How To Create a Successful Membership Structure for Your Organization


Starting a new membership organization or club can be exciting, as you get to share your passion with like-minded individuals. Your new club can be about community cleanup or another public service or about a hobby, such as birdwatching. Whatever the case may be, one of the first decisions you will have to make is what membership model to use. In this guide, we will define a membership structure, explain how it can benefit an organization, and share the steps to establishing one.

Let’s go! 

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What Is a Membership Structure?

A membership structure, also known as a membership model, is essentially a plan for how your members access the services and perks of your association. Your membership structure helps you to define membership levels, outline revenue sources, and hold group events. 

membership-structure-what-isEva is ready to learn all about membership structure!

Traditional businesses, nonprofit organizations, and professional associations all use a membership structure. A formal structure gives your group a certain level of organization that allows you to measure growth and progress while alleviating confusion. 


How the Right Membership Structure Can Benefit Your Club

There are any number of benefits to using a formal membership structure to run your club. Some of them include:

  • By charging monthly membership dues, your club can enjoy a stable cash flow. You can use these dues to fund membership events and pay a membership director.

  • With membership tiers, you open the door to further revenue opportunities. You can motivate members to choose the higher tier by offering exclusive merchandise, events, publications, and additional benefits.

  • Your organization can cultivate a better membership experience that leads to a higher retention rate. With regular events and communications, your stakeholders feel valued and heard.


How to Create Your Membership Structure: 5 Simple Steps

Now that you have a better understanding of membership structures, let’s take a look at how to build your model. 

Step #1: Define Your Purpose

An important first step in the process is taking a hard look at what your organization is all about. You will need a membership mission statement as well as defined values and goals. 

membership-structure-how-to-createEmily is putting pen to paper and digging in on her nonprofit's purpose!

For example, let’s say you are launching an organic cooking group. What might motivate individuals to join such a group? This membership might offer value under three categories:

  • Social: discussions with like-minded people 

  • Educational: access to recipes and tutorials 

  • Financial: discounts on organic brands

By understanding just who you are serving, you can offer membership benefits that will keep your target audience engaged. 

Step #2: Check In With Your Members

Now that you have a strong idea of who your stakeholders are, it is time to check in with them to create a membership structure that aligns with their values. A useful way to start is to send out a survey to your current members asking if the club mission and activities are in alignment with their desires. Ask new members if they have anything unique to add. You can then make any necessary adjustments. 

For example, you may find that members of your organic cooking group are not interested in vegan cooking. You can then steer away from vegan recipes. 

Step #3: Give Shape to Your Membership Structure

Now let’s take it a step further. How will you structure your membership? Will you offer free or paid subscriptions? Will there be multiple membership categories? And if there are, how will members reach the highest tiers? Are the higher tiers only reserved for those who can afford to contribute the most monetarily? Or, will you allow for more flexibility by granting members access to higher tiers if they become volunteers or help out in other ways? 

If you offer multiple membership tiers, each one should have distinct perks. You can have a free subscription that grants people access to the nonprofit membership program itself and then higher tiers that give members special educational material and merchandise.

Step #4: Check the Math

If you decide to base part of your revenue on membership fees, it is essential to set the right price. To determine this golden mean:

  • Look at similar clubs in your area to see what they are offering their members in terms of benefits and prices.

  • Create a budget for your club by considering both necessary expenses and future goals. Use this budget to determine how much you would need to charge in dues to keep the club operational.

  • See how you can swap financial dues for other resources. Perhaps the skills some of your members offer allow them to enjoy the perks of the highest tier in exchange for a valuable service.

Step #5: Create and Launch Your Marketing Plan 

Now that you have a formal membership model in place, it is time to spread the word and reach those who would find value in joining. Create consistent messaging and branding to engage these potential members. 

Start with a mobile-friendly, informative website. This is your organization’s hub. It lays out your club’s vision, mission, and values and keeps your members up to date on events, deals, announcements, and other opportunities.

In addition to the membership website, also figure out the best way to communicate with your members. You might start by sending out a survey to ask about their communication preferences. Some questions to ask these club members include: 

  • Do they prefer being contacted by email, mail, or social media? 

  • What social media platform is most relevant to them?

  • How often do they want to hear from you?

  • What are they interested in hearing about?

Pro Tip: Investing in membership management software can automate the communication process for you. All-in-one softwares, such as Springly, give you the ability to build a system that works for your club with website hosting, membership management, marketing planning, and a number of other tools to help boost your club’s success. 


Final Thoughts 

Starting a members-only club or organization is an exciting way to meet with others who share your passion. Ensure its success by taking the time to create and implement a membership structure that makes sense. Use our tips and steps as a launching pad. 

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💡What is a membership structure?

A membership structure defines the membership program of an organization. It establishes how many membership tiers there are, what the membership dues look like, how frequent member communications are, and more. Find out more. 

🔑 Why is a membership structure important for my club?

If you charge dues for your membership tiers, you create an opportunity to garner valuable revenue. Additionally, by establishing a regular cadence of communications and events, you keep members involved and happy, which can improve your retention rate. Find out more. 

📝 How do I structure my organization’s membership?

It is up to you. You may decide to keep your membership informal and free. For more structure and revenue, you can create paid membership levels. Find out more.


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