BlogMembership 99 Ways To Get New Members For Your Organization Membership 99 Ways To Get New Members For Your Organization Author: Tatiana Morand March 24, 2023 Contents 🕑 17 min read For nonprofits and associations, member recruitment is about more than revenue. Members are the lifeblood of your organization. They make the magic happen! With ideal member retention sitting at 80% year over year, some membership loss is inevitable. That’s why membership recruitment is so important—yet 68% of organizations face challenges in membership growth. That’s more than two-thirds! If you count yourself among that 68%, you’re not alone. Read on for 99 tips on how to increase membership in your nonprofit or organization—from leveraging your existing membership to social media and event-based strategies. The Membership Funnel: The Full Picture of Getting New Members Before you start recruiting, ask yourself: What does the recruitment journey for new members look like now, and what should it look like going forward? Providing a smooth and personalized member experience is one of the most important tools at your disposal—even at the recruitment stage. You want to make sure prospective new members are given every incentive to make it all the way through to the sign-up process. That’s where the membership funnel comes in. Here’s a breakdown on how the membership funnel creates new members for your nonprofit or organization: Step 1: Capture. Prospective members are “captured” when they’re looped into your organization’s workings, be it by email newsletter, attending an event, or word of mouth. Step 2: Nurture. Send follow-up emails, mailers, or phone calls nudging prospective new members along the path to signing up. Make prospective members feel appreciated and valued with personalized attention, especially if they’ve shown you interest! Step 3: Conversion. Offer incentives to signing up, like membership benefits. You might also emphasize key aspects of the membership experience, like networking or community impact. Now that you know the main steps involved in recruitment, here are some ideas for attracting new members to your nonprofit or club. Involve Current Members Host a “bring a friend” meeting. Encourage members to bring someone to see how your organization is run. This could be a recurring event or policy so that new members are continually bringing new friends! Hold a family-friendly event. Spouses, siblings, parents, and (grown-up) children are all potential members (depending on the type of membership you offer). Plus, showing your organization is family-oriented is a potential attracting point for new members! Offer an alternate meeting time to attract people with different schedules. Is your meeting time leaving out a whole group of people, like those with 9-5 jobs or early bedtimes? Switch up your offerings to attract more people—existing members and new! Run member features in your newsletter. If your members are featured in the newsletter, they might feel more compelled to send it to friends, family, and colleagues to show off their involvement. Encourage members to share your newsletter. Especially if they’re featured in it! Thank your members regularly. There are a few different ways you can do that. Here are just a few: Create a video thank-you message from the leader of your organization, and publish it on your website, your social media profiles, and your email newsletter. Each year, make a list of all the events, services, and educational opportunities that were made possible by your membership fees. Publish the list on a separate page on your site, and link to it on a regular basis in your online content and email campaigns. Host a yearly event to say “thank you” to your members. Consider a member brunch, picnic, pool party, or other fun gathering. Write handwritten thank-you notes to your members. In our digital age, a personalized note is even more meaningful and memorable. Create perks for club members who recruit new members. Little perks and freebies can really motivate people. Think about gift certificates, shout-outs at your next meeting or in your next newsletter, or even reserving a coveted parking space for members with high recruitment. Help members develop an “elevator pitch” about their membership. Why are they members? What’s the biggest benefit of membership? Can they explain the purpose of your nonprofit or association? Host an event or distribute resources for how members can talk to others about your organization. Remind current members to greet newcomers and avoid club jargon—making your organization approachable is key. Create an invitation email template your members can use. This is another great idea for a grassroots membership recruitment tool you can distribute to your members! You could also create paper-based pamphlets or member application forms. Another idea is a simple boiler-plate text script that current members can copy-and-paste into emails or social media messages that they send to colleagues. Or you could include the new member onboarding or welcome package that new members receive! Offer club business cards to your members. It’s an easy way for them to point people to your club and share more easily with their network. Tyler Matlock Wright of Fort Worth Mothers of Multiples says: “Member referrals are a big source for us. We give our members ‘business cards’ to hand out to prospective members when they meet them. The cards have a line for the referral source so the member gets credit for referring someone new.” Get existing members together to volunteer as a group. You’ll do good in your community, strengthen bonds between existing members, and meet other volunteers in your space. Ask members to list their membership in their professional bios. It gets your club name in front of more people, builds your organization’s prestige, and reminds members to talk about it. Give members a button or pin and encourage them to wear it. Make sure it’s stylish so members will be more likely to wear it, and people will ask what it’s about. Another quirky idea is to hand out bumper stickers to members. Get your name on the road! Assign especially engaged members a “recruitment role.” Among your members, who would make great recruiters because of their personal/professional networks? Enlist these members, offer them perks, and give them tools to fill this role! Create a promotional video. Members can share it with their contacts, and you can share it on social media and in your newsletters. Film member stories and testimonials. Publish them to your website and social media so you can give prospective members a visual reminder of just how engaged your current members are. Personally follow up with every prospect. When someone signs up for an event, email them directly and ask if they’d like to sign up for organization membership. You know they’re already interested in what you do—reach out! Launch a direct mail campaign. If you can acquire a mailing list or make a point of mailing to lapsed members, you might see success! Launch a telephone outreach campaign. The Association of Talent Development: Greater Philadelphia made a goal to reach out to all the prospective members in their contact database. They simply listed all their prospects and contacted them one by one over the phone. By the end of the year, they gained over 100 new members through this initiative. Reach out to former members. People leave organizations for all kinds of reasons, from life events to time constraints. Some might be ready to come back. Remind them of your mission and how valuable their membership is! Conduct exit interviews with departing members. When you know why people are leaving, you can start figuring out ways to keep them. Ask your members for recruitment ideas. Never forget that your existing members are the best source of information about what’s attractive about your organization. They may also have an idea you haven’t thought of before, or know about opportunities within their own social networks. Recruit Members Through Your Website Make sure your club website is welcoming, easy to browse, and representative. Your website should reflect your organization’s mission and have a clear site map. Here are some great examples of nonprofit websites to get you thinking. Add a “Join Us” section to your website. This is an easy way to draw immediate attention to anyone looking to join your membership. You can also include testimonials from current members and the perks of joining your organization. Set up Google Analytics or link tracking using Goo.gl or Bit.ly. This will help you find out the most effective methods for getting new website traffic so you can double down on them. Make online registration as easy as possible. If you include online member application forms, anyone coming across your website will be much more likely to register than if they have to mail in a paper form. Refine your member benefits. Make them as clear and enticing as possible in your website copy so that prospective members can’t help but be impressed. Create member-only sections on your website. Including a section on your website that normal visitors can’t see can help generate interest — they’ll come across it and wonder what more they’re missing out on. Event Recruitment Ideas Offer one event a year at your ‘members-only’ rate. If you usually have one rate for members and another for non-members, pick one signature event and offer it to anyone at the members price. This is a great demonstration of the kind of value they will get if they do decide to join — which you should be sure to mention during said event! Invite guests to meetings. Let prospective members see what they’re getting into by inviting them to your meetings. Create a welcome packet for guests. Include things like the mission, calendar, and contact information, as well as information about becoming a member. Follow up with guests. Send an email or postcard, or make a phone call thanking the guest for attending, and asking if they’re considering membership. Sending out a post-event survey can also help you see what went well and what you can improve for next time. Sponsor a local event. Include your club name and logo on promotional materials, and make sure event organizers have your club information for anyone who asks. Give a talk about your club at other organizations. Share your mission and activities with others in your arena. Host activities for members and non-members alike. A group activity is an excellent way to meet new people. Something like a beach clean-up or other community service projects can attract a wide range of prospective members. Walk or build a float for town parades. You’ll put your club in front of the whole town — and look good doing it! Host seasonal meet-and-greets with a fun activity. Think about a fall hayride, a winter hot cocoa party, a spring nature walk, or a summer ice cream social to attract new members. Have a booth at a fair or festival. Give volunteers talking points to introduce your club to the community. Have a meeting in a public location like a park or square. It draws attention and is a low-commitment way for curious potential members to check you out. Host a guest speaker. Guest speakers attract non-members who share your interests. Not only are speakers powerful motivators for attendance at meetings and events, they can encourage ideas and discussions that just might convince a new member to stick around and hear more from existing members. Host a charitable event like a run or walk. You’ll raise money for a good cause, and introduce your club to new people who also support the cause. Host a business spotlight event for local businesses. Local business owners will learn about each other, and about you! Hold diverse events to appeal to a variety of age groups. If all your events appeal to one group of people, mix things up by hosting an event to appeal to a different one. Try a teen-targeted event, or one aimed toward seniors! Host a free luncheon. Never underestimate the power of free food to bring people to an event! Host your annual conference in a new location. This allows you to advertise association perks to different communities and helps you grow in new regions. Consider attendance options. Are your attendance requirements onerous? Experiment to see if a more flexible policy is more attractive. Hybrid and virtual attendance options are on the rise, and you see why—flexibility can be part of a great member experience! Host low-commitment meet-and-greets at a local coffee shop. Invite prospective members to come for a coffee on you simply to learn about your club and meet some existing members. Use Digital Marketing To Attract New Members Experiment with Facebook or Google ads. Online advertising can target demographics precisely, putting your club in front of the people who are most likely to be interested. If you’re a registered nonprofit, you can also apply for a Google Ad Grant of up to $10,000 yearly. Create a content marketing strategy. Start a podcast, create a webinar, or write articles about your organization that potential members might find interesting. Pay attention to SEO. SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is the process of optimizing your website so that it’s more easily found by Google. If you want to learn more, we have a guide here. Create an email marketing campaign. Once potential members have come to your website, ask them for their email in exchange for something they want. For example, if you have a beekeepers’ association, offer them a downloadable guide on selling honey. Then continue emailing them with ideas and tips so that they can see the value of joining your organization. Send a win-back email to lapsed members. This can also include a discount or other incentive to rejoin. You can also ask them for feedback regarding the reasons they left, which can help reduce your turnover overall. Create an online group or community to foster interaction and engagement. Make it easy for others to find and join for free, then add other incentives to join your organization. Run online promotions during peak sales times. For example, you could host a Black Friday sale and promote it across your social media channels. Attract New Members on Social Media Create a LinkedIn profile for your organization. This is a particularly good idea for professional associations. If your members can add you to their professional profile, your organization can more easily attract other people with similar qualifications. Create or update other social media accounts for the club. This will help prospective members find you, and let current members easily share about the club with their friends. “Facebook is a big source for us,” said Tyler Matlock Wright of Fort Worth Mothers of Multiples. “By using our public Facebook page and also by finding prospective members in various groups, we can reach out to them directly to recruit them.” Encourage members to share club activities on social media. Create a photo release package so that you get permission to tag them in pictures. This will ensure the photos show up in their friends’ feeds as well. Create social media packages for members to post, including graphics, posts, links, and resources. People are much more likely to share your information if you do most of the work for them and give them a clear plan on how to do it! Use emotional storytelling. Personal stories and anecdotes are great ways to show the real impact your organization has, and will encourage prospective members to become part of the mission. Traditional Marketing Recruitment Ideas Put up flyers around town. Look for community bulletin boards and high traffic spots like grocery stores and coffee shops. Make sure your organization’s mission is clear and that the flyers are bright and attract the eye! Create an informational brochure about your club. Include the club’s mission and activities, as well as contact information. Place club materials at related businesses. If you’re a group of knitters, put your information at the yarn store. If you’re a bunch of sportsmen, put up a flyer at the bait and tackle shop. Think about where people who share your interests are likely to be. Share club information with new residents. Do local realtors give welcome baskets when someone moves to town? Ask to include your club information. Announce club meetings in local newsletters. Look for neighbourhood and special interest newsletters, whether online or on paper. Put all meetings on community calendars. You can usually submit your information online and get listed quickly. Submit your club information to local directories. Your chamber of commerce or other local groups may publish a directory. Apply to list your organization! Place an advertisement in the local paper or interest-related periodical. Paid advertising can pay off if you select publications potential members might read. Put a PSA on the radio. Let the community know about your club or its events in a short radio message. You might also try contacting hosts of podcasts that are relevant to your organizations to advertise, or maybe even invite you to guest! Send media releases to local outlets when your club completes a project. Learn to write a press release so you can attract media attention to your club. Networking to Recruit New Members Network with other clubs. Work together to increase your visibility. Consider hosting a club mixer to get to know each other. Cross-volunteering—you volunteer with them, they volunteer with you—is also a good way to get to know people working in your space! Attend a Chamber of Commerce meeting. Connect with your local movers and shakers. Some might be looking for clubs to join or ways to get involved, or will be willing to share your information with others. Introduce your club to local businesses. Send a letter or email, or stop by and introduce yourself. Bring along your informational brochure and club business card. Introduce your club to local government. Send a letter or make an appointment to introduce yourself and share your informational materials. Put up a stand at a conference in your industry. You’ll be guaranteed to find people invested in your organization’s mission—they’re already at an event geared to their interests! Reach out to universities and colleges in your area. Students may be interested in joining. You may also be able to partner with educational institutions for events, or raise a kiosk at fairs they host. Involvement with local educational institutions is even something you may be able to promote as a member benefit. “We have a relationship with our local university, University of Central Florida Continuing Education, who gives educational credits for our qualified programs,” said Carol Emmett of the Greater Orlando Organization Development Network. Retain and Recruit Through Your Own Operations Put up a sign advertising your organization at your meeting place. It’s amazing how many people discover organizations by simply walking or driving past their sign. Report on your membership numbers and goal progress. Keep the members up to date on how recruiting is going to motivate them to help. Assess the affordability of dues and events. Are membership dues and event prices a barrier to new or lapsed members? Special rates can generate more interest from people who might ordinarily be priced out. Consider membership tiers. If full membership requires too much commitment, maybe a lesser commitment (with fewer privileges, but also lower dues) would appeal to new people. One bonus of a tiered membership model is an ability to better reflect different membership values. It can also make membership more customizable and accommodate different needs and abilities to support. Make membership free or pay-what-you-can. Listing a suggested donation for membership dues is a great way to make money and make sure money is no barrier to membership. You might also consider proposing a sponsorship program for new and renewing members. For $25, one person could become a member; or for $50, they could sponsor someone else’s membership who might otherwise not be able to join. Offer a trial period for new members before they pay dues. If there’s no cost for trying it out, potential members can learn about your organization and may stay long enough to pay for a membership once they know what it has to offer. Give away something free to new members. The added value might be the incentive a prospective new member needs to take the plunge. You might also consider offering a draw: new members will have their name entered to win a bigger prize. The chance to win something can attract a lot of interest! Remove other barriers to attendance and consider accessibility. Think about what might stand in the way of members joining, and try to resolve those issues. For example, you could meet near public transport, or provide childcare to members during meetings. Can people with different mobility needs access your meeting venue? One option to address all these needs and more is to offer an online or hybrid option for meeting attendance. Emphasizing flexibility is a great way to keep busy people involved! Offer online registration and payment. You want to make it as easy as possible for members to sign up, whether new or returning. Hosting registration on your organization website is the best way to make registration both visible and easy! Create a membership drive budget. Ads, events, and promotional materials all cost money. Prioritize your membership drive by budgeting for it. Create and implement a structured yearly recruitment plan. Check out the Boy Scouts of America for an example of what this could look like. Create new programs that might entice diverse members. For example, if you have a professional association, you could create a mentorship program for new employees in the space. If your organization is more on the creative side, you could create a feedback program. Finally, you could offer educational courses that are related to your central mission. Make sure your contact information is up to date on national and organization-wide directories. Often these are posted and then forgotten. You may have information out there that isn’t correct. Designate a Welcome or Membership chairperson. Increasing membership is a worthy effort, so appoint a team captain to head it up. Set a membership goal. A concrete goal encourages members to recruit new people, and puts everyone on the same page. Talk to organizations similar to yours to see how their membership efforts are going. You might also want to consider joining forces and hosting a joint recruitment event. The more, the merrier! Use Membership Management Software to automate your admin tasks and free up your time for member engagement and growth. The more time your organization has to devote recruitment, all the better for recruitment! Track how new members join. That way, you can assess the effectiveness of your membership recruiting activities. Cut ineffective ways and pour more resources into the ones that actually work. Create better benefits and resources. If your organization can offer a perk or an experience that people can’t get anywhere else, something really special, your membership will flourish. Here are just a couple of examples: A chamber of commerce membership card that gives members a 10% discount at local businesses. This encourages people to shop local, which boosts local commerce and creates a local sense of community. An event that offers something with high draw in the community. Consider a “puppy therapy” event that promises a portion of membership fees will go toward the fostering of an animal up for adoption. Unconventional Member Recruitment Ideas Stop doing anything to get new members. Yes, we said it! But here’s the key: instead, focus your resources and efforts entirely on your own members. A good membership experience may be the best thing you can offer your members. If you can provide that, word of mouth is sure to increase. Look for an unconventional or secondary niche and fill it. If your organization operates in a sleepy bedroom community, what if your organization offered an event that was an exciting break from routine? Secondary programming is another good way to fit this bill. If your cycling club also offers a program to advocate for bike lanes, your organization could attract members who don’t bike but who do care about creating a greener community. Offer discounts to members only. This works especially well for repeat events or purchases. Promote with something like: “Thinking of attending 3 or more events? Become a member to save XYZ…” Final Thoughts! Congratulations on increasing membership enrolments in your nonprofits and organizations! But don’t forget—recruitment is just one part of a strong membership base. Member retention is just as important to the maintenance and growth of your organization. To find out more, check out our FREE ebook: Member Retention 101: Your Ultimate Guide to Keeping Members Coming Back for More! Related Membership Articles Membership 🕑 9 Min Read How to Create a Member Referral Program that Actually Works Tatiana Morand Nov 28, 2023 Membership 🕑 7 Min Read Membership Card Template: How to Create Membership Cards In 3 Minutes Tatiana Morand Jul 23, 2023 Membership 🕑 10 Min Read 10 Member Appreciation Day Ideas + 6 Quick Steps to Show You Care! Sonia Urlando Jul 21, 2023 The Membership Growth Report: Benchmarks & Insights for Growing Revenue and Constituents Get the report now!