membership drive ideas to make sure you are successful

How To Host a Successful Membership Drive: Our 6 Ideas

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Corinne

There are several ways to increase the membership in your nonprofit organization. One key technique is by hosting regular membership drives.

You may be on your third or fourth membership drive cycle, feeling like you're doing decent. You’re adding some members, and you're seeing an increase in club participation and retention. This just proves that you can be successful without the ideas in this article. On the other hand, by implementing them, you could increase your success ten-fold!

Here are the membership drive topics that we will cover in this article:

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Build a Task Force

The reality is that ensuring the success of your membership drive takes trial and error. That being said, leaning on a task force that can help you bear the numerous challenges and makes the workload manageable. Not to mention that you have a group to rely on for fresh ideas, to solve problems, and celebrate your wins.

A task force enables those members to have the power to drive membership and maintain that consistency. Even in a small organization where there are only a few people in leadership, you can appoint two or three to be part of your task force.

Give everyone in your task force responsibility and delegate as much as possible. As the leader, you probably have an idea of exactly how you want the tasks to be done, and you may want to have full control. That’s natural! But, delegation is the key to any organization’s success. As long as you provide clear instruction to those you are delegating to, releasing control saves time and allows you to focus on other important aspects. You don’t see Richard Branson filling orders or handling marketing. 

Everyone has something that they excel at. As you figure out everyone’s strengths and properly place them in the best roles for them, you will have established your task force correctly.

Samantha is building her task forceSamantha is excited about building
her task force!

If your organization is able, having multiple hands makes light work to develop and execute your membership drive ideas. Just think of it in terms of moving a couch. If you try to move the couch on your own, it’s nearly impossible. With two peoplef the couch is still pretty heavy. If you have four people moving it, it’s much lighter! On that note, having seven people helping only gets too crowded and increases the difficulty of the task. Just as you need the right amount of people to move a couch, it’s important to find that small group that works well together. Usually between 3-5 people is an ideal task force size.

Many organizations use a task force to work on large, long-term projects like:

  • Communication campaigns

  • Fundraising actions

  • Event planning

Once you’ve appointed the task force, have a kick-off meeting to define the goals you want to achieve. You can do this in person or online depending on your team’s preference. Make sure to plan regular follow up meetings to track the task force’s progress and success. You may want to meet more often at first and then taper off later.

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Define Actionable Goals

Setting concrete, achievable goals is essential to boosting motivation and puts the correct tone into place for the week, month, or year. It’s exactly like setting a new year's resolution, you start the year with fresh goals and intentions, ready to take the steps to achieve them.

The concept is the same when it comes to a membership drive. By setting goals for you and your task force, you are creating actionable steps that will help push membership drive each cycle. The whole point of goal setting is to hold yourself accountable. You write down your New Year’s Resolutions in order to track your progress (or as a reminder to start them again) when March comes around. Goals are written down as a way to remember them and push yourself, and in this case your task force, to be accountable.

The best way to go about goal setting is to have your team get together and brainstorm as many goals and ideas as you can think of. The main question surrounding this brainstorm is, "What is our top goal for this membership cycle?" At this point, there’s no wrong answer. Set the timer and say let’s come up with as many ideas as you can in 15 minutes. Once the timer goes off, review what you’ve written down.

Pro Tip: This is a good time to break out the post-it notes. Believe it or not, visually viewing your ideas helps bring them to life and allows you to prioritize them more easily.

The task force should then decide what the number one goal for this membership cycle is from the items that were suggested in the brainstorming session.

Once you have your main goal, you can break it down into more manageable tasks in your project management plan (coming up next!). Breaking down your tasks is like learning a new language. You begin with numbers and letters, then grow to learning pronouns, verbs, and finally, form sentences (your goals!).

membership-drive-ideas-planBuild a Project Management Plan

In order to make sure everything runs smoothly and that you are optimizing your time and resources in the correct manner, you must have a plan. The best way to do this is through detailed retro planning.

Ever heard of retro planning? That’s okay if you haven’t, and if you have, here is a refresher! Retro planning is a tool used to create a timeline for a goal that’s been set. It’s an easy process that’s key to staying on top of your membership drive management plan. 

 

Matt works on his project management plan

Matt is working away on his
project management plan!

Another way to look at retro planning is by thinking of a wedding. Most couples start with the date of the big day and then work their way backwards with each of the necessary steps. The same thing can be done for any goal that your organization is setting.

Retro planning will:

  • help you manage your time

  • break down your tasks

  • see the status of your projects

  • follow a timeline that allows you to optimize your time

As previously mentioned, your time and resources are valuable. By being as efficient as possible, you are freeing up both time and money.

You will start by breaking down your goal or goals into manageable tasks and those are the items that need to go into your retro planning. Depending on your goal, they could be weekly, monthly, or quarterly. As you focus on accomplishing the more manageable milestones as a task force, you will find your way through those checkpoints to ultimately accomplish the main goal.

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Set a Budget

Ah, budgets. While they may not be very fun, they are extremely useful tools to making sure your organization stays happy and profitable. Even though it sounds simple in theory, in reality sticking to a budget can be a challenge that many of us struggle with.

Thankfully, we are all in this together, and creating a budget doesn't have to be a complex task that creates anxiety. Some of the key components of setting a budget are:

  • Estimated Revenue - money you expect to make

  • Fixed cost - what you’ll pay that does not change, i.e. monthly subscriptions

  • Variable costs - what you pay that will fluctuate each month, such as marketing, ads, etc.

  • Profit

By understanding these key components of a budget, you will be able to set a basic monthly plan. The next step is looking at the cost of acquisition for each of your actions. The cost of acquisition (CAC) is basically how much you spend on marketing and how many new members join from those marketing efforts. Knowing this number allows you to understand if your budget is profitable, or if there needs to be adjustments made. Some factors and actions that you can include in your budget should be:

  • Tools

  • Ads

  • HR costs

  • Volunteer time

  • Your time

As an example, let’s say you spend $500 in marketing over one year and you bring in 10 new members, your cost of acquisition would be $50.

Cost of marketing/number of new members = cost of acquisition 

Or 

500/10 = 50 

Now if we take that example and break it down to be more budget friendly, let’s say that you bring in $1,000 annually in membership fees for 10 members. That’s your revenue. 

Sadie pays her dividendSadie knows her budget will pay
dividends in the long run.

You will probably provide a discount at times, or incentives for your new members. In this example, let’s say you give each new member a pen and paper pad for $5 each. You also have Google Ad and software spend, let’s say $100 each. And you have your time spent at $10 an hour for 30 hours annually, you’re at $300. Here is your breakdown:

Members: 10

Membership Fees: $100

Total Revenue: $1000

Membership Incentives (pen and paper): $50

Ads: $100

Software: $100

Your time: $300 

Total expenses: $550 

Net Profit: $450

How you decide your cost of acquisition is completely up to you and your task force. It’s also important to note that you need to be ready to pivot if one of your factors is throwing your budget completely off. For example, if you anticipated that spending $100 on ads would bring in 10 new members, and it turns out it only brought in 5 new members, you will need to take a moment to re-evaluate and pivot to make some adjustments immediately.

Remember, as you get more members you can expand your budget and add new benefits for your members as the budget allows. What’s important is that you absolutely have to make sure that you are working within your means.

Here at Springly, the cost of acquisition is the metric we use to determine if our actions are worth the time and resources spent. We measure it for a fixed amount of time per action. For example, we hope to see our return on investment for one Google Ad within six months.

Finally, as mentioned in the example above, your time costs money. This is why it’s important to utilize your task force or your community to lean on! 

Between them and a detailed budget, you are ready to have a successful membership cycle.

membership-drive-ideas-optimizeOptimize the Customer Journey

This concept is a modern way to look at the sales process and can be easily applied to membership organizations. The customer journey is the path that a lead takes when trying to become a member of your organization. They do a google search, click around your website, read your mission statement, and join! 

The customer is always right. Right? This is why at each stage of the customer journey, you have to think about how your customer is feeling and what they're seeing from their point of view. Then, empathize with their needs, essentially putting yourself in their shoes.

Oliver is picturing his customer journeyOliver is picturing his customer journey now!

You will start by identifying pain points and where your potential members are currently at in their journey. Pain points are essentially the roadblocks that a potential customer, or a current member, may encounter that make it difficult for them to continue their relationship with your organization.

Have you ever heard the saying, "Meet them where they’re at." Usually, people are saying this in regard to a romantic relationship. However, this concept can also be applied to the customer journey and its sales process.

Make the Move to Digital Memberships 

If you aren’t currently using technology to make your life easier, it’s time to make the move. Digital memberships offer so many benefits to you, your leadership team, and your members. The most important thing is that it makes the process infinitely easier.

By going digital there are less administrative tasks to take care of because automation picks up the slack for you. This helps free up more time to focus on your organization’s mission. If you’re hesitant to go digital because you have an admin that you don’t want to lose their job with, consider training them for another position. Maybe they could be a part of this task force!

While there is an up-front cost to going digital, it’s still less expensive when you’re using one tool compared to three or four. It also allows for automatic updates and the best feature that we’ll discuss next, automatic payments. 

Accept Online Payment 

Gone are the days of waiting on checks and hoping that they don’t get lost in the mail. The next generation is going to be shocked that we send money through the mail. Many customers don’t want to mess with the hassle of mailing a check.

For most members, online payment is easier and the preferred form of payment. There are always ways to mix and match - open yourself up to online payment while still accepting manual payment if need be. However, online shopping and online payments have become the go to for many businesses and organizations.

Online payments are more efficient and more secure, aside from less administration work of filing and depositing checks: 

  • Payments are instant and they can’t get lost

  • Online payments have been revolutionized in the last few years and it is far more secure now than checks or cash

  • Since online payments are instant, you will get an accurate picture of your revenue and overall budget instantly

Visibility 

When looking at the customer journey, one key factor is visibility. People want visibility as well as transparency. Not only do they want to know exactly what’s going on, but they want to know that information immediately. 

If you are unsure if you are A+ in visibility, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is your website optimized for membership?

  • Is signing up for membership available via your website?

  • Do you have a list of benefits somewhere that’s easy to find?

  • Can information on your membership be located easily?

If you answered no to any of these questions, there’s room for improvement. And that’s okay! Just think about it this way. Have you as a consumer ever gone to a website for something like a gym and haven’t been able to find the price or benefits anywhere, so you just looked elsewhere? This is the same concept. Customers and potential members don’t want to have to do a deep dive for basic information, or anything for that matter.

Your website should have excellent visibility into what your organization is doing and why anyone would want to join. Including testimonies from current members also gives a potential member visibility on how people are currently liking their membership.

Make sure you have a field for recording potential member’s information. It should be a priority for you to capture these contacts. You can then use this contact information to send these non-members invitations to join. Offering discounts in these invitations can assist in creating urgency for them to take the deal and join.

Bert is creating his websiteBert is looking hard – your website visitors
shouldn't have to!

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Spread the Word 

Communication is a powerful tool that can get pretty complicated. Instead of needing to learn all of the ins and outs of communication "how to's", the key is to keep it simple. With so many outlets of communication, deciding where to start can be difficult.

The first thing you and your task force need to do is choose one key message and focus on communicating it on the correct platforms. If you have multiple messages with different goals, your potential members are going to get confused. Your message should reflect your number one goal that you created in section one.

Once you decide on your message, it’s time to decide where to pass it along. Let’s talk about some different outlets that you can utilize.

Advertising

Advertising takes on many different forms. You need to know where your current members are most active in order to make sure your money is going to the right place. While a great tool, an ad can cost a pretty penny so you have to be certain you’re getting the best return on investment that you can.

Some examples of advertising would be

  • print ads

  • Flyers

  • Facebook ads

  • Google Ads

Pro Tip: Google Ad grants are available for most organizations. Each qualifying nonprofit has the ability to use up to $10,000 per month in search ads on Google. To be eligible you can’t be a governmental entity, healthcare organization, or an academic institution. Your nonprofit will also have to be verified by Google through a quick sign-up process.

As previously stated, advertising can get very expensive so start small and focus on one channel first. You may want to consider doing a survey of your target audience to find what they are looking for. Another option is hiring a consultant as there are people that do advertising full-time and will understand what’s needed from an expert perspective, and can share their knowledge with you and your organization.

Social Media 

Social media should be looked at as free advertising. It can also be overwhelming since you do have to post consistently and often in order to grow your reach. But, with the right tips and strategies to grow membership, you can reach more people for no cost than you ever could have thought.

You can use all forms of social media to promote your mission and values. You can also use social media to interact with current and potential new members. This helps create a sense of community, and in turn, makes your organization more attractive to new members.

The downside of social media is that it’s easy to get lost in all of the channels. Pick one where your nonprofit target audience is most present. That could be Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, starting a blog, or another platform. 

Emailing

Emailing has long been one of the most popular tools for nonprofits and for good reason. It’s a cheap and effective strategy to get the word out. Plus, almost everyone has an email. It’s as close to a universal form of communication as you can get.

You can add a page on your website to capture new emails and contact information. Another way to gather emails is through sign-up sheets at events. More often than you might think, someone brings a friend that might be interested in joining so do what you can to capture that data.

Once you have the data, add the emails to your drip marketing campaign to keep your organization visible. Stick to your key message and use images and videos to capture your audience.

Do your best to personalize your emails as well. This doesn't mean every member gets their own unique email written from scratch directly from the company. It does mean adding shout-outs and making sure your content isn’t generic and something they could be getting from every other organization.

For example, have you ever received an email to "our valued customer"? That tends to be one of the lines that gets overused, and that’s the type of email that you want to avoid as it doesn’t portray your unique message and culture to your audience.

membership-drive-ideas-conclusionConclusion 

Your membership drive cycle is one of the most important times for your organization. As you have hopefully been able to get through the last few cycles with growth, creating a plan will only help continue to perpetuate that success. Take the time to follow these steps, and you’ll find that you attract new members to your association faster than you realized you could!

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FAQ

🚗 What is a membership drive?

A membership drive is a series of processes and plans that are put in place to increase the number of members in an organization. The success of a membership drive ultimately boils down to the the number of new members you are able to attract and the number of existing members you are able to retain. Find out more. 

❓ How do you conduct a membership drive?

Start by setting tangible goals that you can hold yourself accountable against. From there, use retro planning to come up with a concrete plan for managing your membership drive, and use a bit of math to set yourself an appropriate budget before getting underway. Find out more. 

🖥️ How do I drive online membership?

Communicating one clear, simple message that is coherent across all platforms is key to spreading the word about your online membership. Advertising via Facebook, Google, or even good old fashioned flyers, will give you that extra boost. And if you are tight on money, why not take advantage of schemes like Google Ad grants? Find out more. 

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Corinne
The Holy Grail of Nonprofit Tips ✨
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