October 2019 – Lauriane Lebrun, Marketing & Communications Coordinator

Whether your nonprofit is working on updating its current membership program or just starting to offer memberships for the first time, member benefits are an important topic to consider.  As Access Development explains, “With so many causes and products competing for your money and attention, it takes more to acquire, keep and engage the members of any organization.  And when it comes to those members, your benefits can make all the difference.”  So, how do you know what benefits will convince people to join and renew as members of your organization?

According to Colleen Dilenschneider of IMPACTS Research & Development, the top benefits among members of cultural organizations in the US are:

  • Free admission
  • Supporting the organization’s mission
  • Discounted tickets
  • Member events

Wild Apricot’s Small Membership Survey Report found similar results, along with these other top-ranking benefits:

  • Networking
  • Professional development
  • Learning best practices
  • Information and news

Let’s look at some tangible ways you can offer these types of benefits to your members.

You can provide networking and professional development opportunities by setting up a members-only forum, directory, or job board on your website.  You might also consider developing a professional mentoring program.  Or, as Elizabeth Bell of Higher Logic notes, “Even associations and nonprofits that don’t deal directly with professional skills can use mentoring programs as a benefit.  Just shift the focus from learning professional skills to personal fulfillment and knowledge sharing.”

When it comes to giving members access to information and news, you can deliver what members are looking for by way of email newsletters, blog posts, webinars, and in-person classes/workshops.  Ideally, access to this content should be available exclusively to members, or at a discounted rate to those who have joined your organization.  

Finally, don’t forget to market membership as an important way to support the mission of your organization.  As the Dilenschneider article referenced above explains, “People in the United States who want to support an organization’s mission believe that the best way to do it is through a membership… so you can see how problematic it can be when very few marketing materials or communicated benefits even include mission-based motivators… let alone focus on them.  The unintended message may be that membership does not fulfill that need.  It may be perceived that membership is not, in fact, a meaningful way to support the organization’s mission.”  In other words, the last thing you want to do is downplay the importance of dues-paying members.  Instead, you can provide your members with the benefit of feeling like they’ve done something good by emphasizing how helpful it is to your organization when someone purchases a membership.

The Lexian Management newsletter is for informational purposes only.

Always consult your attorney, accountant, and/or insurance provider to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or concern.Edit