August 15, 2019 |
Looking to start a membership program or jumpstart an existing one? Look no further, we’ve assembled this guide on the most important aspects of a nonprofit membership program as well as best practices in member acquisition and retention.
Why Does Membership Matter?
Did you know that over 70% of c3 organizations have some sort of membership program? Regardless of the structure, membership programs can provide countless benefits to nonprofits such as:
- Steady revenue generation: According to the Nonprofit Times, the annual retention rate for monthly donors is 70% – 80% compared to 41% – 50% for donors who give one-time gifts. If your membership model relies on monthly recurring donations, not only is that a reliable stream of revenue, but a pool of donors that are easier to retain.
- Better sources of data: Membership programs provide a great source of feedback for your organization and are key targets for surveys and questionnaires to gauge interest in current or upcoming campaigns.
- Building Community: Along with the more traditional member benefits of discounts or premiums, one of the intangible benefits of a membership program is the sense of community it can build for your supporters. With tailored member communications your organization can build a sense of community around members and call upon them as a source of volunteers or a source of support around a vital campaign.
Starting a Membership Program
If your organization is thinking about starting a membership program there are a couple preliminary questions you should ask yourself to set the scope and define goals.
- What is the role of members in our organization?
- What are the benefits and how will we provide those?
- How are members contributing to our mission?
- What is our end goal for members: revenue, advocacy, community, or all the above?
Once you define goals around your membership program, the next step is acquiring new members! Acquisition strategies are something nonprofits are always testing. It can be both expensive and time consuming to recruit new members. The good news: work with what you have.
69% of associations report that word-of-mouth recommendations get their organization the most new members (Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report, 2019). Identify and leverage these supporters by segmenting lists in your CRM to target those with recurring contributions or high email open and click rates. These are the primary targets for membership conversion and to help spread the word on the amazing work of your organization. In CRMs like EveryAction, social share tracking helps users identify which referrers are sharing your forms. You'll be able to search for your most active and successful recruiters—and target them for future outreach, increased engagement, and recognition.
62% of associations report that email gets their organization the most new members (Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report, 2019). Chances are you already have an active email marketing program. This is one of your most powerful tools. There’s no need to recreate the wheel, even a simple welcome series for new subscribers introducing them to your organization and sliding in a few mentions about your membership program is an excellent start. A supporter is at their most engaged when they first sign up to your email list. Take advantage of this window of opportunity. An even better move: automate this journey so it doesn’t eat valuable staff time.
34% of associations report that local events/meetings get their organization the most new members (Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report, 2019). One of the reasons membership programs are so successful are because of the sense of community they create. Organizations utilizing member specific communications or providing member specific benefits foster a sense of pride and exclusivity amongst supporters. Especially for organizations relying on grassroots engagement, events are not only a benefit to existing members but a means of community building and recruiting. With EveryAction, your supporters can host their own community events while still ensuring attendee information is captured in your EveryAction instance.
Find the Right Tools
No one ever says that acquisition is easy but with the right software it can make for smoother sailing. ASAE cites that increasingly membership driven organizations are focusing on digital marketing and marketing automation efforts, finding that a combination of digital ads, email, and social media help organizations find new members. Building multichannel campaigns should be easy with the right software tools. A good software solution will help you acquire members through both online and offline channels, streamline communications, and save you time!
Member Retention and Renewals
So you have a membership program that is thriving, but once that renewal period comes around how do you ensure members are here to stay?
An organization with an active renewals program will see 80 percent or more in annual renewals. And remember, data shows that when someone renews on their first-year anniversary, chances are they will be with the organization for the long run!
Here are some strategies to increase member retention according to higher logic:
- Reach out early and often: Members want to hear from your organization, make sure that you’re not only keeping them informed on the successes of your organization but reiterating the benefits of their membership.
- It’s never too early to start retention: Don’t wait until a month before their membership lapses to start, retention starts on day one.
- Customize your approach: Did you know that personalized subject lines have a 22% higher open rate. All content to your members should be personalized and tailored to their interests.
- Be informed: Send members a survey as soon as they sign up. This is when they’re most engaged and a survey will ensure that your long-term communication strategy meets their interests.
We called up the experts at Oregon Wild, Development Director Jonathan Jelen and Membership Manager Gaby Diaz, to talk about their membership program. Oregon Wild has been implementing a membership program for over 20 years! Over the years they’ve experimented with varying membership levels, communications strategies, and benefits. They’ve found that the best way to ensure the financial success of their organization was to diversify their streams of revenue. Today, individual donors make up a majority of their fundraising revenue and investing in their membership program is a huge part of that.
What we love about Oregon Wild’s membership program is its simplicity. All individuals who give $25 or more are considered members. And a growing number of their supporters give monthly recurring donations of $10+/month and are recognized as part of Oregon Wild's Evergreen Society. Members of the Evergreen Society receive exclusive invitations to events throughout the year as well as special member communications, such as campaign updates and success stories.
As a grassroots advocacy organization, Oregon Wild relies on their members for more than just fundraising but as a source of community engagement for their campaigns and action alerts. Their members are part of the community they serve meaning the issues they communicate on are issues that directly affect their supporter base.
In their words, “Our members give us our voice, the stronger our membership program, the stronger our voice.”
Interested in learning more about growing your membership program. Click below to take a tour of EveryAction’s best-in-class tools!