Since the OSU Alumni Association initiated annual membership dues for $1 in 1907, not too much has changed except the price and the options.
Countless membership campaigns have been held since those early days. While many drove an initial increase in annual memberships, all too often a percentage of those members would eventually lapse — even after life memberships were added in 1915.
“The renewal cycle has been a challenge to many alumni associations since membership programs began,” said Melisa Parkerson, who took over the Alumni Association’s membership program in 2019 after 11 years in student programs.
“We have been looking at updating our membership model for many years to try to overcome that problem. After two years of planning, we’re thrilled to roll out this new model we believe is the first of its kind in the country.”
Crediting the Dues
The Alumni Association’s board of directors approved the new membership model Aug. 23, 2019, and it went into effect June 30, 2020.
The most notable change is an emphasis on life membership and the recognition of previous support through annual dues.
“Alumni who have been paying annual dues for years have been essential to our organization, but they haven’t been making any progress toward a life membership,” Parkerson said. “That all changed June 30.”
Any annual dues paid by members in the past now count toward a life membership, along with any dues paid in the future. A member who has paid the $45 annual dues for five years, totaling $225, will receive a credit for that amount toward a life membership, which today costs $1,000.
Additionally, the Alumni Association has created new payment schedules and methods to lower the barriers to becoming a life member. New monthly and quarterly payment plans are available for as little as $10 and $25, respectively. A new payment processor also brought online now accepts Apple Pay, Google Pay and electronic fund transfers, or EFTs, from a personal checking or savings account.
“While the term ‘annual dues’ has been phased out, members can still pay once per year to maintain their active status,” Parkerson said. “But instead of paying to ‘rent’ their member benefits for a few years, their payment is now investing in their future life membership — and investing more in OSU.”
Taking the Next Step
The new model includes a four-step progression for all Cowboys.
Anyone whose dues meet the minimum annual requirement of $50 will be considered a Member. Previous annual members who continue to make yearly payments will fall into this category.
Cowboys who set up a recurring payment plan on a monthly, quarterly or yearly basis will fall into a new Member Plus category. Automated payments reduce the chance of memberships lapsing and help the Alumni Association save on printed renewal statements.
“Our new payment form is quick and easy to use, plus it’s now accessible on both our website and mobile app,” Parkerson said. “We hope members will take this opportunity to set up a payment plan at the amount of their choosing, so they don’t even have to remember to make a payment.” Once an active member has paid the equivalent to the current life membership rate, they will be considered a Life Member. Their member benefits will be locked in for life with additional exclusive benefits including unique event and discount opportunities.
Most Cowboys do not become life members and cease their university support. In fact, 64 percent of current OSU donors were members first. For this reason, the Alumni Association has created a new level called Life Member Plus, which is reserved for life members who continue their contributions to the organization.
“Some of our alumni will recognize this new level as our Traditions Fund,” Parkerson said. “These dues will be used where they’re needed the most, whether that’s for Homecoming, chapter or student programming, or a new initiative.
“The important thing to remember is your connection for life never ends. We believe this new membership level will offer life members an easy way to continue giving back to support OSU traditions and the Cowboy culture.”
Big Reward, Big Impact
“It has never been easier to become an Alumni Association life member,” said Rob McInturf, Alumni Association president. “More importantly, there have never been more reasons to be an active member — both for our members and for the institution.”
The Alumni Association has increased its member benefits and programming over the past decade with the addition of Alumni Career Services, the reintroduction of Traveling Cowboys, the implementation of virtual programming and more.
“We have also stepped up our support of the university and campus partners by serving as a brand amplifier that connects the colleges and departments with smaller and more targeted groups of alumni,” McInturf said. “It’s our job to keep Cowboys connected to each other and the university, and membership dues make that happen.”
From July 1, 2020, through June 30, 2021, Cowboys who become life members or existing life members who transition to the new Life Member Plus level will receive a one-of-a-kind kit that includes a custom life member tumbler and socks, OSU stationery and stickers, plus several unique items to remind them of Stillwater.
“All of these items are being custom- made for life members and won’t be available anywhere else,” Parkerson said.
The kit also will include the latest design of the orange ball car decal, which received an update following the launch of the new Alumni Association brand in May. The decal now features everyone’s favorite mascot, Pistol Pete, along with bold text highlighting their Member or Life Member status.
Claim Your Credit
Today, the Alumni Association has just over 30,000 active members — but nearly three times that number have been previous members and are now lapsed with a credit that can be applied toward a life membership.
To make the renewal and upgrade process as simple as possible, the Alumni Association also has built a new online profile where anyone in the OSU database can see how much they have paid in dues and how much they have left to reach life member status. A visual progression easily shows which membership level they are on and which steps remain to become a Life Member Plus.
Cowboys can visit the Alumni Association’s website to learn more about the new membership model and log in to access their portal and any life membership credit. The nine-digit ID required to register and log in is printed above the mailing label on the front of this magazine. Cowboys can also call the Alumni Association to request a customized payment link with their credit included.