Don’t Ask … Don’t Get
“There is almost a hunger among their members to do more than what they had been doing, and the numbers proved it, and it’s continued year after year,” she says.
Hines stresses that it’s important to time membership-upgrade campaigns so that they aren’t confused or used as a replacement for renewals. With the right approach and follow-up stewardship, members who respond to upgrade requests often easily can segue into major-donor prospects.
Membership-upgrade requests should, according to Hines:
*Offer benefits and involvement opportunities beyond the basic membership — an additional two to four free admissions to the zoo, for example, or invitations to smaller, more personal events with key people in the organization.
*Be timed so they don’t “step on the toes of the regular renewal process” — for example, sending upgrade mailings in the spring to members who are due to renew in the fall and vice versa.
*Not offer an option to give at the same level. Ask strings should start at nearly double the current gift.
*Be highly personalized, referencing the current membership level and what it offers, as well as the added benefits of the upgrade. “This is a value situation,” Hines says. “You can do the math for them and kind of play their game: ‘If you are a member at the $250 level, you’re going to receive X number of passes,’ and you value that at X number of dollars. So you can really illustrate for them how the upgrade is a good value in addition to helping support the zoo or the aquarium or wherever they might be a member.”
*Ask for the full amount of the upgraded level, not the difference between what the member already gave and the upgrade level.
“We had a client we were doing these upgrade campaigns for, and then they decided to go off and do them on their own,” Hines says. “A year later, they said, ‘Oh, we stopped doing them; they didn’t work.’