Online Payments

How the Kentucky Bar Association Improved the Payment Experience

Callie Hinman
June 9, 2021

The roots of the Kentucky Bar Association (KBA) were planted 150 years ago when lawyers across Kentucky first met in 1871 to officially organize a voluntary association. A little over six decades later, the Kentucky General Assembly established an all-inclusive bar association as an independent agency of the Supreme Court of Kentucky with the authority to regulate the legal profession in the state.

Since 1934, the KBA has been the mandatory bar association for Kentucky lawyers, which means all licensed attorneys (both practicing and non-practicing) in the Commonwealth of Kentucky must belong to the organization. Currently, the KBA serves approximately 19,000 lawyers.

Improving the payment experience with technology

As a member of the Kentucky Bar Association, attorneys in the Bluegrass State have access to a supportive community and a variety of member benefits. These include continuing legal education (CLE) courses, a mentorship program for new and young lawyers, a career center, and the Kentucky Lawyer Assistance Program, which offers assistance to any legal professional experiencing challenges with mental health or addiction. The KBA also regularly hosts professional development, health and well-being, and practice area-specific events.

Effectively managing this kind of member experience is difficult without an all-in-one solution, so in 2015, the Kentucky Bar Association implemented an association management system (AMS) with integrated payment processing.

The Kentucky Bar Association streamlined operations further by integrating their AMS with AffiniPay for Associations, which allowed staff and volunteers to easily and securely accept member dues, donations, event registrations, and more—directly in their AMS platform.

Enhancing cost-effectiveness

While online payment processing has plenty of advantages, there are costs associated with accepting payments online. To maximize the benefits of accepting credit cards, the association explored how they could minimize some of the costs. In 2016, they estimated that they were paying approximately 3.5% in payment processing fees. Therefore, they settled on applying a 3.5% surcharge to all member dues transactions to help offset the cost of payment processing fees.

As KBA stakeholders had hoped, the addition of the surcharge had a positive impact on the association’s finances. Not only that, the association leadership team (who had been concerned that members would react negatively to the new fee) were pleasantly surprised by the response from their membership. Member feedback was positive, which was a bonus on top of the positive impact on KBA’s budget.

In fact, the association saw no reduction in the number of member dues payments made online after adding the fee. Each year, KBA reevaluates the true cost of processing payments and adjusts the surcharge they charge accordingly. In 2019, the Kentucky Bar Association was able to decrease their surcharge from 3.5% to 2.5%, which is a win for both members and KBA.

Taking a thoughtful approach

It’s not uncommon for associations to be concerned about adding a surcharge to offset the rising costs of electronic payments. But as demonstrated by KBA, taking the right approach can make it easier to navigate the issue.

For example, while evaluating the payment methods they could potentially accept, the Kentucky Bar Association determined that due to the costs associated with processing paper checks as well as supporting a lockbox, accepting paper checks was not a viable option. As a result, KBA decided to apply a fee to all online payments they process and labeled it a surcharge.

Additionally, KBA understood they are able only to charge a surcharge that is equal to or lower than the effective rate that the organization pays to process payments. This is why they recalculate and adjust as needed each year. *(For more information, you can view an infographic from Visa about merchant surcharging.) *

Driving increased use of online payments

Because the AffiniPay integration helped simplify KBA’s payment processing and supported a more convenient payment experience, the organization continued to actively search for other opportunities to utilize the integration.

From 2015-2020, online payments grew to account for approximately 30% of the association’s total payments processed. Interestingly, the other 70% of payments were all made by check. In light of this, at the recommendation of their board, last year the Kentucky Bar Association expanded their list of available payment methods to include eCheck payments.

Following the addition of eCheck payments to their payment options, the association reported that the number of payments they processed online increased to 50%.

With the integration between their AMS and AffiniPay, the Kentucky Bar Association not only streamlined their payment processing, they also elevated their payment experience by offering additional payment options and making payments more convenient. And thanks to their commitment to the member experience, they received no pushback after adding a surcharge to dues transactions, allowing them to offset the costs of accepting credit cards.