In order to thrive in the future, associations must begin to attract younger audiences to become members. These are 5 strategies associations can...
Grow Your Membership: 7 Ways to Turn Advocates into Members
Is your nonprofit organization trying to increase its membership population? Learn our best tips with this informative guide and strengthen your community!
This guest post is by Jake Fabbri of Fonteva.
No matter if you’re part of a nonprofit or trade association, you know how vital it is to your continued success that you attract and retain members.
Your members are the people who keep your organization going: they attend your events, advocate for your cause,1 and finance your projects with their dues, merchandise purchases, and donations.
But they’re not your only supporters: you also have your army of advocates on your side. They’re the ones calling senators, tweeting at representatives, and signing petitions for your cause—and they’re especially important in the age of digital advocacy!
So how can you make sure that you’re taking care of your current members, while still attracting and recruiting new members? We’ve collected a list of our favorite tactics for turning your advocates into members. Those tips are:
Host events to get prospects interested.
Capture emails on your website with valuable content.
Simplify the path to membership.
Offer incentives for joining your membership program.
Engage prospects on social media.
Ask your current members for help.
Offer different types of memberships.
Taking these tips and individualizing them for your organization’s own style and community is a surefire way to ensure that you continue to grow your member population. If you’re ready to learn more about these strategies, let’s dive in!
1. Host events to get prospects interested.
A key way to convert interested individuals into fully-fledged members is to demonstrate the benefits they’ll receive if they purchase a membership. What are the most valuable resources that you offer your members?
To start, gauge where you might find prospects to turn into members. You might find them at rallies, parades, town halls, and volunteer events; networking with your members; or participating in non-member-exclusive events. Contact them and invite them to a members-only event!
They’ll be flattered that your organization has noticed them, and they’ll be intrigued to learn about what goes on at your exclusive events. Then, decide on an engaging members’ event2 to invite them to. Some interesting ideas are:
Hosting an educational experience. Advocates are passionate about learning more about their causes and networking with like-minded individuals. Introduce them to your members by hosting a panel, presentation, or TEDx event!
Hosting a member appreciation event. Showing potential members how well your organization treats their members is a strong way to incentivize them into joining.
Hosting an educational opportunity. Continuing education is an important part of many individual’s careers, especially in fields like healthcare or education, so offering this perk through your membership program can be a strong selling point.
Once you get the prospects to the event, make sure that members of your staff talk to them about any questions or concerns they might have, while also outlining all the great benefits of membership!
2. Capture emails on your website with valuable content.
The people that you’re most likely to succeed in converting into members are those who are interested in your organization’s mission or values. Therefore, finding people who are already engaged with your work is a key way to increase membership!
Use your website as a way to increase your contact list by offering interested individuals free resources in exchange for email addresses. These resources could include:
Articles on advocacy best practices
How-to lists about writing annual reports or project summaries
Information on fundraising or development strategies
Exclusive newsletters and updates around your driving issue
Anything that a nonprofit or advocacy professional could be interested in is fair game! Then, as you’re collecting email addresses, reach out to those people with more information about your organization and membership program!
Don’t limit yourself to just written resources, as well. Use webinars, podcasts, vlogs, or any other online collateral3 as the reward in your lead capture strategy.
3. Simplify the path to membership.
When considering the factors that might be keeping folks from joining your membership program, make sure to go back to the basics and check that joining is as easy as possible!
If your website doesn’t make it readily apparent how and where a visitor can sign up for a membership, you should implement some user experience best practices on your website.
Easy ways to direct website visitors directly to the membership sign-up page and increase sign-up rates include:
Adding a large, easy-to-read button on every page of your website that goes directly to the sign-up page
Including an educational resource about why purchasing a membership benefits both the member and the organization, as well as how to become a member
Offering a secure online payment processor, so that members can pay their entrance dues as soon as they decide to become a member
Including membership information in your calls-to-action during advocacy campaigns,4 to keep the option in the front of supporters’ minds
Don’t forget to optimize the URL to your membership sign-up page, so that you can include it on offline marketing materials as well. This means that it should be short and memorable, like a slogan or phrase.
Making it as easy as possible for individuals to become a member of your organization improves all aspects of your member recruitment strategy: all of your hard work earlier in the recruitment cycle pays off more when potential members aren’t turned off by a confusing website!
4. Offer incentives for joining your membership program.
In addition to the long-term incentives that your members receive after joining your program, consider offering immediate short-term benefits to members to incentivize them to join or renew their memberships right then and there.
To add a sense of urgency to your advertising campaigns for your membership program, offer time-sensitive benefits to your prospective members to incentivize them to sign up sooner.
These benefits could include:
A member’s rate to attend a high-value event
A free t-shirt and water bottle branded to your organization
A higher tier of membership for the price of a lower tier
A free course or webinar through your organization’s learning management system
Discounted yearly membership for verified volunteers and those who have worked with your past advocacy campaigns
The longer it takes someone to decide to sign up for membership with your organization, the higher the chances of them changing their minds. The cost of offering these benefits might worry you, but it shouldn’t: you can make up the difference in non-dues revenue later!5
By including time-sensitive benefits in your membership marketing strategy, you can convince prospects to join sooner so that they can take advantage of the offer.
5. Engage with prospects on social media.
When working to increase your member population, it’s vital to your strategy that you meet your potential members where they are. When you know where people who might be interested in your organization are spending their time on the internet, you can reach out directly.
Consider your target audience. Who does your organization interest the most? Things like age, gender, class, and occupation can all influence someone’s level of engagement with your cause. Then determine which social media platforms your target audience spends the most time on.
Here are some ways that you can use the most popular social media sites6 to interact with potential members:
Use pre-existing communities on Facebook to reach out to a wider audience. Find groups dedicated to causes similar or adjacent to yours and then reach out to the administrator about either joining the group and reaching out to members or submitting an informational graphic to the group’s Wall.
Hashtags on Twitter and Instagram are useful for tracking conversations. Search for hashtags related to your cause or industry and then reach out to users that participate in conversations using those hashtags. Join the conversation yourself, and increase your organization’s name recognition!
The inherent networking capabilities of LinkedIn make it a strong way to find potential members. Post valuable articles, join conversations in groups and on pages, and send messages to people that would be valuable additions to your membership population.
But these are just a few of the most popular platforms. Don’t be afraid to branch out and communicate via other websites as well! Engagement is the first step in building relationships with members, and social media makes online engagement easier than ever.
6. Ask your current members for help.
One of your most valuable resources when strengthening your membership recruitment strategies is your current member base! They are living proof that some of your previous tactics were effective.
The two easiest ways to ask them for help in increasing your member population are sending out surveys and asking them to refer friends.
When you need to judge how effective your marketing tactics are, ask those on whom they worked! Send out a survey to your member population and ask them questions like:
How did you hear about our membership program?
How long did it take you to decide to become a member?
How easy or hard was it to sign up?
What would you change about the process?
To ensure that you get enough responses to draw a statistically significant conclusion, offer a sweet incentive to anyone who submits the survey! This incentive could be something like a discount on a renewal, a free pin or water bottle,7 or even something like a submission in a raffle for a larger prize.
Learning from your current members can strengthen your recruiting strategy as well as strengthen your relationship with your existing members. You get to learn more about them, and they feel appreciated because you asked for their input.
The most effective marketing strategy of them all is word-of-mouth advertising. Unfortunately for organizations everywhere, this can be difficult. That’s where your existing members come in! They’ve already proven their dedication to your cause, so they’re the best people to advertise to others.
Ask your members to recruit their friends or colleagues to become members! This is an easy way to expand your organization’s professional and social circles as well as grow your member pool. Use your membership CRM8 to keep track of who referred whom.
You can even incentivize your members to recruit more friends by offering discounts, merchandise, or event tickets in exchange for referrals.
7. Offer different types of memberships.
Even the greatest marketing strategy in the world won’t convert some advocates into full members if the membership dues are too expensive.
That’s why your organization should consider offering tiers of memberships, so that many different people can participate in your membership program, regardless of cost. You can then segment your population9 by tier to specialize your advocacy campaigns, too!
The most common set-up for membership tiers is a three-tiered system: basic, middle, and premium. Each tier comes with different perks and offers for different costs. This way, you can offer memberships to different people and they can upgrade and downgrade as they need!
This also has the added bonus of allowing people who aren’t totally sure about joining your organization the opportunity to try things out.
They can start at the lowest tier to dip their toes in the water, and either upgrade or leave once they’ve decided how they feel. And don’t forget to send them a new member welcome gift!10
However, once they see how much a membership with your organization can benefit them, we’re sure that they’ll decide to upgrade.
With these 7 tips, you can now strengthen your organization’s member recruitment tactics. Plus, you can engage with your existing advocate population on a deeper level to encourage them to become full members!
For more tips about membership programs, social media, or communication, check out some of our favorite resources: