Guides & Resources

Membership Programs for Nonprofits: 6 Factors for Success

Stewardship & Marketing: Donor Relations/Stewardship
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As a nonprofit, consistent revenue helps you build and sustain the work that fuels your mission.  Effective nonprofit membership programs offer an influx of recurring funds that can help you more easily plan for the future. Membership programs for nonprofits are also a way to boost engagement with your supporters, encouraging lifelong connections to your cause.

Nonprofit membership programs can come in many shapes and sizes. If you’re looking for a way to accept membership fees as donations to generate more funding for your mission, we’ll help you get started. Below are six essential factors for a successful nonprofit membership program, whether your nonprofit is looking to build one from scratch or optimize an existing one.

1. Nonprofit Membership Program Plan

As with any major initiative, it’s important for nonprofits to develop a comprehensive plan for their membership programs. This will lay a foundation for success based on your organization’s unique goals and resources.

When outlining your plan, make sure to touch on these crucial topics:

  • Purpose: Think of this as the mission statement for your nonprofit membership program. Why do you want to launch this initiative? 
    • Example: Our membership program will identify our most committed supporters and raise reliable monthly income to fund our strategic plan.
  • Goals: Create a few program goals to be able to measure your success against specific targets. Your goals might be related to member engagement or fundraising figures.
    • Example: We will recruit 50 new members to our program in the first six months.
    • Example: We will raise an extra $5,000 per quarter from our membership fees.
  • Fees: Program fees need to add value to your bottom line while offering benefits worth the price to your members. Research different fee scales and models. Review other nonprofits’ fees in your field. Consider a tiered model to provide different benefits for different member levels, allowing supporters to find a fee that fits within their budget.

With a solid plan in place for your membership program, your nonprofit can then better focus its efforts on maximizing the program’s results.

2. Membership Program Benefits

Membership benefits are key to the success of nonprofit membership programs. They are what entice supporters to join and continue engaging with your program for years to come. For instance, people may opt to become members because they want to be involved in your networking opportunities or further their education through your members-only training courses.

Some popular benefits that membership programs for nonprofits can offer are:

  • Members-only events
  • Exclusive online content, such as a newsletter
  • Members-only communities
  • Discounts for products, services, or events

Ensure the benefits you offer will make your membership fee worth it. Consider which benefits appeal most to your community. You can even ask supporters for ideas in a survey!

3. Nonprofit Membership Software

Technology, such as membership management software, is pivotal to a nonprofit membership program’s success. It can help you stay organized, automate regular engagements with your members, and facilitate networking opportunities. 

When selecting nonprofit membership software, there are a few features worth prioritizing. The software should allow you to accomplish these most important tasks:

  • Create member profiles
  • Collect and manage membership fees
  • Send, receive, and automate member communications
  • Build membership websites

With the right solution, you’ll be able to focus on providing a stellar experience to all of your nonprofit’s members.

4. Nonprofit Membership Website

Websites are essential to membership programs for nonprofits because they provide a central location for registering and renewing members. You can also use them to host members-only content, facilitate membership discussion boards, and provide other membership benefits.

This is why you want to find nonprofit membership software that streamlines the website-building process. Once you’ve found this, there are a few ways you can optimize your membership website:

  • Ensure it is mobile-responsive for members and staff to use on the go
  • Use it to clearly convey important details about your membership program
  • Incorporate consistent branding to make it identifiable with your nonprofit

By following these best practices, you’ll ensure that all existing and potential members can access key information about your membership program on your website.

5. Membership Program Marketing

You want to reach as many prospective members as possible with your membership program recruitment. To do this, you need to meet them where they are. Maximize success with your nonprofit membership program by marketing it across multiple channels. You can highlight it through social media, emails, announcements at events, advertising, and more.

You can also get a jumpstart for your program by using your current supporter profiles to identify individuals who are the most likely to be interested in becoming members. For example, you may want to begin targeted outreach to supporters who already regularly attend your organization’s activities and events.

6. Nonprofit Membership Data Collection

The best way to learn how supporters view your membership program and the likelihood of whether they’ll remain members is to ask them! Your nonprofit can set its membership program up for greater success each year by gathering and evaluating data and feedback. 

Focus on retaining members for the long term by showing gratitude often and sharing member spotlights on social media. Meanwhile, send regular surveys to gather members’ input. Do this annually as an overall pulse check on your program, but also after specific events to see how members felt about them. This process provides beneficial insights into how you can improve your membership program to make it more appealing to current and prospective members. 

Add Greater Stability and Support to Your Mission

Nonprofit membership programs are an excellent way to sustainably grow your mission. Through consistent, recurring membership revenue, you can better plan your future growth.

Prioritizing the member experience is key to any successful nonprofit membership program. Your nonprofit can build lasting connections with your biggest champions while offering them a convenient, valuable way to stay involved with your work year after year.

Sonia UrlandoSonia Urlando is the Content Marketing Manager at Personify for the WildApricot and MemberClicks brands. In the content she creates, she is passionate about putting people at the heart of the story.

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