Yesterday Chris Brogan sent out an email and published a blog post announcing a new membership group, 501 Mission Place. The “501” in the subject heading caught my eye. Sure enough, it’s an online community for those who run nonprofits. 501, a term that resonates with any nonprofit professional, is the section in the Internal Revenue Code covering tax-exempt nonprofit organizations.

The website says, “In a community of peers and colleagues the right connection, the right answer or the right idea is just a conversation away.” That sounds a lot like what we promise as a return on association membership dues:

  • Networking –> Connections
  • Information –> Answers
  • Education –> Ideas

The focus here is on benefits, not features, nicely done.

online communities association membership

graphic courtesy of Chris Brogan

We’re reminded about the benefits of conference attendance, a luxury that many nonprofit (and association) staff can’t fit into their tight budgets – developing relationships with your peers, stimulating conversations, problem-solving, inspiration, collaboration and community with those “who understand the very unique pressures and challenges of leading a non-profit.”

For $27 a month, members have access to online forums, seminars, articles, blogs, leadership interviews and resource libraries. That fee also buys a closed community – “a safe place for you to share what you’re doing, get peer-sourced help and feedback when you need it and to give it when you’re able.” It’s $324 a year for membership in 501 Mission Place. That’s within $100 of the dues charged by my national membership organizations, some are higher and some are lower.

Association bloggers and tweeps have been talking for years about online communities being either a threat or opportunity for associations. The issue was even the topic of conversation on the first Twitter #assnchat back in May 2009. If your association doesn’t offer ways for members to develop relationships and knowledge online, will they find it packaged in a more convenient, and perhaps more affordable, package elsewhere?

Is 501 Mission Place (#501mp) the future we’ve been talking about?