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How to Run a Successful Nonprofit Membership Program

A membership program invites users to contribute their time, money, and knowledge to the nonprofit organization in exchange for membership and certain benefits.

The benefits of membership programs are multiple – they help you establish a loyal community of supporters, spread the word about your organization, and grow the number of your donations.

Precisely because of that, you need to build your nonprofit membership program strategically.


Choose the Right Type of Membership Program

There are various types of membership programs you could choose from. And, to pick the right one, you first need to define your nonprofit and set clear goals. For example, think about your missions, goals, and values.  What are the roles and responsibilities of your nonprofit’s members? Or, how will new members contribute to your nonprofit’s missions and goals? How will you provide membership benefits?

Based on the answers to those questions, there are a few options to choose from.

  • Treat your members as donors. This is probably the most frequent type of nonprofit membership programs, where a member pays a fee to join the organization.
  • Focus on community building. For example, you could provide transactional experiences or even transformational membership benefits.
  • You could also treat members as volunteers, offering their skills, knowledge, and voices to support a certain idea.

Determine how Much You will Charge

Membership fees are a fundamental part of your membership program, as they keep your organization alive. Precisely because of that, you need to select your fees strategically.

Make your decision based on where you want your money to go. For example, you could use your membership fee revenue to increase your annual fund, cover membership benefits, maintain your improve your offices, develop new programs, etc.

For starters, set an annual goal and determine how many members you will need to attract to achieve that goal by charging a membership fee. You could also set different membership fees that come with different benefits, depending on how much a member pays.


Make your Membership Program Visible

Just building a website for your nonprofit is not enough. To get the most out of it, you need to put it in front of a wider audience. Say you’re a local nonprofit in Melbourne. To generate qualified traffic and leads to your site, you should target locally-relevant keywords like “nonprofit Melbourne” or “nonprofit organizations in Melbourne.” This is where popular keyword research tools like Moz’s Keyword Explorer or Google’s Keyword Planner can help. If you’re not sure how to find the highest-performing keywords, consider outsourcing these practices to a local agency doing SEO for Melbourne organizations. They understand the needs of your target market.


Create User-Friendly Forms

In addition to optimizing your site for keywords to increase your rankings, you also need to increase on-page experiences. One of the most significant aspects of increasing browsing experiences is your sign-up form. If your pages don’t provide seamless user experiences across all types of screens, chances are you will lose your prospective members. Poor page load times, unresponsive pages, lengthy application form, and unsatisfactory user experiences are just some of the numerous factors that will discourage even the most enthusiastic user.

When optimizing sign-up forms, reduce the number of form fields and focus only on those questions that are valuable to you. You should also use single-column sign-up forms, as multi-column ones don’t fit smaller screens properly. Most importantly, you need to divide your form fields into semantic sections. This means that all fields should be classified in a logical order that simplifies the process of registration.


Select Membership Benefits

Even though members are joining your organization to contribute to a specific cause, you should still reward them for their loyalty and dedication. Sure, the incentives depend on your budget, members’ interests, and your overall goals. Still, giving out exclusive discounts and tickets, provide access to members-only events and presenting members with membership cards is always a good idea to evoke emotions, increase their loyalty, and build trust with them.


Interact with your Members Regularly

It’s crucial for your nonprofit organization to communicate with members across multiple channels.

For example, you could start by using social networks. They can help you in multiple ways. For example, you could invest in social media monitoring tools to stay on top of your brand mentions and communicate with your audiences in real time.

You should also use social networks, especially Facebook, to build strong and vibrant online communities, where people would share their experience, help each other, and build stronger relationships.

You should also publish live stories, as well as photos and videos of your members to keep your followers updated and gain their trust.

Finally, you should create personalized emails. Have a detailed email marketing strategy – know when to reach out to your audiences, research what kind of content resonates with them, and focus on providing value without spamming their inboxes.


Organize Member-Only Events

Even though hosting a member-only event may require significant money and time investments, it’s definitely worth it. They benefit your nonprofit membership program in multiple ways. For starters, they help you build stronger relationships with your nonprofit members and creates a sense of friendliness, relevance, and community. Most importantly, such events prove that your nonprofit appreciates it members and their efforts.

Now, your member-only events don’t need to be fancy. For example, host a party for your members or organize a tour of your offices. Create a poll and include members in the planning process. Your goal is to throw an event your members will love. Most importantly, don’t forget to ask them about their experiences after the event so you can know what to change in the future.


Test your Membership Program Regularly

Your goal is to assess the effectiveness of your membership program. Track membership engagement, create satisfaction surveys, collect feedback across multiple platforms to get to know your members and adapt your membership programs to their needs in the future. You should also reach out to some of your lapsed members to ask them why they abandoned you. These are all crucial factors that will help you identify the major problems in your membership strategy and resolving them faster.

Further information

Launching and managing a nonprofit management program requires lots of dedication, persistence, and effort. It also requires significant money investments. However, it definitely pays off. It gives you the opportunity to grow your nonprofit brand and position yourself as an authoritative resource. Most importantly, you will attract relevant members and build stronger relationships with them.

Now, even though there is no uniform strategy you could apply when creating a nonprofit membership program, these tips could serve as a solid starting point for you.


Hope this helps!


Page last edited May 29, 2019 History

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