What staffing and technical costs should we plan for?

Staffing and technical costs are usually the largest category of membership-related costs. This section will help you understand and plan for those costs in your business model.

Staffing costs. Your staffing costs will depend on how you staff membership and membership-related activities. Jump to “Staffing our membership strategy” and use the information there to create a staffing plan for membership. Consider: 

  • How many full-time employees do you want to devote to running the various components of your membership program?
  • If you don’t have a full-time staff member for membership, where will you allocate time from other staff? 

The important thing to keep in mind is that the tasks required to run a successful membership program are sometimes allocated to a single person within a newsroom, and sometimes allocated as multiple, part-time jobs across several staff members. Even in the leanest membership model, membership is likely half of one full-time person’s job, and they are likely outsourcing some other components of membership work to a firm or consultant. Many member-driven newsrooms choose to pay for marketing and tech services that allow them to outsource some of the duties and tasks required to run a successful membership program.

Throughout the cases featured in this handbook, the MPP research team has found that successful membership models in mid-sized and growing newsrooms typically have at least one full-time employee dedicated to membership, or the equivalent of a full-time employee working on a combination of membership and audience engagement.

You can also staff some of your start-up tasks with freelancers. Freelance designers, marketing consultants, and software developers can be especially helpful in the launch stage and in creating and executing targeted membership campaigns.

Technology and technical services costs: Jump to “Building our membership tech stack” for an extensive list of the software and tools you need to run a membership program. Lenfest Institute also created a pricing sheet of publicly available pricing data. Use this to come up with the start-up and ongoing costs of supporting your membership program with technology, and don’t forget to account for price increases as your membership program grows. As you project costs for tools and technical services, be sure to take account of the bank and credit card processing fees that might be associated with your payment processor.