Encouraging Nonprofit Membership Involvement: 5 Strategies
Your nonprofit has likely already built out your volunteer opportunities and your fundraising strategies, but what about your nonprofit membership program? Your membership program has a unique opportunity to encourage consistent revenue from supporters, continuous community support and higher engagement levels for your nonprofit than other efforts.
Encouraging and retaining memberships are essential to maintaining your nonprofit’s involvement with the community. In order to best encourage advancement of nonprofit membership programs we recommend the following strategies:
- Define your membership program.
- Make it easy to sign up and login.
- Communicate frequently with members.
- Host member-only events.
- Provide additional member incentives.
Ready to learn more about memberships in the nonprofit space? Let’s dive into the first strategy!
1. Define Your Membership Program
Memberships for nonprofits give your supporters the chance to show their fidelity to your organization through regular fees and involvement. They also usually receive some types of benefits in return such as promotions or merchandise.
Before you can focus heavily on member engagement, you need to identify the type of membership model you’ll offer to your supporters. Not all membership programs offered through nonprofits are the same. The three major membership models include:
- Donor Memberships. Donor memberships are the most common membership models among nonprofit organizations. To obtain this type of membership, members will contribute their regular membership fee in exchange for some benefits and the satisfaction of knowing they’re contributing to a good cause. Ultimately, the goal for your nonprofit in establishing this type of membership is securing continuous revenue.
- Consumer Memberships. Consumer membership models are much less focused on fundraising efforts and much more focused on community-building. The fees for these memberships are generally relatively low, but the nonprofit organization focuses on providing excellent benefits. The hope is that an enhanced community focus will build an extensive network of cause supporters to grow the organization.
- Advocate Memberships. Advocate members for your cause are those who want a strong platform in order to stand up for a cause they believe in. Your organization offers this platform, while the members advocate for your cause. The goal of this type of membership is to engage those who feel strongly towards your cause and grow a strong core of supporters for your organization.
Creating a well-defined membership program is an incredibly important first step to ensuring your program’s success. When supporters know what to expect of their membership, your organization will more membership renewals year after year.
2. Make It Easy to Sign Up and Log In
After you have defined your membership plan for your interested supporters, be sure to make their sign up process as easy as possible. This will encourage more people to engage in the membership program from the very beginning.
Put yourself in the shoes of your supporter: You want to sign up for a well-planned membership program with your favorite nonprofit; but when you click on the option to sign up on their website, you are lead to a lengthy and difficult application page. In the midst of filling out the required information, you are pulled away by a knock at the door.
Many supporters won’t return to that sign-up page after such an experience.
If only the sign-up process had been just a little bit faster and easier, your organization may have captured that membership opportunity before the supporter was called away. The same theory is applied when it is time for members to submit payments and renewing memberships. Faster and easier applications encourage more sign-ups.
To raise your rates of sign-ups, logins, and retention, implement the following strategies:
- Limit the amount of information you require from a membership application.
- Use online applications to facilitate and simplify the application process.
- Make sure your login process is easy for members with the right membership plugin.
- Be sure membership software has automatic payment options.
- Look for automatic membership renewal capabilities in membership software.
For examples of effective and easily accessed membership applications, check out Double the Donation’s samples. These samples can help guide you through making your application the best it can be.
3. Communicate Frequently With Members
After your members have signed up with your nonprofit, that doesn’t mean your communications with them stop at the membership application page. Your organization should always attempt to stay at the forefront of your members’ minds.
Employ marketing communication techniques in order to communicate frequently and effectively with your members.
This doesn't mean you should spam your members with emails, direct mail and notifications! However, your members should never feel ignored by your organization.
Some of the marketing communication techniques we recommend employing for your members include:
- Regular email newsletters. Keep everyone updated with the latest news from your organization by sending regular newsletters directly to members’ inboxes.
- Mobile notifications. If your supporters are more tech-savvy, set up an app for your organization to make it easy for members to login to their membership accounts, visit your website and donate from their phone.
- Social media updates. Regularly update your social media accounts so that members and supporters can find information about your actions in real time. You may also consider creating a Facebook group for your members so they can connect with one another online.
Frequent communication with your members is the perfect way to keep them updated with all the functions of your organization from your latest fundraising campaign to your next stewardship event. Keeping them in-the-know is the best way to ensure their continued engagement.
4. Host Member-Only Events
A great way to encourage members to get more involved in your organization is to organize special events for them. Members-only events are the perfect way to get members out of the house and involved in the amazing cause you support.
Plan specialized events as a perk for signing up for a membership. These events can either be fundraising events or stewardship events depending on the needs of your organization.
Fundraising events will be a great way to encourage members to continue giving even after they’ve contributed their membership fees. Meanwhile, stewardship events focus more heavily on building the community of your supporters.
Some unique event ideas you may choose from include:
- Poker nights
Be sure to choose event planning software that offers all the functionality you will need for your stewardship or fundraising event. For example, be sure you can plan to accommodate the volunteers you need to make the event a success.
Try employing volunteers to help run these events. These volunteers will then see the incredible events you host for your members; and many may decide to upgrade to a membership!
Before planning your event, do plenty of research to ensure the events are run smoothly. For example, if you work in a museum, Doubleknot’s museum membership ultimate guide would be a great next step for your research.
5. Provide Additional Member Incentives
Offering members additional incentives in the beginning of an engagement excites members to get more involved and make the most of their membership for the future. Plus, it will help hold their engagement as their membership goes on over time.
Try offering a growing incentives plan for your members. This means the number of incentives offered for maintaining the membership will increase as time goes on.
For example, when someone first becomes a member, they may receive a t-shirt for their contribution. However, once someone has been a member for five years, they may receive the latest t-shirt design plus a waived registration fee for the next 5K fundraising event.
Incentives for members can include:
- Custom merchandise. Gifts of custom merchandise to your members are always appreciated. It make members feel more connected to the cause when they can wear a t-shirt sporting the organization’s logo or a slogan in support of your mission.
- Promotions and discounts. Waived registration fees, ecommerce promotions, ticket discounts, etc. can all be great incentives for your members to maintain their engagement as well as continue contributing monetarily to the organization.
- Special member access. Special member access can have two different definitions. The first involves the member-only events as explained earlier. The second means you can also treat members as VIPs for general events as well. Give them special access to the “backstage” of your event and special features.
Don’t forget to tell your volunteers and general donors about these membership opportunities as a part of your membership marketing strategy as well. Just as donors can become volunteers, volunteers and donors can also become members just as easily when they see these amazing opportunities.
Membership involvement is a fundamental part of your organization. In addition to promoting your membership program to recruit new members, be sure you are encouraging ongoing engagement from your existing members.