At the recent annual Alcor Annual Strategic Meeting a number of rather encouraging motions were passed that will lower the cost of cryonics for many members. Membership dues are reduced by 10%, one uniform (lower) additional fee for overseas cases was established, and members now have the option of either paying annual CMS dues or paying higher cryopreservation minimums. The last decision in particular should have some positive effects for (potential) younger members who usually can take out substantial amounts of life insurance for only a modest monthly premium. It will also provide a strong incentive for members to remain funded well above the current cryopreservation minimums. Last, but not least, Alcor will also become somewhat more flexible in accepting different kinds of funding (for example, 50% cash and the rest in assets), which can make a big difference for older members who can no longer increase their insurance policies. These changes do not mean that Alcor has become inexpensive by any means; we still are losing too many members due to affordability issues. More progress will be needed.
Member retention, however, is not only about affordability and cost. Members should also feel involved and appreciated by the organization. On the financial front Alcor has made a step towards recognizing long-term members for their support in the form of membership discounts. But there are a lot of other ways to strengthen the bond between Alcor and its membership.
One of the unintended consequences of standby and stabilization services transitioning from a member / volunteer basis to a paid / professional basis is that one of the major reasons for Alcor members to get together (i.e. standby training) is no longer that important. While there is the occasional regional social gathering, there has not been a deliberate effort to stimulate and encourage local members to get together. For example, in regional areas that used to be hotbeds of cryonics activity and that still have a lot of members, like New York, there is little physical or social cryonics infrastructure left. For most members, I suspect that the occasional meeting in California, or a conference, is not going to cut it. If we want members to feel more involved with our organization we need to think of new ways of bringing them together, either through actual meetings or online. The popularity of the annual Teens and Twenties events indicate that many members thoroughly enjoy more interaction.
Also, recognition for long-time membership can have many forms. Membership discounts are a good start but what about invitation-only gatherings for long-time members at Alcor? Flying big donors in to observe the progress made at the facility and in introducing new technologies, and giving them more opportunity to provide feedback on important strategic decisions would be a great start. For too many older members, Alcor has simply become an organization that sends them invoices.
The most important recommendation that I would like to make is that Alcor should have something to offer to members before they are cryopreserved. Or to put it another way, people should feel that it also makes a lot of sense to join Alcor while “alive.” We can think of offering additional benefits that are exclusive to Alcor members; complimentary magazines and newsletters from like-minded organizations, discounts on conferences and events, affordable access to state-of-the-art physiological monitoring or alarm systems, a designated Alcor email address and secure data storage for each member etc. Alcor membership should not be perceived as a desperate attempt to escape the current limitations of medicine to get launched into an unknown, distant future, but more as becoming part of a smart and forward-looking community that is creating that very future.
Originally published as a column in Cryonics magazine, November, 2014