Professional Development: Membership Principles To Remember

Any nonprofit needs support, and usually the more the better. Members donate money, but they also can spread the word about the organization or the mission or both. Sometimes sheer numbers can have an effect on impact.
The need for fundraising is so constant that sometimes the opportunities for increasing membership are overlooked. Members do matter, however.
At a nonprofit conference at National Harbor, Md., Lynn Swain who at the time was with Cornell Lab of Ornithology (CLO), Hailey Conneely who at the time was with the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (ISGM) and Diane Ward of Membership Matters, said that membership does matter, and they offered several guiding principles for driving massive membership growth:

• Understand expectations. Assess current situation and resources.
• Demonstrate organization-wide impact. Know what members do (or do not) for the organization to better understand the impact of future growth.
• Determine appropriate positioning and expectations of membership program, current situation or in the future.
• Examine expense. Growth makes sense when the fixed cost of additional members is incrementally low.
• Learn the “business” and “purpose” of membership. Invest in acquisition and retention and recover the cost of service through additional spending, gifts and long-term engagement.
• Identify current performance and compare to industry standards and competitors when possible.
• Create tracking systems and define reporting tools to measure current and future performance.
• Expect the unexpected. Remember that goals change.