What's a Nonprofit Membership Program? An FAQ Guide

Maximizing Nonprofit Membership Programs: Benefits, Structure, and Tools

June 20, 2023

Managing your nonprofit’s membership program can feel daunting, whether you’re managing an existing program or creating one from scratch. But they’re also one of the best ways to grow your nonprofit and diversify your revenue streams!

Nonprofit membership programs can help your organization raise money, build your network, and give members a louder voice in your organization or community. Read on to find out how a membership program can benefit your nonprofit.

What is a nonprofit membership program?

Nonprofit membership programs offer perks to your nonprofit’s supporters in exchange for their donations and support. Your organization advances its goals while members receive exclusive benefits in thanks for their help—everyone wins!

Nonprofit membership programs can take various forms. Here are just a few examples:

What are the benefits of nonprofit membership programs?

Here are just a few benefits of creating and running a nonprofit membership program:

  • Diversified and stable revenue stream. If your membership perks fit your donor base’s needs, odds are members will want to renew their membership! Offering perks to loyal supporters also leaves you more attention to focus on attracting new donations.
  • Opportunities to grow donor support through tiers. Donor tiers create increasing levels of value for your members. The more value a tier offers, the more that membership is worth to donors—and the more donation revenue comes your way!
  • New avenues for donor engagement. A membership program makes reaching out to your donor base easier. Open lines of communication with your membership go a long way toward developing a better—and more customized—member experience!
  • Opportunities to create special appreciation and engagement events. An event showing appreciation to your members can be a great opportunity to showcase your organization’s initiatives and develop donor loyalty.

How do I determine the best structure for my program?

Membership programs take many forms: flat fee models with standardized benefits, tiered models with varying benefits by tier, and something in between.

Knowing which membership model is right for your organization depends not only on your organization’s mission but also its budget and donor base. Here are some factors to consider when structuring your membership program:

  • Your organization’s goals. Are you trying to reach a certain fundraising target? Attract new members or donors? Develop new methods of donor outreach?

  • Benefits. What kind of benefits will your nonprofit offer members? Are they physical, digital, event-based, or a combination? What will they cost to produce, host, or send out?

  • Dues and tiers. Once you know the cost of your benefits, you can set benefit tiers. Do you have enough benefits to offer multiple tiers, or is a flat structure right for you?

  • Target audience. Apply all knowledge you have about your donor base and community. Are these dues within your donors’ usual giving threshold? Do these rewards make sense for your donors’ priorities?

If you’re redesigning an existing membership program, consider seeking input from existing members on their wants and needs from benefits and tiers. You can also survey prospective members for a new membership program!

What tools will I need to run the program?

Here are just a few tools to help you run a nonprofit membership program:

  • Member management software. Member management software not only keeps track of your members, but also member demographics, preferences, and their history with your organization. It also functions as a convenient way to communicate with your members!
  • Money management. Services like DipJar are perfect for dues collection, complete with support for donation campaigns.
  • Website builders. A good nonprofit website provides information about your organization’s mission and successes. It should also list your membership tiers!
  • Member portals. Members-only sites can be great places for members to connect and receive membership perks. They can also facilitate easy membership renewal
  • Communication tools. Members-only forums and bulletin boards can build community, drive engagement, and get the word out about your organization’s donation campaigns and membership drives.

Look for member management tools offering mutual integration capabilities to get the most value from member information. With integrations, you’ll be able to analyze big-picture trends or access individuals’ history with your organization in the same place!

How do I effectively grow my membership?

Growing your membership relies not only on acquiring new members but on retaining the members you already have. Before starting a new membership drive, make sure your organization has these key retention strategies down:

  • Member experience. How are new members welcomed? How are communications throughout the membership experience? Is it easy to access perks? Are these factors being actively monitored by your organization?
  • Provide real value. Remember that perks are only really perks if they match the wants and needs of your donor base and community. Do your perks have your donor base in mind?

  • Collect feedback. Soliciting feedback from members is the number one way to make sure perk supply is matching demand. A member needs assessment is a fantastic way to learn about the wants and needs of your donor base!
  • Show your appreciation. In a note, dispatch, or a whole event, make sure members know how valued their continued support of your organization truly is!

Once you’ve got retention down, you can start thinking about growing your membership. Outside of membership drives, the key to membership growth is promotion and communication. This might look like:

  • Clearly articulating membership benefits
  • Measuring the impact driven by unrestricted membership dues
  • Encouraging word-of-mouth promotions
  • Collecting testimonials
  • Multi-channel communications strategy, including social media
  • Offering special or limited-time perks for new sign-ups

Stronger communications, a stabler revenue stream, and a loyal donor base are just a few benefits of nonprofit membership programs.

But the real benefits of a membership program are to your members! A great membership program is customized, adaptable, and bears member experience in mind. Read more on nonprofit membership programs to make sure your program is the best it can be.


Content Marketing Manager

Sonia Urlando is the Content Marketing Manager at Personify for the WildApricot and MemberClicks brands. In the content she creates, she is passionate about putting people at the heart of the story.


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