Don’t Ask … Don’t Get
Your members — you know, those folks who belong to your association, your zoo, your art museum or your public radio station — want to support you. They really do.
But if your organization is like many that rely on membership relationships for the bulk of their funding, you probably aren’t giving them the proper opportunities to do it.
Dana Hines, president and CEO of St. Louis-based Membership Consultants, says she sees lots of organizations that simply are afraid to ask members — who already are giving by virtue of their membership fees — to give above and beyond those fees. Many don’t want to appear pushy and risk ticking off their members; others peg their members as being interested solely in the value of the membership package rather than as genuinely philanthropic individuals. And still others just don’t know how to ask.
But Hines says it’s worth the risk and the effort.
“There’s just a general reluctance to ask for a second gift or to ask people for more money than what they had been giving,” says Hines, who counsels many of her clients to run membership-upgrade campaigns, often asking current members to at least double their gifts. “What we’ve found is that, time after time, these upgrade campaigns work very well, to the point of that’s the proof we need that people aren’t asked often enough to go ahead and respond by giving more.
“What we’re seeing is our response rate is sometimes between 5 percent and 8 percent,” she says, adding that the upgrade campaigns have a track record of working year after year, rather than fizzling out after the first time. She talks about a client that increased its revenue by $45,000 with its first upgrade campaign and then by an additional $85,000 in the second year.