How to Best Communicate a Pricing Increase


By Dr. Michael Tatonetti, CAE, CPP

AFTER NEARLY TWO years of free and low-cost virtual events, many associations are now pressing forward to incorporate digital education into their programming, but not for free. With this, one question that I’m frequently asked is “How do we raise the price of our virtual event when we did a free event or a very low cost event last year?”

I’m here to tell you that it is possible, and that this really comes down to communication. I’m going to share with you three key things that you need to include when communicating a price change, especially within the context of raising the price of a virtual event when you did one for free or low cost in the past year.

1. The first thing that you need to communicate with your audience is that you provided the event for low cost or for free in the past out of urgency that your members had the right training during a global pandemic.

What this does is it allows for you to clarify that it’s not something that you would normally do, but rather it’s something that was for a special time and purpose, and not the norm.

It also allows for you to infuse compassion, awareness and empathy into the decisions that you’ve made over the past two years, while signaling that it’s time to move in a different direction.

2. The second thing that I would recommend communicating is the financial sustainability of the organization – and I would make this argument considering your members being the hero. I would share something along the lines of: “Because our members have supported us so strongly over the years, we were able to do something radical or drastic during a pandemic. And now, as we begin to see the silver lining in our world, we are ready to begin moving back to proper financial sustainability for our organization, so that our nonprofit can continue to thrive and fulfill our mission for many more years to come.”

What this does is it reminds the members that while you are a nonprofit, you still need profit in order to do the work that you do and you can’t give everything away for free.

It also triggers in their mind that they play a crucial role within your organization, and it helps them to feel good about what you were able to do these past two years but also that they can continue to contribute in a way that allows your organization to not bleed its profits.

3. The third thing that I would recommend communicating for this price increase would be the value.

I think that one easy thing that most organizations can say is we learned so much from putting on virtual events since the beginning of 2020. We have grown, and we can’t wait to make the experience even better for 2022.

What I mean by this is many organizations were not fully confident or competent in how to pull off a virtual event at the beginning. We were all flying by the seat of our pants and pulled off what we could in the best way that we could. By signaling that you’re raising the price, you’re also attaching it to the value and saying “Hey, we know that we got this 70% or 80% right last year or the year before, but we’re really working to make this 100% right this year, so that it’s a quality training experience for all of our attendees. Because of that, we need to ensure that the price matches the value, just like it would for any other products in our catalog.”

By following these three tips, you should be able to communicate a price increase correctly, so that your members and attendees have understanding and buy in to paying a more realistic rate for a virtual event.

Dr. Michael Tatonetti, CAE, CPP is a Certified Association Executive and Certified Pricing Professional on a mission to advance associations in their pricing models for financial sustainability. As a Strategic Consultant and Trainer, he works with associations to harmonize pricing and value across membership, education, sponsorship, events, and marketing. He is also an Association Executive with Professional Pricing Society, overseeing education, certification, and strategy for marketing, membership, and sponsorship. Dr. Michael is a proud Association Forum Forty Under 40 honoree for his dedication to the association field.

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