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Jennifer Studebaker
Coordinator of Administration + Consulting

“We do not engage in fundraising. We’re a membership-based organization.” This is the response I have received when engaging with associations and other nonprofits that operate on a membership model. While I understand developing a giving program sounds like a lot of work, you do not need a sophisticated development department to make giving a part of your organizational culture.

If your membership organization is a registered 501(c)3, you are engaged in fundraising! Membership dues are fully tax deductible. Membership organizations that do not intentionally fundraise are missing out on an opportunity to reinforce member stickiness and ensure your organization’s future financial stability.

I am inviting you to take your current fundraising to the next level by setting an intention to be mindful in your fundraising. You are ahead of a lot of organizations new to fundraising in that you have a built-in donor database of individuals and other organizations that have made an annual commitment to your organization through their membership. These members are invested in your organization’s success, and you may be surprised by their willingness to give when presented the opportunity. Here are some potential next steps to embrace fundraising in your membership organization:

  1. Make it easy to give.
    Your members send you a payment at least once a year, so you are equipped to receive financial transactions. Make it as simple as possible for them to add to their membership dues and submit a separate donation. Add a Donate button to your website. Include a donation option in your membership form. Accept donations at your events.
  1. Make the gift meaningful.
    Let your members know where the funds will be going. If you are seeking to build an endowment to ensure your organization’s financial security, tell them so. If you are planning to build a scholarship fund to help members attend your annual conference, celebrate each year the impact of their donation by sharing the number of scholarships given.
  1. Make way for a legacy.
    Your organization holds a special place in your members’ hearts, and they may wish to extend that commitment beyond their life. Planned giving should be an important part of your fundraising plan. You do not have to be an expert but identify advisors that can help you through the process should you need counsel in how to accept and manage a planned gift.

As someone who has staffed a membership organization, I recognize there are a lot of moving parts between journals to prepare, meetings to plan and memberships to process. However, remember that fundraising is already a part of what you do. I am asking you to make it a conscious part of your daily routine, rather than an unintentional one. Begin bringing mindfulness to your fundraising now. Create a giving plan and program that allows your members to support you beyond their membership dues.

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