What's in a Name?
You can be creative in determining the names you'll assign to each membership giving category, but donors will be drawn immediately to "tags" specific to your organization and related to your mission. You can also employ familiar categories such as, Friends, Benefactors, Pacesetters, etc., or designations such as "Individual," "Family," "Associate," or "Sustaining.
The Benefits of Offering Benefits
Donors everywhere have many opportunities to make meaningful contributions. Most choose to support those organizations whose missions resonate with their personal values.
While donors give mainly because they care about your organization, there's no reason to be shy about providing "perks" appropriate to contribution levels as tokens of appreciation. Doing so not only offers extra benefits and privileges to donors, but also provides an effective tool that increases confidence of volunteer solicitors approaching prospects, especially those of high value.
You'll want to structure membership levels and coinciding "perks" in cumulative fashion, with each higher level adding a benefit not available in levels below it.
Pluses and Minuses
When benefits or privileges have what the IRS describes as "market value," I urge you to disclose that value in your solicitation materials.
When you alert donors to what is and what is not tax-deductible, you can offer them the opportunity to accept membership but decline its "rewards." In this way, the full amount of the membership becomes tax-deductible as allowed by law.
What If My Organization Can't Offer Tangible Benefits?
A "What-your-gift-can-make-possible" strategy based on the estimated "cost" of various services increases the appeal of memberships when tangible perks are not feasible. For example:
- Six months of a scoutmaster's service to inner-city children.
- A week of computer training for a welfare mother preparing for employment.
- An education outreach program enriching the lives of 100 students.
- Wholesome and nutritious meals for 100 people per day at a food bank.
- Full, or partial, support of an educational scholarship program for needy and worthy students.
Remember, being creative about pulling these solicitation tools from your organization's budget, mission, programs, projects or services is symbolic, not literal. That is, we don't want to lead people to believe services won't be delivered unless they give their money. Rather, the concept is simply a technique that associates what specific good work will be supported by a specific level of support.
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