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Membership Dues -- and Don'ts

At the request of a member, COSCA has reviewed the membership levels of over 100 American and Scottish clan and family societies. COSCA also reviewed some best practices in encouraging membership – and some approaches that don’t.

Among American clan and family societies, annual membership dues range from $10 to $40. The most popular level is $25, requested by over one-third of the societies. For twelve organistions based in Scotland, the dues ranged from £10 to £30 with the most prevalent range from £20 to £25.

Some societies base their dues based on the cost of communications requested. Some societies offer special lower rates for younger people under 18 and at least one offers several tiers of membership with different benefits. Many societies offer lifetime memberships for a range of $250 to a high of $1,350. One charges no dues: “We want to foster a community of learning and sharing and do not want cost to get in the way of participation, so membership is free.”


Most societies require its members to have a direct familial connection to the primary surname or associated families. While these require submission of genealogical forms, at least one allows DNA testing that shows a genetic relationship with someone of Hall heritage. Many do not require a genealogical connection.


Membership is encouraged through a wide range of benefits. The most frequent are a quarterly newsletter and access to a private section of the society website. Other benefits include free publications; gifts such as a lapel pin and a window decal; membership directory; discount for Clan genealogist; online seminars; and eligibility for scholarships.


Most clan and family societies have a button or link to “membership” or “join” on the top menu or in the upper part of the website. However, some societies make potential members search for the link by placing is as a submenu under another topic such as “about,” “society,” “shop,” or “news.”

The process for joining most societies is usually very straightforward. The potential member chooses the level of membership and then completes a single form for the contact and payment information. One society requires registration first and then the potential member can select a membership level.

Those societies that require genealogical information usually have a more complicated process. Usually, they require two applications: one for the genealogy and one for the payment. One organization requires five steps: create an account, enter a profile, provide additional information, select the membership level, and then make a payment.


While this review of membership dues includes many good ideas, this also highlights a few things that societies should not do:

  • Don’t hide your link or button to your membership web page

  • Don’t fail to list or highlight your membership benefits

  • Don’t make your potential member enter information before they find out the dues

  • Don’t make your potential member contact another person in order to join

  • Don’t let your website get out of date!

If you are a COSCA Organizational Member, you can find more details about the specific examples of dues, requirements, and benefits offered by the clan and family societies.

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