Membership: Belonging, either individually or collectively, to a group. Members are required to pay a fee to join or participate. Special privileges or benefits are entitled to members although not all members may have the same rights and privileges.
This month we explore membership programs for nonprofits. Nonprofit membership has many different faces, and if you are with an organization that does not have a membership program, per se, you will find that many membership principles apply to working with donors!
The simple definition of a membership program, above, leads us to ask some fundamental questions about our organization’s membership program.
What is the membership fee and are there tiers with escalating benefits?
What are the privileges of membership? How do members receive information, recognition, products?
Will membership require an annual renewal? Are people members for life?
Membership programs can look and be different from one nonprofit to another. Some organizations might use membership as a fundraising tool; others may use it to create a cadre of advocates for the work of the nonprofit; other membership programs may offer frequent, tangible benefits; volunteer membership may be another form of membership program.
With membership being defined very liberally, it can have a variety of meanings. Your first step in creating a membership program (or in reviewing an existing program), will be to define what membership means to your nonprofit organization.
Pros and Cons of Membership Programs