Membership Programs: 5 Perks to Engage More Volunteers

Jul 2, 2018

A nonprofit’s members and volunteers are two groups of supporters that tend to overlap, at least to an extent. Your most dedicated volunteers are likely already part of your membership program and enjoy using their spare time to support your work.

This overlap represents the fruits of all your hard work at engaging donors!

Increasing that overlap between your membership and volunteer programs is a great goal for any organization. After all, strong engagement is the best investment you can make in effective stewardship and building lasting relationships with your most important supporters.

Inspire your members to volunteer, your volunteers to become members, and your regular donors to join either group. This is crucial for keeping your engagement strategies relevant for your growing base of support.

Consider these key tips for engaging volunteers with membership perks, and think about the ways you could adapt them to your nonprofit’s specific goals:

  1. Immediate membership perks
  2. Exclusive event strategies
  3. Unique digital benefits
  4. Impact-boosting opportunities
  5. Personalized relationships

Before diving in and developing brand new cross-engagement strategies, take the time to ensure your membership software is up-to-date; the right tools can make a huge difference, so we’ll briefly discuss the digital resources that can help you pursue each tip listed here.

Ready to get started? Let’s go!

1. Immediate membership perks

Chances are most of your volunteers would be interested in joining your structured membership program, but you probably need to offer them more. After all, your volunteers clearly already believe in your mission and directly support your work by offering their time.

You’ll need to convince them to make that upgrade. The best way to convince loyal volunteers to become members? Offer some immediate perks.

There are a few ways you might provide some immediate incentives for volunteers to get involved with your membership program. Offer them:

  • Discounted membership dues. Those who volunteer very regularly, or reach a certain hour threshold, can be made eligible for reduced dues or even free basic membership.
  • Free tickets or merchandise. If your nonprofit hosts a popular annual event, offer your volunteers free tickets if they choose to join as members.
  • Unique volunteering opportunities. Invite your most dedicated volunteers to get involved at your high-profile fundraising events or campaign brainstorming sessions.

An immediate benefit like one of these might be just the right push to convince a dedicated volunteer to make the move into your membership program!

Tools for this engagement strategy:

The best way to ensure that your system can easily process these built-in perks is to focus on CRM integration.

If you take the time to track your volunteer data along with donor data, a native Salesforce membership management app like Fonteva will make it easier than ever to configure and automate these perks.

2. Exclusive event strategies

Hosting special events just for members is a classic tactic for more generally incentivizing donors to upgrade their support. You already have plenty of experience planning and hosting successful events, so focus this strategy on your more specific engagement goals.

You can use exclusive events to encourage volunteers to join your membership program (or encourage members to volunteer!) in a number of ways, including:

  • Unique thank-you events just for volunteers. These are a perfect opportunity to explain all the benefits and perks of your membership program.
  • Special events and opportunities for member-volunteers. Your members who also regularly donate their time require special thanks.
  • Exciting members-only events staffed by volunteers. Get your volunteers interested in joining by getting them even more involved, from planning to hosting major events.

By focusing on increasing engagement across your volunteer and membership programs, you can seriously boost the effectiveness of your fundraising and thank-you events! Think about what each group values most about their relationship with your nonprofit and the ways in which each primarily interacts with your work.

Tools for this engagement strategy:

Make full use of the wealth of data in your CRM! Planning Salesforce events that specifically target one subset of your supporters, for instance, is easy when you’re able to draw directly from your database as you plan out specifics.

3. Unique digital benefits

A membership program with exclusive or tiered benefits is the perfect context for creating and sharing exclusive online content and offers, too!

Your team already puts plenty of effort into maintaining smart social media marketing strategies to keep donors and followers engaged with your work. Keep some of those same strategies in mind when brainstorming some unique digital benefits and content that can serve to convince volunteers to become members (or convince members to volunteer).

Consider offering your supporters online perks like these:

  • Members-only email newsletters with interviews and announcements
  • Volunteers-only updates and video content from successful projects
  • Exclusive discounts on online purchases of merchandise and tickets
  • Special online training courses or webinars for member-volunteers
  • Online discounts on annual membership renewal for loyal volunteers

Get creative as you brainstorm new online perks to include in your membership program. Reach out to your top volunteers to learn more about what kind of digital content and offers they’d most appreciate to get started.

Tools for this engagement strategy:

You’ll need a membership management software that lets you easily create and manage access to all these perks. Software that integrates with (or is native to) your CRM platform will go a long way to make this process even easier.

Most importantly, ensure your data foundation is secure! Regularly clean your database and keep it tidy to ensure you’re getting the most use from all your digital tools.

4. Impact-boosting opportunities

The opportunity to easily boost their positive impact on your nonprofit’s work can be a major motivator for donors, members, and volunteers alike! Brainstorm ways to bring new opportunities to their attention.

This can be an excellent strategy for encouraging upgrades to memberships or increasing involvement in volunteer projects! Here’s a perfect example: corporate philanthropy programs.

Let’s look at 3 strategies for increasing engagement using corporate giving as a motivator:

  • To encourage more volunteers to become members, promote matching gifts! Donations to nonprofits, including membership dues, can be matched by employers with programs in place.
  • To encourage members to become active volunteers, tell them about volunteer grants! Employers may similarly award grant funds to the nonprofits that their employees regularly support by volunteering.
  • Consider tying membership tiers to volunteered hours! Continue to offer your regular, paid tiered plan, but create an alternate tier based on volunteered time, as well. Study up on the programs of some top volunteer grant companies for ideas of how you might structure your plan.

Encourage engagement by raising awareness of the ways that supporters can significantly boost their impact. Oftentimes your top donors or volunteers will already be eligible to request a corporate grant for your nonprofit.

Tools for this engagement strategy:

There are plenty of great digital tools out there to help you maximize your corporate grant revenue. These include matching gift search tools, embeddable widgets to promote on your digital materials, and automated databases that can identify supporters eligible to request additional funds.

5. Personalized relationships

Building relationships is an essential part of stewardship, whether that means the gifts that donors have made to your organization or the time that loyal volunteers have devoted to supporting your projects and operations.

Inviting supporters to become more personally involved and invested can be a great strategy for boosting engagement with your membership and volunteer programs. This is especially true if many of your supporters are around retirement age or have free time to spare.

You might deepen your relationships with supporters through:

  • Invitations to special members-only tours of your offices and project sites
  • Small group gatherings and celebrations for your volunteer leaders
  • Regular meetings with groups of members and volunteers to field suggestions and feedback or discuss new plans
  • Personalized invitations for dedicated members to attend volunteering sites, or for loyal volunteers to attend a members-only event

Plus, building deeper relationships with your closest supporters can be a smart donor prospecting move! A personal relationship and sense of mutual gratitude goes a long way to encourage supporters to upgrade. A dedicated member might become your next major donor.

Tools for this engagement strategy:

If you’re unfamiliar with all the ways in which researching your prospects and building stronger relationships with your existing supporters can be useful for fundraising, start with this guide to donor research from Donorly.

Start studying up on prospect development techniques and gather some smart data resources!

Boosting cross-engagement between your membership and volunteer programs can be a challenge, but following a few smart strategies (and using the right tools) can make a huge difference.

Most importantly, remember that both groups deeply value your work! Always strive to express your gratitude as you show them that they can grow their impact even more by joining your membership program or getting more personally involved through volunteering.

Jake Fabbri
Jake Fabbri is the Vice President of Marketing at Fonteva with over 18 years of experience working in marketing management. He has experience with lead generation, content marketing, marketing automation, and events.