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10 Member Appreciation Day Ideas + 6 Quick Steps to Show You Care!

Author: Sonia Urlando
July 21, 2023
🕑 10 min read

No matter who you are or what you do, it feels good to know that you’re appreciated. In the nonprofit world, there are a whole lot of people to be grateful for: your staff, your board, your volunteers—and of course, your members.

Want to show those members how thankful you are for their support? Then it’s time to hold a member appreciation day!

In this article, we’ll review:

Let’s get started!

Why Member Appreciation Matters

While making people happy is a good enough reason to say thank you, showing member appreciation also benefits your organization in a few unique ways.

  1. Welcome new members. Showing appreciation with a warm welcome is the first step towards renewal. According to the 2022 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report, associations with renewal rates at or above 80% often provide a welcome kit or phone call to new members.
  2. Boost member engagement. Showing member appreciation doesn’t just help with retention, it can also entice them to become volunteers! Donated time and energy is just as valuable as those monthly dues.
  3. Get feedback about their experience. Feedback is a key part of the member journey which guides you towards continual improvement. People want to know their thoughts and feelings matter—asking for them is a quick way to connect.
  4. Share their impact. The data you gather about impact can be used for funding applications, promotion and more. Your nonprofit will thrive the more you show the world that you’re making a difference.
  5. Boost retention. The Fundraising Effectiveness Project found that donor retention has dropped by 16.9% since 2021. Yikes! Making personal connections and investing in your members’ happiness is an important (and exciting!) way to dodge that trend.

Between organizing ongoing campaigns and maintaining the day-to-day work, nonprofits have lots of competing priorities. A member appreciation strategy can help you engage and retain members for the long haul—which ultimately takes work OFF your plate!

Click through to claim your 60-day trial of WildApricot to create effective QR codes that will speed up event check-in.

6 Steps to Plan Your Member Appreciation Day

A member appreciation day is exactly what it sounds like: a specialized event or campaign designed specifically to show gratitude to your members!

We’ve got a bunch of member appreciation day ideas below, but first let’s cover some key steps for planning: 

1. Choose your timing

We don’t just mean marking your calendar! There are plenty of different points in a member’s journey where an appreciation day could make sense.

How do you choose your approach? Consider your primary goal for your appreciation day.

For example:

  • A new member welcome event can help you engage your newest members early on.
  • A personal milestone recognition like a 5 year membership anniversary encourages long-term retention and lifetime membership.
  • A campaign milestone celebration can turn donors into members and members into volunteers.

Don’t be afraid to have a couple of member appreciation events throughout the year. Each of your member segments have different needs, and addressing them all makes for happy members.

2. Pick a space

There are a few different spaces you can use to host your member appreciation day. Consider your membership base, and what they might be most engaged with.

For example:

  • Formal in-person galas add a degree of elegance that might excite your long-time members, especially if you’re running a professional association.
  • Casual family-friendly park events are a perfect set up for sports clubs, theaters and other local community spaces.
  • A virtual celebration can reach members all over the world.
  • Mailing out your thank yous is a great way to reach an older audience. Solutions Advisors, who specialize in marketing to seniors, note that 70% of older consumers feel that direct mail is more personal than online interactions.
  • Social media gratitude blasts, on the other hand, give your younger members something to share across their personal platforms.

If you have the time and resources, you can always mix and match a few of these ideas!

3. Tell your members

Once you’ve got your member appreciation day on the calendar, market it far and wide with:

  • Personal invitations
  • Social media marketing
  • An email marketing campaign
  • Posts in the forums on your member website
  • Ads on-site if you run a community space

Don’t limit yourself to just one of these ideas! The more times members see your event, the more likely they are to register.

4. Plan & prepare your celebration

To make sure your member appreciation event goes off without a hitch, it’s important to get prepared well in advance.

Aside from developing a marketing plan, you can set yourself up for success by:

  1. Delegating roles to your team members
  2. Booking venues early if you’re in a physical space
  3. Recruiting and training volunteers
  4. Gathering any information you need about your members

Working with an event planning checklist is a surefire way to make sure you’ve (literally!) checked off all your boxes.

5. Personalize!

No matter how large your membership base is, there are still ways to make sure people feel like they’re more than just a number.

Surveys, member profiles and information from membership application forms gives you data such as:

  • Member names and locations
  • Why they became members
  • Events they’ve attended
  • How long they’ve been with your organization
  • How frequently they post to your forum
  • What they like best about your organization

Personalized thank yous simply feel more authentic—even a simple “thanks for three great years” shows members you’re paying attention!

6. Be ready for what’s next

If your member appreciation day is successful, you’re going to see a lot more engagement from your community!

You can prepare yourself for what comes next by:

  • Having feedback surveys ready
  • Writing post-event marketing copy
  • Reviewing and updating your welcome packages
  • Investing in membership management software

Speaking of that software…

How Your Membership Management Software Can Help You Show Member Appreciation

Member appreciation is all about making connections. With an ever-growing membership base, it can be hard to keep up with everyone—that’s where membership management software (MMS) comes in!

WildApricot’s membership management software helps you: 

  • Prepare your content and communications with automated emails sent to your contact database.
  • Get the word out on your website, which can be customized to meet your nonprofit’s unique needs and goals. 
  • Add a personal touch with member data that’s organized in your member database.

Whether you’re planning a targeted member appreciation day or just trying to incorporate gratitude into your brand, these tools make the logistics simple.

Sign up for your 60-day free trial to explore all WildApricot has to offer!

10 Member Appreciation Day Ideas

Now that you’re ready to plan your event, here are 10 member appreciation day ideas to get your gears turning:

1. New member welcome event

Your first show of appreciation should come shortly after sign up! Opening the member experience with a welcome event offers a warm introduction, and shows people all the ways they can get involved.

While a welcome package comes with everything members need to know, a welcome event turns that learning process into an engaging experience.

For example, the Greater Farmington Area Chamber of Commerce holds a complementary luncheon for new members to meet board members and ambassadors, provided courtesy of one of their sponsors.

2. Spotlight a member

Member spotlights or “member of the month” programs are a highly visible show of appreciation for the people who contribute to your cause and community!

Spotlights highlight members’ accomplishments, and can be shared across:

  • Social media
  • Email campaigns
  • Paper mail
  • Your website

The spotlighted member can either be nominated by someone else or put in an application themself. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association application has several short questions about members’ relationships to their profession and the association.

3. Special swag

Member swag is a fun way to offer exclusive, physical tokens of appreciation! The swag should be branded, and reflective of your organization’s values. Why not go for some sustainable swag to celebrate your members and show care for your community’s environment?

Did you know that many businesses offer merchandise deals specifically for nonprofits? Busy Beaver has eco-friendly buttons, pins, stickers and more to support your nonprofit’s unique branding.

(Psst—here are some swag ideas for clubs, events and more!)

4. One-day partner discounts

Building partnerships with businesses—especially local businesses!—helps expand your reach and connect with your community. Reach out to prospective partners and ask if they’d like to support your nonprofit’s member appreciation day with a discount.

A few examples of discounts include:

  • A percentage off the bill at a restaurant
  • An free item for your members with each purchase
  • A members-only exclusive from the business

This strategy gives you a great opportunity to develop your relationships with both members AND partners. After all, if the appreciation day is a success, the partner business will profit!

5. Member appreciation video

It’s perfectly possible to write a heartfelt thank you note (and we’ll get into that below!), but some people will respond more warmly to seeing human faces.

This video could be recorded by:

  • Staff members
  • Board members
  • Volunteers
  • Beneficiaries
  • Celebrity cameos

The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) celebrates its Member Appreciation Day on the anniversary of the organization’s founding. Its member appreciation video is recorded by the staff and directors, and is up on the website for all to see!

6. Milestone awards

If your goal is to retain members, then it’s worth celebrating retention milestones!

The American Society of Baking has been around for 100 years, supporting a network of bakers, engineers, service providers, food technologists and equipment and ingredient suppliers. Because of their longevity, they have a page on their website dedicated to their 50 year members!

Celebrating members as they hit their five, ten, or twenty year member anniversaries is exciting, but don’t underestimate the importance of that first birthday. That first renewal is the hardest to get, and some extra appreciation just might seal the deal.

7. Social media blasts

Whether you’re spotlighting your members, advertising partner discounts or showing off your exclusive swag, social media is your friend when it comes to member appreciation.

Creating a robust social media campaign can help you:

  • Boost engagement by interacting in the comments and encouraging people to share.
  • Raise awareness about your organization by reaching a wider audience.
  • Activate your brand with a strong voice and striking visuals.

As you work across platforms, remember: your members are the star of the show! Each and every post should tie back to why you’re proud to have them around.

8. Behind-the-scenes visit

Inviting members into your nonprofit’s space is like welcoming them into your home. Scheduling guided tours demystifies how your nonprofit works and shows members that they’re a part of the team.

Want an example of a superb behind-the-scenes visit? Look no further than Carolinian Canada! This nonprofit is a network of leaders growing healthy landscapes for a green future in the Carolinian Zone, Canada’s extraordinary far south, in the spirit and practice of reconciliation.

Its 2019 AGM came with a special tour of parts of the Chippewas of the Thames First Nation and The Living Centre, an eco-spiritual educational sanctuary. This tour created space for members to literally step into the mission of “reconciling peoples and ecosystems.”

Seeing your organization’s work up close reminds members why it matters—and lets you say thank you for their support in person!

9. Personalized thank you cards

You don’t need to be a master graphic designer to send out a great thank you card. Services like Canva and Vistaprint have templates to get you started, and lots of room to customize the branding!

If you want to send out physical cards, adding a personal touch is a must do. A stock thank you card shows that you appreciate your membership base, but a personal card makes it about the individual.

Some personal elements you can use include: 

  • The member’s name
  • The number of years they’ve been a member
  • Mentions of an event they attended
  • Physical signatures from your board or staff members

If your membership base is smaller, or you just want to thank a few members, it’s always a kind gesture to hand write the entire card!

10. Make a week of it!

If you’ve got a lot of ideas going, there’s no need to stop at one day—try making a whole member appreciation week!

A full week of programming offers:

  • Virtual, hybrid and in-person opportunities
  • Space for social media campaigns
  • Options for each member segment
  • Extra chances to attend

The George Eastman Museum’s member appreciation week is an AMAZING example of this structure.

The museum’s member appreciation ideas include:

  • A “Why I’m a Member” survey
  • Members-only discounts
  • A movie night
  • An ice cream social
  • Exclusive tours

This week incorporates tons of things we covered in this post, and all in one place. If you have the resources to offer a full member appreciation week, it’ll be worth your time!

After Member Appreciation Day

When your member appreciation day or week is over, fresh new opportunities open up for your nonprofit. Learning more about your members and dedicating time to strengthening connections is one way to think about your engagement and retention strategies moving forward.

Explore incorporating some post-event practices like:

  • Creating a nurture program. Once you have your members’ attention, make a plan for how to keep it. Communicating consistently about upcoming events, renewal dates and referral programs will secure the engagement you’re hoping for.
  • Asking for feedback. The best way to find out how your member appreciation event went is by asking. Along with reviewing attendance data, send out feedback surveys to learn what members liked best about the event, and what they would change.
  • Tailoring future programming to members’ interests. Planning and executing your member appreciation day is an opportunity to review your member segments. As you develop fresh programming, consider what will resonate with different types of members.
  • Reviewing your current membership model. Based on your data, check in on if your current model is serving members as well as it could. If not, making feedback-informed adjustments will add value to your program for current and prospective members.

Fostering a culture of gratitude ultimately benefits everyone! You can always go beyond your membership base and hold a volunteer, board or team member appreciation day. Holding appreciation events is a way to celebrate all of the people who are connected to your nonprofit’s community.

A Thank You From Us!

We hope this guide to member appreciation day ideas and planning has been valuable! Thank YOU for reading, and for the continued work you do for your cause and community.

Here at WildApricot, we want to help your nonprofit achieve its goals. Sign up for your 60-day free trial of our award-winning membership management software to learn more.

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