FundRaiser Blog

The FundRaiser Software Blog is an excellent resource for nonprofit organizations looking to learn more about fundraising, donor management, membership management, and much more.

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My nonprofit experience has been limited to membership groups, and in my training, I’ve discovered this is an area in which FundRaiser excels. All three versions of FundRaiser (Spark, Select, and Professional) have the ability to manage members, though in Select it is an optional module. The process is very similar in all three versions as well.

When you enter a gift the type can be marked membership dues. This triggers the system to set up a new membership where you can input the type (family or individual), any benefits, and double check the renewal date. As an organization, you can choose how you want the memberships to renew and any default benefits as part of the settings. In fact, you can print membership cards.

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Dear Kim,

I am the director of a very small nonprofit organization that provides programs and services to adoptive families. We are considering starting a membership program. I really don’t know where to start. Levels? Benefits? Any suggestions?

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Dear Kim,

I am the director of a membership nonprofit and our board is thinking about changing us to a non-member organization to help us refocus our efforts to serve our clientele, clean up organizationally and become more streamlined and efficient. Would this be a mistake and how tough is it to do this? What is the real question we should be asking ourselves to help determine whether we should be a non-member or member nonprofit?
—Members Only

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Dear Kim,

I sit on the advisory committee of a regional program whose mission is to fight racism and educate the public about celebrating diversity. They are hoping to increase their coffers by starting a membership program. I agreed to do some research into:

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Membership programs may have many practical benefits, but the biggest benefit to an organization is their potential to increase donor loyalty. Someone who sees herself as a member of an organization will generally feel more ownership and involvement in an organization than someone who sees herself just as a donor, even if the member never has any more concrete involvement than simply giving money.

In addition, enrolling a donor as a member gives a concrete reason for sporadic donors to become regular donors, at least once a year when their membership renewal comes due.

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Those who can, do. Those who can do more, Volunteer. Once you have established the basics of your campaign, you'll need to develop a plan for attracting members, (personal solicitations, direct mail, events, etc.). You'll also need to develop and produce the materials needed to support your plan (Case for support, brochures, letters, event and meeting invitations, instructions, PR material, etc., as well as to provide necessary campaign information and related materials for the volunteer campaign team of leadership and solicitors. (Such working examples are often easily obtained from other organizations).

Recruiting Your Solicitation Team

Job #1 is the identification and recruitment of a volunteer leader for the membership campaign. If no such candidate emerges from the board, seek a strong supporter from the business community—preferably someone with sales and marketing skills—and influence.

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There is no medicine like hope, no incentive so great

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.

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Contact lapsed donors as part of your membership programRead part 1 of this series, Membership Campaigns: The "How-To"

In part 2 on building a membership program, you'll learn how to prepare to ask your members to move up the giving ladder.

Creating a Reality-Based Gift Chart

Compile an A to Z listing of all current donors and  lapsed donors—no more than three years (excluding those whose reason for lapsing is known).

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Give Thanks for Unknown Blessing Already On the WayYou want to introduce a membership campaign, preferably as part of the Annual Fund Campaign. Your objective is an expanded and reliable base of donors who renew their support year after year.

Good thinking. Give yourself a pat on the back: An effective membership campaign can be one of your greatest assets and building it requires little more than a dose of common sense and strategic approach.

The Purpose Of a Membership Campaign

Philanthropy-driven, recognition-based, membership campaigns are proven and effective tools used to convert prospects into donors, to increase the size of gift, and to build and strengthen relationships. They are one of the most useful solicitation methods fund-raising managers have.

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The art of living lies in the fine mingling of letting go and holding on Dear Kim:

We are in the middle of a debate in our organization regarding the next step to take. What are the clear differences between monthly giving and membership programs? Does one favor a different demographic?

-Comparing Apples and Orange Juice

Dear Fruity:

Monthly giving is a strategy that allows people to give bigger gifts by spreading the payment of the gift out over several months. People who want to do more for an organization often love a monthly giving program, as it is a fairly painless way to become a significant donor. A monthly giving program can be offered to members, to donors, to major donors, and it is not at all in opposition to membership. They complement each other; in fact, one is usually a strategy for promoting the other. The idea of membership appeals to people who want to have a feeling of ownership in the organization. In some membership groups, such as unions, the members are involved in all the decisions that are made (or should be, anyway.) In others, a member is largely a name describing a donor. (What a member means is established in the by-laws of the organization.)

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Summer is almost upon us, officially, although many of us have been experiencing summer-like weather already, and there are some great things about summer that need to be pointed out from time to time.  I was talking with a friend the other day and the conversation somehow wound around to how I've always been a bit envious of those who don't wear prescription glasses, and I'm looking forward to cataract surgery that will also correct my distance vision.  This means I'll be able to buy cheap sunglasses for the first time in my life.  I'll have options, choices, and decisions to be made regarding the size, style, color, and so on, that I've never had before, since I've been wearing prescriptions since I was 9 or 10.  What an epiphany!  Where is that rack of $1.00 sunglasses??  I can't wait!

 

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Acknowledging the abundance that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance. Dear Kim:

I have often heard and others say that when you are asking for money, you need to name an amount or a range.  I feel uncomfortable doing this, and I think some of my donors do not like being asked for a specific amount.  I work with a lot of donors who are deeply religious and look to GOD to tell them what to give, not me.  Can I violate this best practice and still be successful?

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Understanding nonprofit membershipsMembership initiatives can be a powerful way for your organization to increase donor loyalty and the size of gifts... but what do you actually mean when you say 'membership'? In fact, two very different types of outreach efforts are both called 'memberships' and they are managed in very different ways. Different staff skills are needed for each, as well as different donor database features. Understanding the differences between the two main types of membership will help you create a thriving outreach effort.

The two main types of memberships are...

  • Benefit-driven memberships where donors give more money to receive greater benefits. Often these are used during membership drives. Often, there are several membership 'levels', with higher donations amounts bringing more valuable benefits/premiums/privileges.
  • Recognition-driven memberships where donors give money and receive recognition, such as a wall plaque, engraved brick, or even a named building. These are also called 'philanthropic memberships'. They are a development tool, used to convert  prospects into donors and to increase the size of gifts.These also often are offered in levels, with greater donation amounts offering greater recognition.

How donor management differs between the two types of memberships

In a nutshell, donor management of benefit-driven memberships depends on keeping track of lots of different pieces of data, and following up in a timely manner on those bits of data. It is in fact, very much like accounting. Donor management of recognition-driven memberships relies on the tools that help you build relationships. It relies more on the people-side of development work.

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Choose the features you need at a price that fits

The membership Management Module is available in 3 out of 4 FundRaiser Software levels, excepting only the entry-level FundRaiser Basic.  Which of the others (Spark, Select, or Professional) you choose amy depend on a combination of price and features available.  As the official "Tour Guide" for our online tours of the software, I always recommend starting at the least expensive level that has the features you absolutely must have, and working up from there in the future.  Sasha's recent blog does a great job painting the general picture of what the Membership Module can help you do, but in this installment, I'll explain the three versions that can manage memberships, starting with the least expensive and ending with the most versatile.  For a quick view, you can visit the comparison chart found here.

 

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Making members feel ike stars Key to a thriving membership organization, is giving each member the sense that they are your most important. How can you do that, when members have different reasons for joining and different preferences for how you communicate with them? Your donor database can be your closest ally. With it, you can tune in to what it is that motivates a person to be a member, and record special preferences. That will help you to give each member the sense that you have them specifically in mind when you communicate with them, even as your membership continues to grow.

1. Make each member feel like they are your most important member

In a donor database, each donor/member has a record where you can enter information that is specific to that member. These specifics can be as basic as name and contact information, however to truly personalize your communications you need to go well beyond that. By recording information on what is important to a particular member about your organization, you can tailor your messages to speak to those interests. If you know what brought a member to your organization to begin with, what events each person participates in, and what friends, business associates or relatives of a particular member also belong to your organization, you are well on your way to understanding how to best connect with a particular member. 

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Benefits of a Membership ProgramIn order to create a strong membership program, there are  four basic questions you need to be think through in order for things to run smoothly. Knowing the answers will get a new membership program off to a strong start; or help clear up problems in one that is already established. Either way-- whether you are new to membership management or needing to strengthen one you already have, knowing the answers to these questions creates a solid foundation:

  • What role do you want people to play in your organization who are not board or staff?

  • What should be the base membership fee?

  • What benefits should you offer to members?

  • How can you best manage joining and expiration of membership?

1.  What role do you want people to play in your organization who are not board or staff?

The answer to this question helps you decide whether you actually need or want a membership program at all! There are many benefits to a membership program but it will also be additional work to keep it running smoothly. Will this extra work be worth it to you?

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