who--respond with RESPECT. The net value is REPUTATION as expert, as leader, as scarey dude or popular icon.
So when you read Chris, consider that the price you charge someone joining a movement is nothing--it's FREE--while the price to join your association, to be granted the opportunity to write a check, is priceless.