Above and Beyond
Still, he cautions that you shouldn’t overlook this segment when fundraising. In his experience, fundraising from members still yields better response rates than sending out a cold mailing to a rented list.
“With a normal acquisition mailing, you’re very pleased if you get 2 percent. With the membership mailing, we would expect a 4 percent to 6 percent response,” he says.
What’s more, not all of your members are just in it for the value. A certain segment is affluent people buying memberships because they love the zoo and its mission. Healey says these members often give more than the zoo’s maximum membership amount of $99 when they join or renew.
For organizations that offer the value membership, it’s important to recognize when members demonstrate philanthropic intent.
“Once they start making gifts of $100 or more, then we say, ‘OK, membership isn’t the issue anymore.’ We want to work on the philanthropic side, and there the message is not, ‘You get this benefit by giving at this level.’ The message is, ‘We want you to help the zoo, we want you to support the zoo, we want you to make the zoo a stronger organization,’” Healy says.
Organizations with membership levels that go beyond $100 haven’t correctly identified the motivation behind those purchases, he adds, recommending separating the philanthropic motivation from the value motivation to allow for a philanthropic conversation that focuses on the intangible benefits beyond membership.
Up the ante
Still, if you find it difficult to get members to move beyond the value mindset to the purely philanthropic, the key might be upgrading members through renewals, according to Dana Hines, president and chief executive of St. Louis-based Membership Consultants, a full-service membership marketing firm that works exclusively with zoos, museums, botanical gardens and arboretums throughout the country.
Hines runs upgrade campaigns for her clients twice throughout the year, mailing in the spring to members who are due to renew in the fall and mailing in the fall to members due to renew in the spring. The mailings are personalized so that they reference the recipient’s current level of membership and ask him or her to upgrade the membership to the next level, or even two levels higher.