September 2019 – Lauriane Lebrun, Marketing & Communications Coordinator

Has your organization been looking for a way to turn the occasional trickle of new memberships into a monsoon?  If so, now may be the perfect time to hold a membership drive.  It will take some work to set up, but should pay off in the end if it is well-managed.  Here are some tips and ideas to help you get out of the dreaded membership drought: 

  1. According to Wild Apricot, “The organizations who run the most successful membership drives all have one thing in common: they make the most use of their available resources.”  Start with an inventory of your available resources, including who can help, where you can hold your membership drive, and what creative skills your board and volunteers can provide to help make the drive a success.
  2. Incentivize the drive for your volunteers.  Consider recognizing whoever brings in the highest number of new members with a reward.
  3. Incentivize the drive for potential members, too!  You can create a sense of urgency by offering discounted dues pricing or an exclusive gift to anyone who joins during the drive. 
  4. As the YourMembership by CommunityBrands blog explains, “It doesn’t matter how great your recruitment messaging and tactics are, if it’s hard for members to join, they’re not likely to join.”  Taking this into consideration, it is important to review your membership application process prior to your drive.  Make sure your application is easy to access, complete, and submit.  Check out Double the Donation’s Membership Applications: 5 Strategies to Boost Enrollment article to make sure you aren’t inadvertently turning potential members away before they’ve even walked through the door.       
  5. Provide a script if you are holding a “phone-a-thon” style membership drive.  Smart Annual Giving recommends providing each volunteer caller with a folder, “containing their individual call list, sample script, credit card donation forms (if applicable), [and] organizational information including web address and phone number.”  If you need a template to help you get your script started, check out this example from the Grassroots Institute for Fundraising Training.  Additionally, be sure to take the advice of Marketing General Incorporated by preparing to “deal directly with typical sales objections (e.g., ‘IT SEEMS TOO EXPENSIVE’, or ‘I’M NOT SURE IT WILL BE USEFUL TO ME.’)”
  6. Make signing up for membership a personal and timely issue.  Be sure to draw attention to the following selling points:
    • What is the value to the member?  What benefits will they receive if they sign up?  What will they miss out on if they don’t join now?
    • What is the value of a membership to your organization?  What real-world issues does your organization address?  In what specific ways will membership dues contribute to addressing these issues?
    • What is happening in your community or industry right now that potential members should consider?
  7. Perhaps most importantly, go into your membership drive with this advice from Nonprofit Hub in mind: “At its heart, fundraising” – or recruiting new members! – “is helping others connect an existing passion directly to your cause.  We don’t convince donors.  We help them realize that they already care.”

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