You Really Have to Pay to Play in Debt Settlement

An email from Denise Dunckel, the CEO of the American Fair Credit Council (AFCC), has ruffled some feathers in the debt settlement industry.

AFCC is a trade association for debt settlement providers and associated companies. They have been around for a number of years now.

The concern by some is that the announcement of increased dues will phase smaller debt settlement providers out of decision-making opportunities.

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The email from Dunckel says “Through research conducted with key stakeholder groups — as you might have seen during the presentation at the Spring Conference — the Executive Board saw a need for the industry to pivot to a more proactive approach to lobbying and positioning the debt resolution industry on the side of consumers. To faithfully execute the plan, we must increase our budget to address a general lack of knowledge about the industry. This knowledge gap has impeded the industry’s ability to build trust and relationships with external audiences, which are vital for our long-term success and survival. In 2022, we will add regional government affairs staff, expand AFCC-led research capabilities, and create new messages and tools that will help the AFCC and its members articulate the key value of debt resolution – allowing consumers to move on from debt and start fresh.”

The executive membership levels for the debt settlement trade association include two levels. The Steering Membership is $400,000 a year ($33,000 a month) and includes a seat on the AFCC Executive Board. The Advisory membership is $175,000 a year with up to 3 executive board members selected from this pool of members. That reads to me as if you could pay the $175,000 a year ($14,583 each month) dues and potentially not get a seat on the AFCC Executive Board.

The next membership level is the Strategic Partner Membership at $4,200 to $8,350 a month. This membership level includes:

  • Opportunity to serve on AFCC special interest committees and groups.
  • Access to AFCC creditor and negotiator calls.
  • Opportunities to collaborate in the development of industry guidelines and best practices.
  • Opportunity to contribute to AFCC’s efforts to educate and advocate for the debt settlement industry
    with regulators, legislators, and other stakeholder organizations whose policies affect the debt
    settlement industry.
  • Feature Friday profile on AFCC social media pages.
  • Up to two Executive Board members will be chosen from this group.
  • All Supporter Membership Benefits.
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Why don’t any of these high-paying membership levels get free access to AFCC conventions or meetings? It does not appear they do.

You would think the debt settlement industry must be making money every which way to support these membership fees. But maybe not since the Dunckel email also says “We know this decision comes at a time when other costs are rising, but we hope you will find the new dues structure and its corresponding benefits provide significant value to you, your employees, and your clients. Karin Stragand and I will be reaching out to you over the next few weeks to answer any questions you may have and help you determine which Corporate or Affiliate Membership Level best fits your company.”

Maybe the AFCC has some sort of secret sauce that makes membership really pay off but at these prices, it certainly feels as if smaller debt settlement company members are getting pushed further away from the table and able to have a loud enough voice to be heard.

I’d love to get some feedback in the comments from AFCC members regarding the value they feel in the new membership pricing and if companies still feel the AFCC is representing the unique challenges of the smaller companies that pay for membership.

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Steve Rhode is the Get Out of Debt Guy and has been helping good people with bad debt problems since 1994. You can learn more about Steve, here.
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