Sunday, July 5, 2009

Charity membership - is it viable?

For industry bodies and professional associations using membership as a tool to generate revenue, provide an “opt in” customer base for products and to give it a stronger voice when lobbying is a logical step. For charities and other public benefit organisations it is somewhat different. Membership is just one of many tools that can be used to both generate revenue and to gather a database of people interested in supporting your organisation. If you are thinking of a membership structure for your organisation then you may like to consider the following:
  • Use appropriate language - If you need members to contribute funds, time or other resources to the cause consider calling them “supporters” rather than “members”. When you use the term “member” it creates the perception that the member will be receiving a personal benefit. If this is not the case then consider using the term “supporter” which more clearly defines their role within your organisation.

  • Consider the return from the investment – Membership is an expensive and time consuming tool, but it can reap substantial rewards when structured correctly. Sit down and work out the objectives you wish to achieve (eg: to generate funds, to build a database of potential donors and volunteers, etc). Identify all potential tools that could be used to achieve those objectives and the investment that each requires. In some cases membership may not be the most effective tool. But in others, especially where implemented correctly, it can work beautifully.

  • Ensure you have the appropriate back-end support – You can greatly reduce the pressure that a membership structure puts on time and resources by implementing appropriate back-end support. The benefits of a good database that is fully integrated with your website cannot be underestimated. It will greatly reduce the staff time required to manage the database, increase your accuracy and provide you with information to more closely target your messages and generate greater returns from your marketing dollar. If you do decide to invest in a good database then it is essential that you take the time to ensure that it is implemented correctly. After all, a poor database implemented well will outperform a fantastic database implemented poorly.

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