Membership relations were in sad shape when Dave Sumner arrived at the Museum of Performance & Design as Development Associate. "The membership had been neglected. Most of the information was in a database which was in bad shape and the program was unstable."
Sumner replaced the program with FundRaiser Select. "FundRaiser has helped me to organize the membership records and get on a track of regular renewal notification and gift tracking." MPDSF's mission is to collect, preserve, and make available materials documenting the history of the performing arts in the San Francisco Bay Area.
MPDSF has both members and non-members. "A donation isn't an automatic membership. People make donations without asking for membership. Membership indicates an additional level of loyalty. Our members support our exhibition programs and the events around those, such as the opening receptions. Also, some of our members are involved in securing higher donations, through networking. They go out of their way to bring new people in," says Sumner.
The benefits for members include free admission, special invitations to regular events, and the opportunity to participate in member-only events. Last year MPDSF added North American Reciprocal Museum Association membership as part of the benefits starting at the $125 level. "That encouraged a lot of our individual members to increase their giving level," says Sumner.
"Benefits do encourage people to give more. In the past year and half, with the benefit changes we've made, we've seen a lot of regular donors increasing their level." Benefits also take significant management. "Once you have memberships in place you constantly have to engage them and freshen things up. It requires time; it's a full time job."
To keep things fresh, "We revisit which benefits we are offering periodically. If we're going to seriously change our membership benefits, I sit down with our development director and work out what we are going to do and take that to our director. At that point, we fine tune what we want to do. Then we run it by the board. They rarely have problems with the decisions we are making."
Membership renewals are on an annual schedule. If a person signs up in April, then they are due again the following April. "We send out renewal notices two months prior to the expiration date. The third letter is sent the month the membership expires. If that goes unanswered, then we consider them a former member. At the end of a six month period, we send them a lapsed member letter. The six month lapsed letter has brought back several of the lapsed members. Sometimes they have a bit of conscience about having let their membership lapse, and they also increase their membership level or include an additional donation," says Sumner.
"FundRaiser works really well for managing membership renewals and solicitations and lapsed members," says Sumner.
An important part of membership management is keeping aware of changes in membership levels. For tracking and reporting purposes, Sumner says, "The most important thing is a member's giving from year to year, and whether they are increasing their membership level or including additional donations through out the year."
When they see a change in membership level Sumner follows up on it. "If we see an individual member has gone up to our second membership level, to associate member, then they get put into a group to solicit to sponsor a gallery event. We include that individual in an early mailing on sponsorship before the invitation goes out. It's also important to keep track of which events they are attending: are they coming to lectures and conversations, or going to awards events, or opening gallery receptions."
In retrospect, Sumner wishes he had started directly with FundRaiser Professional, instead of Select. Although membership management features are available in both Select and Professional, Pro adds a number of advanced features in other areas. He advises, "Once you are working with memberships and donations, you want those memberships to grow in number and in amount. If you're successful, then however you think you'll manage it today, six months down the line, you are going to grow into a larger more complex system."