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A Comprehensive Guide on How to Increase Memberships in Nonprofit Organizations [With Expert Tips, Examples, and FAQs]

Bisma HanifContent Writer

Bisma Hanif,

Content Writer

Apr 22, 2022

Nonprofit memberships create a strong support base, secure funding, and empower your community. However, attracting members to a nonprofit is not always easy.

In fact, according to The real data from National Center on Charitable Statistics, 30% of the nonprofits fail to exist after 10 years due to their ineffective strategic planning and leadership issues, indicating a weak membership base.

In this article, we will show you the exact ways how to increase the memberships in your nonprofit organization, depending on your membership model. You will also find success stories from nonprofit leaders who increased their memberships using the effective methods in the list below.

So let’s get started.

Quick Reads

The Purpose of Memberships in Nonprofit Organizations

why nonprofits need members

Nonprofit organizations need support in terms of both finances and human resources. A membership program can help them gain these resources by:

  • Developing a community of dedicated members
  • Using membership dues to raise funds

Nonprofit members can help with several organizational tasks including planning, fundraising, referrals, and network building. They also sign up for a fee, generating revenue for your nonprofit.

In return, they receive benefits such as being affiliated with an organization, networking with people with common interests, and giving back to the community.

Depending on the type of membership, they may or may not be involved in decision-making.

Types of Nonprofit Membership Models

Types of nonprofit membership models

The best way to increase the number of memberships in nonprofit organizations is to know what type of membership model they are following.

The non-profit membership models can be categorized into four types. You can, however, combine two or three of them to meet the needs of your organization.

Members-as-Donors Model

This is the most common membership model for nonprofits. The organizations offer memberships for a fee, out of which 75% goes to the funding department. The remaining portion is used for operating costs.

This model, however, does not allow members to involve in decision-making. They can, however, participate in and volunteer for annual fundraising events, capital campaigns, and other activities.

In this type of model, the primary objective is to secure a fixed monthly or annual income from memberships.

Members-as-Consumers Model

A members-as-consumers model aims to gain more supporters rather than maintaining a fixed revenue stream. This is the reason that membership fees under this model are either set at a minimum amount or even free.

The model relies on members to help strengthen its network by bringing more supporters to the organization through public relations. Though this model does not yield stable donations in the beginning, it eventually gets more funding once a robust network is formed.

Members-as-Advocates Model

The member-as-advocate model is used when generating substantial donations is not the primary goal. Members are called on to assist the nonprofit organization with their skills, time, and experiences. The organization in return provides them a platform and resources to use them effectively.

The model is mainly used by advocacy groups and pet shelters where the primary goal is to bring volunteers to utilize their skills. However, if funding is still a concern, you can do a hybrid consisting of both members-as-advocates and members-as-consumers models.

Trade Associations Model

The trade associations model targets wealthy donors to raise funds for supporting a nonprofit cause. The membership fee is usually high and offers numerous benefits to its members. These include rights to decision-making, networking opportunities, and professional experience.

Nonprofits with huge funding needs can adopt trade association models.

Top Ways to Increase Memberships in Nonprofit Organizations

ways to increas memberships in nonprofits

By knowing the membership model you follow, you can choose the right membership strategy for your nonprofit.

After deciding on the membership model, you can find out what can be the most effective way to get more members from the following list.

Host a Public Event

Open events are a great way to showcase your organizational mission and attract new members. The event offers fundraising activities and networking opportunities to people, prompting them to attend it.

Ask your current members to invite their friends or family to the event. Promote it on social media platforms or by sending email invitations to your prospects.

You can arrange priority treatments for your current members to show your membership benefits such as reserved seats, member badges, and public speaking.

It’s also a good idea to ask people to volunteer at these events if you are following the members-as-advocate model.

Offer Referral Incentives

We all know that the word of mouth is one of the most effective ways to increase membership in an organization. In fact, according to the study, they are the primary motivators behind 20-50% of the buying decisions, even for memberships.

The best word-of-mouth marketing is done by your members who are fully aware of your offerings. If you want to boost your memberships by utilizing your current member base, consider offering referral incentives to them. These may include referral discounts on membership renewals, discount cards, and gift baskets.

Collaborate With Other Organizations

One of the best practices for nonprofit membership is partnering with another organization. You can work with either another nonprofit or a profitable business that shares the same values and has similar target members as yours.

Collaboration helps you to make a greater impact, increase your resources and enhance connections. You also get access to their sponsors, who can become members of your nonprofits. Furthermore, it promotes the development of a better relationship between both parties, allowing them to take on more community involvement and expand their network.

Enhance Your Website to Attract New Customers

Optimize website

A website is an important platform that drives memberships. Make sure your website is optimized on search engines so that people can find you.

It is also essential that your website is easily navigable so that users can access all of its sections. You can easily show them the benefits your membership program is bringing, to both members and society.

Make sure you have a separate page for events, memberships, and your story. Highlight your organization’s mission with your homepage tagline. Add social proofs through member reviews and awards.

You can also add a Join Us section on your homepage to notify prospects that you are accepting members. Including a seamless membership process on the website increases memberships significantly.

Provide Various Membership Options

provide various membership options

This method can prove to be helpful for nonprofits following the members-as-donor model.

Some people may not be able to pay your membership fees, despite their desire to support and join you. By offering different membership levels, you may attract these individuals.

You can also customize your membership plans to monthly, quarterly or annual programs to provide more options to your prospective members.

Offer Flexible Installment Plans

Consider offering your members an installment payment plan if they have trouble paying their dues all at once. The payment plan can be divided into quarterly or monthly payments based on your organization and members’ needs. Be sure to set limits and be strict about deadlines if you decide to use this option.

Make The Most of Personalized Communication

Though may sound redundant, personalized communications are the most impactful ways to drive more memberships.

Determine which groups your prospective members fall into based on demographics, interests, behaviors, etc. You can increase your chances of reaching potential members by learning about their preferred communication channels such as emails, phone calls, or social media messaging.

You can also make your newsletters personalized with automated email campaigns to promote your organization.

Utilize Digital Campaigns

digital ads

Increasing membership strategies always keep digital campaigns a top priority. You should, however, check your budget and goals before starting campaigns.

To launch successful campaigns, consider platforms such as Google ads and email marketing. Create retargeting ads to gain their interest and start focusing on Search Engine Optimization to get more members.

You can also strategize on content marketing by introducing podcasts, webinars, articles, or eBooks and promoting them on search engines, on your website, and through paid campaigns.

Promote on Social Media Platforms

social media platforms

Social media helps a great deal when it comes to membership marketing. For professional associations, platforms such as LinkedIn and Twitter can be high-yielding.

Encourage your members to share activities on your nonprofit's social media account and tag your page. Build interest-based groups and emotional storytelling to attract new members.

You can also create social media plans with images and links so that your volunteers can update your feed regularly.

Organize Charity Run Funs

Hosting Charity fun runs is a brilliant way to increase your organizational support and boost memberships.

You can arrange a 5k charity run or a marathon run. Using funny themes or slogans will create more buzz and helps you bring more attention to your events and thus more memberships.

Pick a convenient location such as a school ground, a park, or an open area and promote your event through flyers, social media platforms, and paid campaigns.

Don't forget to include an introductory speech to communicate your nonprofit’s mission. You can also collaborate with other organizations to arrange the charity fun runs to make it a mega event.

Retaining Members Through Successful Nonprofit Membership Programs

successful nonprofit membership programs

Once you get more memberships, it is now time to retain them through effective membership programs.

A successful nonprofit membership program fosters a sense of ownership in members, provides them with a clear mission, and involves them in decision-making.

If you want your members to stay with you for the long term, you should integrate the following features into your memberships.

Focus on Long-Term Membership Benefits

People cannot join several nonprofits at the same time so they prefer the organization that has the most perks or is the most impactful.

Discounted memberships and other short-term incentives can help you attract more members, but they are unlikely to succeed when it comes to long-term retention.

In such cases, the secret to retaining members is by introducing long-term incentives. For nonprofits, being part of an impactful goal, having a voice in decision-making, and access to fundraising events are the main priorities of members. So include all these long-term benefits.

If your nonprofit follows the members-as-advocates model, you can introduce certificates, learning, and upskilling platforms for volunteers. For trade association models, you can add transparency in regards to where their donations are being used to gain their trust and long-term support.

Host Events Exclusively for Members

member only events

Member-only events make members feel appreciated and special. Moreover, they provide members with membership values and a sense of belonging, increasing their engagement and retention.

You don't need large events to bond with your members. Simple events like luncheons, branch tours, get-together nights, or even excursion trips can go a long way in engaging them.

Don't forget to involve them in the planning process and collect their feedback for each event.

Offer a Holistic Membership Experience

When it comes to memberships, your members expect an all-rounder experience. People want to feel important, connected, and committed to a cause. Hence, you must show them the bigger picture by offering a robust membership experience.

Most nonprofit organizations use membership management software for growing memberships. The software assists nonprofits in maximizing retention by providing a holistic experience to their customers.

Glue Up’s membership management software is an all-in-one platform to attract and retain members. Organizations using this platform are able to secure a retention rate of 82% with their digital tools including campaigns, event creation, website integration, membership automation, and community app.

best membership management software

Glue Up’s CRM offers a premium front-end experience with a seamless signup process. It also allows you to increase retention by sending renewal reminders through automated emails and push notifications.

Moreover, there is a private community app that builds a strong sense of belonging among your members. They can share posts, create events and make groups depending on your combined agendas and interests. If you want to know more about the platform, you can click this link to book a demo.

Nonprofit Membership Programs - Success Stories

success stories

Now that you know how to create a successful membership drive for your nonprofit, let's look at some examples for inspiration.

National Rural Education Association

National Rural Education Association (NREA) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting education in rural and scarcely populated areas of the U.S.

NREA was one of the few organizations that grew during the pandemic. They boosted their memberships by giving the ultimate experience to their users. By using Glue Up's membership management solution, they also picked up members who had fallen off the chart in the past.

NREA started sending weekly newsletters using the CRM to communicate with their contacts. They were also able to track everything on the Glue Up platform, from prospects who are following their newsletter to the members who have not renewed their membership. They used this information to gain as well as retain more members. As a result, NREA was able to build a robust network consisting of around 5,500 members.

Kenya Green Building Society

Kenya Green Building (KGBS) is an independent, nonprofit society that mandates the sustainability of the buildings in the country. The organization restructured its strategic plan in 2020 to improve its membership program by integrating automation.

They were able to acquire 1060 new contact and a record-breaking registration of 842 people in the webinar. They accomplished great numbers by replacing all their manual membership tasks (including intakes, retargeting, and event registrations) with the Glue Up CRM.

They figured out that the main reason for member lapse was their failure to renew their memberships on time. KGBS retained those members by automating renewal reminders through push notifications and emails. They also increased their memberships using Glue Up’s smooth onboarding process integrated with their website.

The best part their members loved was the community app that helped them to connect and share their business cards. This, according to KGBS, created a sense of community among its members.

FAQs

How Can Organizations Increase Memberships?

Open events top the list when it comes to member recruitment ideas. Referral incentives and collaboration with other organizations are other effective ways to grow association memberships.

How Do You Increase Membership Participation?

A successful membership program with several benefits is key to increasing members’ participation. Personalized welcome emails, virtual connection platforms, and member-only events are some of the great ways to engage members.

What Are the Best Ways to Retain Members?

The best way to retain members is to improve the long-term incentives. In addition, providing your members with network and learning platforms can also boost membership renewal.

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