This post was sponsored by Wild Apricot
Growing your membership is hard at the best of times, and with COVID-19, it might feel downright impossible. The good thing is the challenges of raising support and funds during a pandemic has forced organizations to get creative. We’ve heard of out-of-the-box approaches to virtual events that include live shadow performances, and even virtual performances that end up being hoaxes on the guests, which sound… interesting. Here are some ways to grow your nonprofit’s membership base.
As creative and memorable as those events may be, Wild Apricot’s recently released 2020 Membership Growth Report reveals that over 1000 other nonprofits, associations, and clubs are growing their membership in ways that are a little friendlier to your budget, your resources, and your members’ comfort levels.
Wondering what strategies actually work? Look no further! Here are 5 ways you can grow your membership — even while following good social distancing practices.
Getting members to refer their friends was the most effective membership growth strategy for organizations of all sizes. For potential members, this method works well because it has a built-in trust factor. They trust their family, friends, and colleagues to steer them towards causes that are responsible, transparent, and ethical.
On your end, member referrals are great because they often attract members that are more engaged and keep coming back and participating in some capacity year-after-year.
To build a membership referral program that works for your team and members, start by identifying your ideal member based on your current members. Then, you can start reaching out to this target audience by asking your members for referrals via letter, email, newsletters, etc.
SORA makes it clear and simple for members to refer people they know. They even offer an incentive.
With the holidays coming up, I’m sure you can think of eye-catching emails you’ve received sending you recommended products, holiday deals, end-of-the-year reviews, and opportunities to give. Email marketing is a tactic that’s popular in the consumer world but less so for nonprofits.
But now is the time to take a page out of the consumer marketing playbook by delivering value straight to your members’ inboxes. Consider giving away a resource to sign up for your newsletter (e.g, an ebook about what your organization has learned during COVID). Send an email including an interactive annual report. Tell your story through video testimonials.
In addition to an attention-grabbing subject line and engaging email content, it’s also important to include an easy way for someone to subscribe to your email list on your social media platforms and your website so you can keep them up-to-date. And if anyone has donated or volunteered, make sure you’re keeping them updated, too.
Habitat for Humanity of Florida included a simple infographic in their email that updated members on all the cool things they did throughout the year.
Not far behind word-of-mouth referrals and email campaigns, websites rank high for growing members and revenue.
Your website should be the home for all of the information someone needs to learn who you are, read about your mission and goals, and, of course, sign up to be a member. You don’t need a million-dollar website design to attract and convert members. Instead, you should focus on being clear and being authentic.
Here are some best practices for a winning website:
Church of the Redeemer chose a formal membership program to share gospel readings to the community and send emails with Zoom links for weekly, virtual Sunday services.
While social media wasn’t as high on the list of strategies for membership growth as we thought it may be, it’s still in the top 5. And we discovered that the type of social platform matters. Facebook ranked the highest for success in membership engagement and growth while Twitter ranked the lowest.
But it takes more than just Facebook posts, though regular posting is key. Here are a few things to help you get started reaching new members on Facebook:
Finally, we’ve heard that organizations are partnering with local or like-minded organizations to help promote one another and make their communities larger and more diverse.
There are many ways you can shape future partnership like —
Remember, community over competition, especially in a year where we can all use a helping hand.
Although membership growth can seem daunting, it’s not impossible. And it’s ok if membership growth isn’t your biggest priority this year. There are lots of other ways to grow your organization including improving engagement, honing in on the right technology and processes, recruiting new staff and volunteers, etc.
Whatever your growth goals, you can download the 2020 Membership Growth Report for more suggestions on which membership growth tactics to avoid, as well as more details about revenue growth for membership organizations.