Membership programs are a fantastic way to build volunteer engagement within your organization.
For those of you who might be unfamiliar with how membership programs work, it’s a simple concept: members receive special benefits and perks in exchange for donations given in the form of recurring membership fees.
If you’re looking for an effective way to promote regular volunteer participation and create a lasting community among your supporters, implementing a membership program might be a wise move for your nonprofit.
And let’s face it: which nonprofit wouldn’t want those results?
In this post, we’ll break down some of the major benefits of nonprofit membership programs, including:
- Greater engagement opportunities.
- Enhanced volunteer community.
- Exclusive member content.
- Potential for large-scale impact.
Each of these factors can be a game-changer for your nonprofit, so let’s jump right in.
Before we begin, ensure you’re prepared to launch your nonprofit membership program by checking out Double the Donation’s helpful guide for doing just that!
- Greater Engagement Opportunities
When your organization has a membership program in place, you’ll be able to transform casual volunteers into long-term, dedicated supporters of your nonprofit.
That’s because membership programs provide invested constituents with opportunities to deepen their involvement with an organization or cause they care about.
Here’s what those new engagement opportunities might look like:
- Committees and task forces. Whether you’re planning a fundraiser or working on your annual campaign strategy, recruit members to play a more hands-on role in your organization by encouraging them to become part of a committee or task force. With fresh perspectives and extra manpower at the ready, you’ll see better results with whatever you’re planning.
- More intentional volunteer efforts. Volunteers are a huge constituent of many nonprofits, but managing your many volunteers is no easy task. When you integrate your membership management software with your CRM, you’ll be able to get a clear picture of both your members and volunteers within one centralized location. Plus, your software can provide the tools you need to send more targeted opportunities to the right individuals.
- Advocacy initiatives. If your nonprofit encourages advocacy among your supporters, a membership program can motivate your volunteers to propel your efforts to the next level. Segment your member list based on past advocacy campaign participation to keep the most interested individuals in the loop (and lay out an advocacy strategy that makes sense for them).
Using membership management software is one of the of the best ways to manage your engagement opportunities, track member involvement, and gain insight into your members’ preferences and interests.
To learn more about these benefits (and more), check out this guide to membership software from Neon.
The big picture: With all the engagement opportunities membership programs bring, your volunteers will feel more connected to your organization and stay connected longer.
- Enhanced Volunteer Community
What’s one perk of membership programs that you just can’t get anywhere else? A lasting, supportive community of like-minded volunteers, that’s what!
Membership programs are unique in that they naturally foster community-building among supporters with similar values, goals, and interests.
Not only will members be able to reap the benefits of your program’s networking and relationship-building opportunities, but they’re also more likely to be empowered to work together for your cause.
The most successful membership programs build member communities in the following ways:
- Active social media presence. More than likely, your nonprofit has taken advantage of social media communication in one way or another. Organizations with membership programs can also leverage these channels to their advantage by establishing exclusive member groups where they can host discussions, post opportunities, and highlight members’ outstanding volunteer work.
- Member events and activities. If your organization is locally based, there’s no better way to encourage community-building than by getting your members in the same room at the same time. Plan events that encourage mingling among the group, whether that be appreciation events, mixers, conferences, or community service activities (which you already know your volunteers will love!).
- An engaging member portal. Your member management software should set your members up with an easy-to-use member portal, where they can handle many membership-related tasks. Depending on your provider, your members may also have access to member forums or directories so they can interact with each other directly on your website.
When your supporters are surrounded by a tight-knit group of individuals with common passions, they’ll be more excited than ever to volunteer for your cause!
The big picture: Membership programs naturally foster community, so create events, activities, and engagement spaces that work to promote community-building every way you can.
- Exclusive Member Content and Experiences
Well-designed membership programs thrive because of their exclusive nature. It’s not that you want to keep people out of your membership program (because you definitely don’t), but that you want to emphasize that your members are a part of something special.
A great way to get that point across? By offering exclusive content and opportunities that your volunteers can only receive by being a part of your membership program.
Depending on the structure of your program, you might connect with your members through a variety of channels. We recommend starting with one of the following and seeing what works best for your supporters:
- Regular, pertinent emails. Along with sharing updates and volunteer opportunities, use your weekly or monthly newsletters to highlight news updates or relevant articles from your community with your members. (Hint: Your membership software can help you automate these messages.)
- Educational resources. One of the best ways to motivate your members to advocate or volunteer for your cause is to educate them about your mission. By providing informative resources, you’re empowering your members to work even harder for your organization (and share their passion with the world).
- In-person communications. Hosting events that facilitate in-person discussions is one of the most effective ways to spark member engagement and educate members at the same time. A member forum or open leadership meeting can be a great opportunity for connecting with your volunteers face-to-face.
Your membership management software should allow you to restrict certain online content so that only members have access to their designated benefits. That way, you’ll be certain your exclusive content remains exclusive!
No matter what kind of content you choose to create, ensure it’s always relevant and interesting for your members.
The big picture: Providing unique benefits for members will ensure they continue finding value in your membership program for many years to come. Once you’ve developed a strategy for consistent engagement, you’ll be able to build lasting relationships with all of your volunteers.
- Potential for Large-Scale Impact
What do volunteers and members have in common? Most likely, they’re both looking to have a significant impact on your organization’s cause and mission.
While volunteering on its own is a valuable contribution to your nonprofit, a membership program is one of the only ways to combine your volunteer engagement and fundraising efforts to create a supporter experience that’s truly comprehensive.
With a guiding structure in place, nonprofit membership programs have the ability to effect substantial change within their communities, and volunteers will be able to watch their impact unfold in real-time.
Your members might take action in any of the following ways (though there’s almost no limit to what your members can accomplish together):
- Community service.
- Fundraising efforts.
- Advocacy campaigns.
- Planning or volunteering at events.
- Donating specialized skills.
- Holding a stake in your organization’s operations.
The key to harnessing this power is to develop an engagement strategy that ensures your members are all connected with your organization (and with each other) so that they’re empowered to get involved in every way they can.
With a strong plan in place, a membership program can provide the support and structure volunteers need to reap major change, which is as rewarding for your members as it is for your organization.
The big picture: Under the guidance of a membership program, your most committed volunteers will be able to do more for your mission and see their efforts come to fruition sooner rather than later!
From inspiring consistent engagement to mobilizing a powerful network of volunteers, a nonprofit membership program can have a major impact on your cause.
Have you implemented a membership program at your organization? Tell us how it worked out in the comments section below!
Author Bio: Adam Weinger is the president of Double the Donation, the leading provider of tools for nonprofits that help them raise more money from corporate matching gift and volunteer grant programs. Connect with Adam on LinkedIn.