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When it comes to lifelong memberships, people often confuse commercial entities, such as sports teams and rock bands, with nonprofits such as universities, the Sierra Club and other things that are worthy of presumptive annual support.

Now we come to Angie’s List. It isn’t really marketing them. But the premium rating service for local SMBs is now offering lifetime memberships to enthusiastic fans who might believe they are endorsing a cause.

The memberships cost in the neighborhood of $1,000 to $1,250. Discounts of up to 25 percent can be had via discount codes from several marketing affiliates.

At an annual rate of $53 in San Diego, it would take almost 19 years to recoup the $1,000 fee. The lifetime membership might be a better deal, however, if Angie’s List threw in access to every market — extra markets typically cost $20 per year each. It would be an even better deal if it threw in access to its medical guides, which begin launching in early 2010 and might conceivably cost another $10 to $20 per year.

Angie’s List is certainly a good service and I am a happy member. It is amazing to see all the different ways I use it in a year. But wouldn’t I feel like a fool if somewhere down the road it went “all free” to boost its advertising revenues or was bought off by some big media conglomerate and changed its policies?

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