Image of Marc Ott and ICMA members

Throughout my career in local government, I had the good fortune to work for municipalities that had the resources to support my professional growth. This meant funding my membership in ICMA and my state and affiliate associations, covering my registration and expenses associated with attending the ICMA Annual Conference, and supporting my work on committees that would advance the profession.

I continued that tradition when I became a budget decision-maker, ensuring that my staff, especially those who aspired to become CAOs, had the benefit of ICMA membership. In fact, the city of Austin regularly sent more than a dozen staff members to the ICMA Annual Conference because we felt the return on our investment in terms of innovative ideas, leading practice, and individual professional growth was so great.

In my first months on the job as CEO and executive director for ICMA, I spent as much time as possible listening. I met with members—and in some cases, nonmembers—serving in local government who bluntly shared their ICMA experiences with me. What I heard was striking. For the most part, members were very satisfied with the networking opportunities, services and resources, and the conference and other professional development offerings. The major negative was clearly the cost of membership. The concept of ICMA’s value proposition—the price/value relationship of ICMA membership—had preoccupied the executive board and the staff for nearly two decades. And while ICMA continued to increase value-added services, the issue of the cost continued to be a barrier to membership.

This was particularly true with small communities that simply did not have the budget to fund both membership in the state association and ICMA. These discussions were eye-opening when you consider most of ICMA’s members come from small communities. Some of these very dedicated colleagues told me they were forced to choose because of their financial circumstances, and since they could get most of their basic needs met by their state associations at a much lower cost, the decision was clear.

We believe that by making membership more affordable, we will be welcoming a whole new cadre of members, especially managers from small communities.

ICMA had attempted to tackle the issue of member dues through member task forces in the past, but in 2019, the ICMA board made the dues structure and the member value proposition a key strategic priority and established a subcommittee of the board. That began a three-year process that brings us to today and an historic change designed to knock down this significant barrier of membership. For the first time in its 108-year history, ICMA has reduced dues for its core membership of managers and assistants.

The dues subcommittee and ICMA staff worked with McKinley Partners, experts in pricing and value propositions who have a successful track record of helping similar organizations tackle these kinds of issues. Hundreds of data points were gathered through a member survey and focus groups. Various models were analyzed and tested. Virtually every segment of the organization participated, and when you have such diversity of experiences and thinking, you get the best outcome.

In this age of inflation, in which costs continue to rise, ICMA is bucking the trend. The board and staff understand that in the short term, revenue from dues will be lower. In fact we have budgeted for it. The dues reduction comes with no reduction in our valued member benefits. But we believe that by making membership more affordable, we will be welcoming a whole new cadre of members, especially managers from small communities. And we especially hope that those members who were forced to choose will return and work with us to continue to grow in their careers and further ICMA’s mission of creating thriving communities.

Photo of Marc Ott


MARC A. OTT is CEO/executive director of ICMA, Washington, D.C.


New, Reduced Membership Dues

A new, reduced dues rate is available for CAOs/ACAOs, along with additional discounts for those in smaller communities, has been implemented. Learn more and be sure to join or renew today!