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

Do you know the difference between the 2 types of nonprofit membership programs?


Membership 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.

The most important features in your donor database for benefit-driven memberships

The most important features in your donor database for benefit-driven memberships are ones that help you

  • follow up on membership due dates
  • track benefits
  • watch for signs that certain members may have an interest in being more deeply involved in your organization

In FundRaiser, these are found in the Membership Management module in FundRaiser Spark, Select and Professional.

Benefit-driven memberships usually last for a year and need to be renewed. Key to understanding the challenges of benefit-driven memberships is understanding that  members usually will not renew unless they are reminded, even if they value their membership. To keep a thriving membership program you will need to be proactive by sending out renewal letters.

Using the features in the membership module you can track membership levels, joining and expiration dates, and membership benefits.

Category codes associated with the membership module, as well as the general category code, will allow yout to segment donors according to membership level, expiration date, benefits, and length of membership.

These details can be easily integrated with automated correspondence so that you can send out timely renewal letters. You can determine who you want to include based on expiration dates, membership codes, and more. Letter templates and the membership merge fields let you automatically include specific membership information in your letters such as expiration dates, dues amounts, and even the length of time someone has been a member.

Last, but certainly not least, you can see indications of donor commitment. In particular, membership reports allow you to tell which donors are increasing their membership level, and how long they have been members. This information can then be used to identify major donor prospects or other areas of greater commitment to the mission of your organization.

The most important features in your donor database for recognition-driven memberships

For philanthropic memberships, the most important features are ones that allow you to

  • identify major donor prospects
  • provide donor solicitors with background information on the people they approach for donations
  • help in following through on commitments you make, such as putting up a name plaque on the wall of recognition in the lobby of your new building

All of these features are integral to any good donor management system. This is core development work. Features needed to manage philanthropic memberships are the nuts and bolts of FundRaiser: the ones that help you identify major donor prospects and successfully ask them for larger gifts.

Basic donor and prospect information is found in the donor records where it is easy to access and update. Those who are making the ‘ask’, such as donor solicitors, will need as much information about each donor as you can give them. Not just name, address, and phone number, but their giving history, previous contacts, notes and more are all important.

Tools such as category codes and queries allow you to segment the data. Some kinds of information that you might look for through good segmentation of your donor database would be who has given at a certain level in the past year. FundRaiser keeps track of all donations, so you can create segments based on giving totals during a specified time period. In addition, FundRaiser Select and Professional have specific gift codes that allow you to easily track what motivated a gift, if the gift is earmarked for a particular purpose, and who the gift solicitor was.

Reports allow you to get an overview and analyze what is going on with your philanthropic membership efforts. Specific reports related to donor solicitation can be especially helpful. Armed with the proper information, your solicitors will be better prepared to ask for gift amounts that are in line with past giving, as well as thanking them for past giving using accurate figures.

Using your donor database to increase membership retention

Whether benefit-driven or recognition-driven, both types of members have shown by their membership a common desire to support your organization. When you follow up in a timely manner with renewals and communications and when you follow through on providing the promised benefits and recognition, your members will feel satisfied. FundRaiser is there to help you with these essential membership tasks.

To learn more about how FundRaiser can help your organization with its membership management

Explore the Membership Management Module in FundRaiser



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