Here are suggestions from several nonprofits that recently took a fresh look at their member benefits and are making improvements to differentiate their member offering.
Be Proactive. Noelle Pina, Executive Director of the Orleans Chamber of Commerce, has spent the past year reviewing the Chamber’s member benefits with an eye toward improving the overall member experience. “Our list of tangible member benefits has grown,“ says Pina, “and we’ve created a game plan for members to best use their chamber membership. This includes sending a welcome packet and scheduling one-on-one meetings. We’ve also tried to be proactive by adding new events, online tools and networking opportunities for our members.” In addition to these improvements, the Chamber recently added a new Mini Business Expo this year with several members reporting that they closed business as a result of their involvement. “A future goal of mine,” says Pina, “is to also add New Member Receptions to our calendar, and provide quarterly meetings for new members to learn about their membership and meet other new members.”
Leverage Your Brand Champions. Cultivating champions of their organization and brand is part of the work of every nonprofit and business. “There are champions of your brand who truly appreciate the hard work you do and will support your organization with time, talent or treasure,” says Pina. “Over the years, we’ve cultivated great relationships with our local supporters. In 2017, we plan to deepen our connection by telling the stories of selected member/champions through member spotlights and retail spotlights—leading to an attraction of similar businesses to the Chamber. In this way, we can also cultivate referrals from our current members by publicly thanking them for supporting us.”
Schedule a One-On-One Membership Review Meeting: The best way to engage new members, including other nonprofits and business owners is to have a face-to-face meeting with them annually to review their promotional goals for the organization. With this approach, you can more easily make the case that your organization’s member benefits (or sponsorships) can help members reach many of their promotional goals. This takes a bit of pre-planning before the meeting. However, it but can be very productive for strengthening the member relationship, addressing the member’s promotional goals, and paving the way for potential sponsorships down the road. In addition, as many organizations traditionally spend a significant amount of money on advertising that often yields minimal results, you’ll be helping members by providing a more tailored promotional program through their membership.
Launch a Dedicated Membership Committee. Cape Cod Young Professionals’ Executive Director, Anne Van Vleck, understands the importance of having a dedicated membership committee for their nonprofit. CCYP recently launched a new membership committee that attends the organization’s monthly and annual events, such as the popular, Back to Business Bash, to proactively cultivate new members, and answer membership questions for existing members. This year, CCYP also created an ‘at-a-glance’ membership and sponsorship rack card available at all events. The membership committee uses these to quickly engage potential members, and explain the benefits of membership that relate to their business or nonprofit.
Leverage Your Facility: Lauren Wolk, Assistant Executive Director of The Cultural Center of Cape Cod, is in a unique position to leverage her recently expanded facility that now includes a commercial kitchen, large meeting and performance space, and art, photography and recording studios. With these improvements, Wolk is able to offer creative opportunities for members to gain visibility for their organization and build employee teams. Per Wolk, this year The Cultural Center hosted several team-building events including paint and wine nights for company employees, a variety of business seminars and various client appreciation events. Banks and other Chambers of Commerce and networking groups such as BNI also use The Cultural Center to hold regular monthly meetings.
Think Like a Business Owner. Business owners are always looking for creative ways to gain visibility for their companies through a nonprofit’s network and member benefits. Owners are more likely to become a member of a nonprofit that understands what they’re looking for to promote their business. “Supporting a nonprofit that can help me rally their network of supporters to learn more about my business makes it easier for me to make the investment,” comments Dales Shadbegian, Principal of 118Group, a Cape-based web design and social media firm. Shadbegian says he looks for value in a business membership that includes at a minimum free or reduced passes at events, a link on the organization’s website and social media and e-newsletter mentions or spotlights. “If the organization also sponsors interesting events where I can bring a client, friend, child or close relative, the more likely I am to become a member, and be actively involved,’ concludes Shadbegian. “This way, I can balance a business activity with a more social one.”