A Membership Program Can Boost Donor Retention

Josh Bloomfield
Unlock the power of a nonprofit membership program and build a community of loyal supporters while increasing fundraising efforts and donor retention. Discover the benefits and different models to start your own program today!

What if we told you that you could build a community of loyal supporters, draw on resources from individuals who can help with fundraising, AND build an additional stream of revenue that you can count on? Sound too good to be true? Meet your new nonprofit membership program!

Discover how you can do all of this and more by building a membership program today. Keep reading to learn: 

  • What a nonprofit membership program is

What is a Nonprofit Membership Program?

At its foundation, nonprofit membership programs are a fundraising and stewardship strategy. Nonprofit organizations raise funds from members (i.e., fees and dues) in exchange offer members some kind of exclusive perk, benefit, or privilege. 

Nonprofit memberships should be mutually beneficial. For example, members of the YMCA pay annual fees to receive a number of benefits including gym memberships, summer camps, and childcare, to be enjoyed in over 10,000 neighborhoods across the U.S. This is a win-win.

Annual fees and dues incentivize giving and involvement, which boosts donor retention. However, there are other successful membership program models that don’t require donors to pay more. Keep reading to learn different ways you can keep donors excited to come back through a nonprofit membership program.

Different Types of Nonprofit Membership Program Models

Choose one of these different types of membership (or a combination of them) to meet the needs of your organization:

Fundraising model 

This is definitely the most popular and straightforward membership program model. Just like the YMCA example discussed above, members pay to receive benefits in this membership program model. You have an additional revenue stream for your nonprofit, and your supporters get to enjoy special membership perks. 

Community model

This membership program model is more focused on building community among supporters. You do this by offering lower membership fees, so people are more likely to get engaged. This program allows you to raise funds while building a strong network of supporters. Supporters who are looking to connect with like-minded individuals will be excited about the networking opportunities and special events your nonprofit provides for them in this model. Plus, this model really allows you to hone in on trustraising.

Advocacy model

This is a great membership program model if growing awareness for your cause is a higher priority than fundraising. There’s no fee to become a member. Instead of paying to join, members contribute their voices, skills, personal networks, and other resources to help your nonprofit expand its reach. In exchange, members are invited into the decision-making process for the direction of your organization or more formal ways to get hands-on.

There’s no one-size-fits-all model for nonprofit membership programs. Keep these models in mind as you’re designing your nonprofit’s membership program (more on this later!).

How can a Nonprofit Membership Program Boost Donor Retention?

Memberships not only boost giving, but also build a community of supporters invested in your nonprofit’s mission. Here are some of the major benefits: 

Encourages long-term support, as most membership programs have sign-ups for a minimum of one year. While the average donor retention rate is less than 50%, the good news is, the monthly donor retention rate is 90%. More than 79% of consumers say membership programs make them more likely to continue their giving.

Serves as a first step to get supporters more involved. For example, members are more likely to volunteer, make more significant financial contributions, join as board members, and volunteer as event staff. Nearly 57% of consumers give more to organizations to which they are part of a membership or loyalty program. 

Accesses quick feedback and exclusive data. Memberships make it easier to monitor behavior and receive feedback from members to see what’s working and what’s not. This way, you can better fine-tune programming. 87% of consumers are open to organizations monitoring details of their activity if it leads to more personalized rewards. 

Increases engagement among younger generations. Over 62% of Gen-Z are highly influenced by loyalty and membership programs!


Provides a reliable source of income. Which means you’ll have more time to improve your programming. Acquiring a new supporter costs 5 to 25 times more than retaining an existing one.

What to Consider When Starting a Nonprofit Membership Program

Structure: Depending on the structure, you may have members give a certain amount, donate an annual fee, or volunteer a certain amount of hours in order to become a member. Ask yourself these questions to help you determine the structure of your membership program: 

  • What role will our members play in our organization?
  • What is the purpose of the membership program? 

Fees: Set a goal for how much you want to raise through your membership program, and use that goal to determine the membership fees. Divide your goal by the number of members you think you can get to join. Remember, membership fees should be financially feasible for supporters and profitable for your nonprofit. 

Benefits: How will you show your appreciation towards members? Here are some ideas:

  • Exclusive content like newsletters, announcements, and soft launches.

Management: What will your leadership structure look like? Determine if you will have one elected leader, a small committee, or a group of volunteers responsible for overseeing membership experience. It’s also important to select membership management software to help you build branded content, create customized experiences, manage fee collection, and offer special access to exclusive deals.

Increasing your annual fundraising doesn’t have to be a major project

It can be as simple as upgrading your current fundraising solution. Organizations that switch to Givecloud, see an average increase in online donations 76% in online donations after 6 months and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why. The technology used by nonprofits does make a significant difference. Features like one-time to monthly upsells do make a difference. 

If you would like to explore how you can use Givecloud to increase your annual fundraising, sign up for one of our Givecloud Express accounts here!

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