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Step 4 (continued). Membership - Annual Giving, Five Steps

Developing a solid base of membership is a process. There are five major steps:

  1. Identification. People who are likely to become annual members:
    • Attend your program and events
    • Are members of similar organizations
    • Are friends or family of the board, staff, or volunteers
    • Are sponsors or donors to your special events
    • Have benefited from the work of your organization
    Volunteers are also a reliable source of donations. Households that volunteered gave substantially more than households that did not volunteer. For giving households, the average contributions were $2295 from volunteers and $1009 from non-volunteers in 2000.
  2. Research. Make sure you know your constituency and who may be likely to support your cause. Also know why they would be likely to give. The top ten reasons people give to an organization are:
    • Belief in your mission
    • A sense of pride in and responsibility for your community
    • Respect for staff leadership
    • Respect for the institution's work
    • Regard for the volunteers
    • Serve on the board or committee
    • History of involvement
    • Influence of the solicitor
    • Great interest in a particular project
    • Fiscal stability of the organizationGraphic showing two people shaking hands.

  3. Cultivation. Involve your potential members in your organization by sending them newsletters or annual reports, inviting them to special events, and providing opportunities to see your work and volunteer. Allow them a chance to get to know you and your organization.
  4. Solicitation. If you have done the previous three steps, the solicitation itself should not be difficult (a good rule of thumb is that 80-90% of your time should go in researching, while 10-20% in the actual asking). New members can be recruited in a variety of ways, including:
    • Direct appeals, either face-to-face or through letters
    • Small, more targeted mailings of personalized letters to individuals likely to be interested in your group.
    • Recruitment events (i.e. house parties, educational workshops, field trips)
    • Information booths at events
    • Holiday gift membership packets or limited-time membership premiums (e.g., raffle ticket or sticker)
    • Graphic showing a flower pot with a single flower in it and the words "Thank you" above it. Your organization's Web site

  5. Stewardship. Make sure that you thank people for their support! Members must feel like they receive benefits. It is important to:
    • Thank your members for all donations, even small ones.
    • Recognize your members publicly, either at events or in publications
    • Keep them informed about your work on regular basis
    • Invite them to all public events

You may also want to hold special "members only" events or provide members with gifts such as t-shirts, tote bags, or mugs.

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