You Asked—Fundraising Questions Answered, Part Three
This is the final article in a series of three (part one; part two) that follow up on questions submitted during the NonProfit PRO webinar that David Gunn from Salsa Labs and I presented. I use the term "answered" loosely, since fundraising is both an art and a science—meaning that there are facts, there are opinions, and yes, there are even just best guesses. So here are my responses to some of the questions that were raised.
Can (should) we start a membership campaign or something like that? Many organizations lend themselves beautifully to membership—museums, gardens or zoos, to name a few. But not having a logical reason for membership, such as admission or participation in local activities, has not stopped many nonprofits from launching a membership program nevertheless—and with great success, in many cases. Every year, I get several membership cards from organizations I support and those hoping I will join their group of supporters. In most cases, the benefits of membership are limited to the card, a publication that I would probably get even if I just donated instead of joining, and the great feeling of knowing that I am helping organization X make a real impact in solving problem Y. In these cases, the membership program is a tactic to get people to give—and there's nothing wrong with that. These memberships often reflect a person's pride in supporting the nonprofit; I remember being at a donor event and seeing donors showing their membership cards to one another, even though this was not the kind of organization that had tangible benefits (like free admission) for membership. One caution: If you decide to launch a membership program, remember not to present making the membership donation as "once-and-done" for the year; you want your members to continue to support you year-round. Chances are, many of them will be your best supporters, both short- and long-term.
Pamela Barden is an independent fundraising consultant focused on direct response. You can read more of her fundraising columns here.