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How to Increase Membership In Nonprofit Organizations – The Right Tips and Practices

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Published: Sep 29, 2021

“How do I increase membership in my organization?” is a question nonprofits constantly seek answers to. 

This blog gives you the answer to that. Before we get to that, let’s see the significance of members in a nonprofit. 

Can nonprofits have members?

The simple answer is: yes, nonprofits can have members and membership programs; In fact, they can prove to be quite beneficial for organizations. 

Membership programs offer the chance to create a closely-knit community, which is essential to a nonprofit. A strong community can help nonprofits in multiple ways: 

  • It can be a reliable revenue stream for your organization.
  • Induce a sense of belonging among supporters, thereby strengthening their support and advocacy.
  • Provide you with an engaged supporter base that you can turn to for volunteer or expertise requests. 

Collectively, these benefits help with the growth of your organization. 

However, a large part of increasing membership in nonprofit organizations is having the right practices and resources in place. A membership strategy for nonprofit organizations can help. 

How to increase membership in nonprofit organizations?

Nonprofits often say that increasing membership is one of the most commonly faced challenges. 

We get it. It can be hard to position your nonprofit in such a way that people would want to become a member. 

This section will focus on ways to help you acquire new members. Consider these tactics to increase membership in your nonprofit organization.

Leverage your current member-base

Seeking advice from your current member base is one of the ways to retain your existing members and draw in new ones. Your existing member base can help you in ways you may not even have thought of if approached in the right way. 

Here are some ways:

  1. Encourage your members to bring someone along when they attend your events.
  2. Encourage your members to share your marketing materials, such as social media posts, promotional videos, and newsletters.
  3. Use referral programs and prepare your members with an elevator pitch. Word-of-mouth is the primary factor behind 20-50% of purchasing decisions. Here’s an example.
  4. Run an ambassador program and assist them with marketing your organization.
  5. Use testimonials from your current members.

Since getting them to become your members is quite a huge ask and commitment, social proof would convey the worth effectively. 

Now, for your existing members to help you acquire new members, you need to keep them happy. This means member retention is as necessary as member acquisition. Here are a few of the many ways you can keep your members happy: 

  • Thank your members for their contributions using personalized thank-you notes and phone calls.
  • Host ‘member-only’ fun gatherings like brunches, galas, picnics, etc. 
  • Engage with them on social media. 
  • Nurture your members throughout the year through phone calls, texts, or emails. 

Promote your organization

Creating a member persona helps you promote to the right audience and thereby, increase membership. For example, consider the values and beliefs, their interests, income, occupation, etc. This will give you a clearer idea of where and how to reach them best.  

Now, define a value proposition. Convey why a prospect should choose to join you over any other nonprofit supporting the same cause as you do. Stress on the benefits and value one gets out of your membership program. 

Here are a few ways to promote your nonprofit:

  • Promote your membership program on your website, highlighting the benefits, along with a membership form and clear call-to-action.
  • Advertise on social media and search engines to your target audience. 
  • Start a podcast, blog, webinar, etc., around the topics that interest your potential members and lure them to your website. Optimize your website for search engines to enhance the reach of your content. 
  • Collect your website visitors’ emails in exchange for a takeaway like a checklist, tipsheet, and send them valuable updates. These are called lead magnets. Then nurture them to sign up for a membership. 
  • Utilize seasonal promotions. 
  • Run contests on social media with rewards being discounts to your membership program. 
  • Put up posters and distribute brochures in high-traffic areas. 
  • Send newsletters around the benefits of being a member of your organization.
  • Advertise in local newspapers and send press releases. 
  • Put up a standee at events related to your cause.
  • Join LinkedIn groups and stay active by sharing membership details once in a while. (Most groups have strict guidelines on what can be shared, so ensure you stay within those limits to avoid getting removed.)

Pro tip: At every stage of your promotion, stress on the value your potential members would get if they signed up for a membership. 

Promoting your membership program is the first step to increasing membership in your nonprofit organization. If done right, you will grab your audience’s attention and nudge them into making up their mind. 

However, in most cases, you would have to follow up with your audiences based on the level of interest they’ve shown. For instance, people who visited your landing page consumed all the information but left the page can mean many things, but importantly, they are not convinced of the value they get from the membership.

Here is a simple way to follow up with such an audience:

Step 1: Run retargeting ads on social media or search engine ads highlighting social proof, the value a member brings to supporting the cause, a special discount, etc. Your focus is to get them more involved, and we recommend you do all things possible. At this stage, at least get them to share their contact information so you can have personalized conversations with them and move them through the funnel. 

Step 2: Once you have their contact details, send them a text message requesting a time to have a call. Put your best agents on the task and nudge your audience to take that final step.    

Partner with other organizations

Collaborate with other organizations to introduce your nonprofit to a new world of potential members. Your partner’s supporters could be your new members if you nurture them effectively!  

Partnering with local organizations is a mutually beneficial deal. 

There are 2 ways you can make this work:

Option 1

Step 1: Your partner introduces your membership program to their audience and nudges them your way. 

Step 2: Interested audience reaches out to you, and you take it from there depending on their level of interest.

Option 2

Step 1: Your partner runs promotions on your behalf as an extension of their services. For this, your collaboration would be a little more in depth. For example, a winner of a contest your partner runs would get a discount for your membership program. 

Step 2: The audience signs up for your membership program through your partner. 

It would help if you considered organizations that shared the same values as you do. For instance, if your nonprofit supports environmental causes, your collaborator needs to be someone that practices sustainability. 

You can even collaborate with schools and universities and get the students to sign up for your membership at a small price as volunteers. 

Have a timely renewal process

Most of your members may not remember to renew their membership or may not hold it a priority. Reminding them of the value your membership brings along with a renewal reminder would enable them to take action. 

You may have to send these reminders more than once, but if they aren’t interested to proceed, it’s best to move on. 

A membership management software can be of help here to set automated reminders. 

Optimize your website for new acquires

When a prospect visits your website, they should instantly be able to see the value your membership program would bring – both for the member and the cause you support. Focus on the smallest to the largest details. 

For instance, even after a prospect seems convinced with the value proposition, the process of signing up, of all things, should be as smooth and quick as possible. Make it easy for your website visitors to join you as a member. 

Here are a few things to take care of:

  • Make sure the call-to-action and the required information are in a prominent place.
  • Highlight the value your membership brings to them.
  • Show social proof.
  • Get your beneficiaries to talk about your contributions. 
  • Show your team in action, working on making the world a better place. 
  • Test the sign-up flow at multiple stages before you go live.

Now, what method should you use to collect sign-ups for your membership? 

Forms are one way to approach this. However, lengthy forms are an immediate turn-off. But then there is, “The more details you have, the better.” 

How do you get them to sign up AND collect as many details as possible?

We have a solution – SMS opt-ins

With an SMS opt-in solution, all your prospects need to do is send a keyword to your number to become a member. Now, you can continue to take other required details with follow-up prompts, and all the information will sync with your CRM. The advantage here is, you can prioritize collecting the ‘must-have’ details and then move on to gather more information with their consent. 

Make sure your visitors can register and make the payment with minimal clicks and loads. Create the best user experience to increase your chances.

Incentivize memberships

More often than not, an attractive incentive like a discount on the following exclusive event fee or on the membership fees itself can give that extra push to signing up. Offer such incentives to new members and promote them on your marketing channels. 

Furthermore, you can make these programs time-sensitive. Evoke urgency and get your prospects to sign up immediately. This could be along the lines of “a special discount for people who join before a certain date.” 

Offer multiple membership options

Affording the membership fees could be a problem for some people, although they’d like to support and join you. Offering different levels of membership would appeal to this set of people. 

If cost is the problem, another option is to set a monthly membership plan as an option. 

Host open events

Open events would give your potential members a better idea of what it would be like to join your nonprofit. This is also an excellent platform for your ambassadors to promote you. 

Here are a few tips along that line:

  • Host an open event and highlight the benefits your members get. 
  • Distribute membership promotional materials to your non-members during the event.
  • Follow up with the event attendees with a membership pitch through emails, texts, or phone calls.
  • Send post-event surveys and understand what they expect from a membership program.
  • If you’re giving out goodies, include your logo on them. This way, when you nurture your event attendees to become your members, they would have quite a lot of familiarity with your nonprofit already.
  • Convey your mission clearly so your prospective members know what their membership means to execute your mission. 
  • Host your event in a public space where you can draw maximum attention. 
  • Bring in a popular figure as the guest speaker to make your event a talk of the town. This could increase your reach. 
  • Generalize the event theme as much as possible, so you bring in a wide audience to become your members.
  • Host your events in different cities.  

However, keep the frequency of these events minimal so the value of your membership programs stays high. 

Here’s a guide with essential tips and tools to manage your nonprofit event

Embrace personalized communication

What’s the first step to personalized communication with your audience?

Getting to know them.

Find out the different groups your prospective members belong to in terms of demographics, interests, behaviors, etc. Discovering your potential members’ preferred communication channels can increase the chances of reaching them. The most common channels are:

  • Emails
  • Phone calls
  • Texts

You can segment your audience into different groups based on their engagement level and nudge them in the right direction. 

Our calling and texting tools can help. 

CallHub’s solutions are designed for nonprofits to increase their memberships and retain them. From communicating and acquiring members to nurturing them in the journey to convert them to donors, CallHub has you covered.

To see how CallHub can help increase membership in your nonprofit, sign up for a free trial today!

Get started!

Nonprofit organizations do what businesses do not – Helping people with no strings attached. Nonprofits are born to solve a problem in the world. Even your members join your organization for the same reason: They can relate to the cause or simply want the world to be a better place. 

This is exactly what your strength is. Play to this strength of yours when you’re trying to increase memberships for your nonprofit organization. Let people know why exactly the world needs them and what they get in return. 

However, of late, the nonprofit industry in itself has grown competitive. There are many organizations supporting one cause, and all of them are looking to increase their member base. 

Successful nonprofit membership programs focus on communication and engagement. So, to stand out, you need to connect with your prospective members and offer value consistently before you ask for a commitment. 

We hope this article gives you the direction to get started and increase membership in your nonprofit organization. 

Do you have any other ideas on how to increase membership in nonprofit organizations? Comment below and let us know! 

Featured image: ​​Photo by Good Stock Photos

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