5 Ways To Grow Your Nonprofit’s Membership Base

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. 

1. Member Referrals 

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. 

2. Email Marketing

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. 

3. Using Your Website

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:

  • Make sure the navigation bar of your website is brief and clear. Consider adding a button that says “Become a Member” or “Join Today” on your main navigation.
  • Create an easy-to-complete membership application form, and make it easy to find on your website. 
  • Try adding some visual elements to your homepage. People love pictures or videos of your real members and partners if you have them. 
  • Update your website regularly with new information, invites to events, opportunities to donate, etc. 

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. 

4. Facebook

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: 

  • Build a dedicated Facebook group page to link to in emails and on your website. 
  • Create Facebook ads that you can target towards profiles that look like your current member profiles. 
  • See if you can spend a little money to make sure your ad is promoted and seen by a lot more people through sponsored ads.
  • Make sure your Facebook page acts as an extension to your website. If you’ve shared a donor testimonial on your website, share a shorter version over Facebook. Ask your Facebook followers what they’d like to see at your next virtual event. Let your brand and personality shine through. 

 5. Partnership with Other Organizations 

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 —

  • Asking them to share about your organization on their Facebook page
  • Promoting an urgent need or referral program for each other in your newsletter
  • Hosting a virtual event together
  • Interviewing each other’s staff and volunteers and featuring them in an email

Remember, community over competition, especially in a year where we can all use a helping hand. 

Keep on Growing, Even When Times are Tough

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. 

membership base

Tatiana Morand

Tatiana Morand is the SEO Manager at Wild Apricot, where she helps nonprofits, clubs, and associations grow their membership and their revenue by creating actionable, helpful content. In her spare time, she likes playing video games, making specialty coffee, and relaxing with her cats.

January 4, 2021

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