11 Considerations for New Memberships

February 21, 2017       THE NONPROFIT TIMES      

Just about any nonprofit manager would like to increase its organization’s membership. Any effort to pump up the ranks needs solid planning, as well as good execution.

Speaking during the Bridge to Integrated Marketing Conference at National Harbor, Md., Lynn Swain of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology (CLO), Hailey Conneely of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (ISGM) and Diane Ward of Membership Matters offered lessons learned by CLO, an independent research institute of Cornell University, and the ISGM, opened in 1903 for the “enjoyment and education of the public forever.”

    There were several strategic considerations:

  • “Bodies” or “bucks;”
  • Impact of membership on the organization;
  • Performance of the current program;
  • Comparisons to industry standards;
  • Consideration of the “same” or “different” program and deciding if change or growth is even possible; and,
  • Seeing if there is sufficient infrastructure for growth.
    There are also initial questions that must be answered:

  • What’s actually possible?
  • How much time and investment will be needed?
  • Would the organization need more staff?
  • What is the return on investment (ROI) from these efforts?
  • Are there other similar entities from which we can learn?
  • What’s the right way to measure our success?
  • How does this fit into the larger context of a capital campaign?