The answer is, we can learn a lot. They are as old school as ever - strong and steady - yet flexible and flowing, leaves dancing in the winds.
The recent growth within the Morton Arboretum resulted in both a positive response as well as some “growing pains.” Areas of growth included a new children’s garden, snowshoe and cross country skiing, more educational programs for children and adults, a maze garden, a new visitor’s center and a change in the site’s entrance. There was an increase of memberships of families that were drawn to the new attractions and programs. However, there was a drop in the overall total of memberships. There seems to be two groups of members; the over fifty five culture and the families with school aged children. The first is a steadfast, dedicated core group that deeply cares about the Morton Arboretum’s mission. The latter, the families, may purchase a one year membership then change membership to another organization the next because they view it as an attraction instead of a cause.
Along with growth and change may come negative feedback: no matter what, someone will be always be disappointed. It is important to invite and appreciate concerns, really listen, then respond. During this tough economic time, realize that membership renewal can be a tough decision.
Communicate with your volunteers and board members; ask for their input because they can tell you who you need to connect with. Ensure that every crew member knows your organization’s mission statement because questions from members come from all ends. Promote the message that your organization is more than a place or an attraction; it is a cause and a way to give back to the community.
Marketing for membership requires evaluating your audience’s culture along with your organization’s culture. Get to know your donors and don't be afraid to build a personal relationship with them. Find out their interests, for example, which ones are interested in the arts, science, or the environment. Research several segmented audiences. Then craft different messages to different groups of donors within the same mission. Breakdown your client base and mass customize. The marketing approach is different for the “attraction group” versus “the concerned group” - this will also help keep clutter out of your valued members' boxes by only sending them the information they want, versus all the information.
Remember that members are donors. An organization needs to make donors feel important and that their contribution matters - because it does. A community organization is for the community. Get the word out about where you get your funding and spread the philanthropic message. Tell donors how they are impacting the mission. Reward perennial members, if you can, by having an event for them, showing appreciation.
When making decisions keep your mission in focus, while considering the financial risk, and be a wise steward of funds. Not everything costs money; social media is a great tool for finding groups of like minded people to support your cause. A useful site is Meet Up to create relationships with those who support your cause. Develop a core group of people that care by connecting with them via Facebook, Twitter, email, and your website. Social media is unending and typically at least sixteen posts a week is effective. Talk about your cause, upcoming events and post lots of pictures. Social media translates into action. Email different levels of donors about fundraising events. Get a person to care about your cause by engaging with them.
Let members know that there is a value to their membership in addition to a tax deduction. When thinking about membership, people think about what they’ll get out of it usually versus capitol campaign giving. Create ways to upgrade memberships. Produce a member’s only catalog. Reward your members with special events. Show them that they are appreciated and that they are helping to make a difference.
NEXT MEETING : APRIL 13TH 11:30-1PM
TOM OKARMA, VANTAGE POINT
TOPIC: Board Development, Partnerships, and Events
ABOUT TOM: Our presenter is Tom Okarma, a retired CEO who now serves on several boards. Through his company, Vantage Point, Tom helps nonprofits with board issues and strategy. Tom will discuss the characteristics of an effective board, how to build it, and how to keep it. He will provide specific ideas you can use immediately to improve your board's effectiveness and value.
Submitted by Anne Cornuelle, volunteer