Above and Beyond
Getting people to write checks to support your organization can be tough. But what of those folks who already are writing you a check every year? What of your members?
Membership-based organizations offer a variety of benefits to members, but the support can’t — or shouldn’t — stop there. Loyal-member lists often offer the best leads for potentially larger gifts, but the question is how to get members to see the “added benefit” of giving above and beyond their membership dues.
Grant Healey, vice president of development at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, says one of the key challenges of fundraising at a zoo or other visitor attraction is that there often is no record of or information on general attendees.
“When you’re selling tickets, you’re trying to run people through so you don’t have long lines, and the process becomes very cumbersome if you try to get personal information on these people,” he says, adding that one of the benefits of having members is that it creates a file of regular zoo visitors who can be contacted through direct mail.
“What we do know about them is that they made a value purchase. But we don’t know who they are, how affluent or not affluent they are, how interested they are in conservation and animals,” he says. “So through our direct-mail fundraising to the membership, in effect we’re asking people to self identify — ‘yes, I have a philanthropic interest in the zoo and, yes, I’m affluent enough to afford a $100 gift, $500 gift, $1,000 gift,’ whatever they identify.”
In general, individuals who sign up for value memberships can be a challenging demographic when it comes to fundraising outside of member dues.
“Most of those people are members because they made a value purchase. And so that isn’t necessarily the key group you’re looking for when you’re looking for donations,” Healey says.