Spring Break, Busy Summers and other Tales of On-Site Sales

•April 9, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Are you ready for gung ho! Membership sales? Do you have a smiling team ready to greet and sell memberships to your visitors in your busiest seasons? If you answer yes, than check off everything that you are already doing that is listed below. If your answer is “NO” then get busy!

• Do you have a team that is ready and willing to sell membership?
• Can they give you their membership sales elevator speeches? One that is benefits based? One that is mission based?
• Are they armed with membership “cheat sheets” that do the math for visitors based on group size?
• Do you have goals for membership sales? Sales goals per month, per week, per day or sales per hour per person?
• Do you have people from other departments on the membership band wagon ready to help with sales? Gift shop, visitor services, finance, HR?
• Have you streamlined the processing piece of the membership transactions?
• Do you have pre-stuffed packets that new members can walk away with?
• Do you have a desirable premium to tip the prospect’s decision in your favor?
• Do you have traffic estimates so that you can adequately staff each day of the week?
• Do you have signage that says “Join Here. Enter FREE?”
• Have you trained your staff in classroom and on the floor settings?
• Are you and your salespeople pumped up and ready to go?
If you answered YES to most or all of these questions then go out and SELL! If not, get busy and get prepared for bang up sales this season.
The Membership Consultants sales and training team is in the midst of a successful spring season. To date, working two venues this spring break, they have sold 2,764 memberships and raised $352,235! Thanks to a great team, clients committed to maximizing their sales potential and wonderful institutions with excellent products worthy of members’ support!


What If?

•January 7, 2015 • Leave a Comment

You are at the end of the year, the end of your wits, and just a little bit delirious. The Membership Fairy makes an appearance, handing you a magic wand. So why not believe in what “could be” in the new year?

What if….everyone at your organization made you the Membership Queen, or King? They let you have anything you want for a whole year, when it comes to your membership program, of course?

What if…. Everyone listened to you about what membership had been able to achieve this past year (without everything you needed to have a robust program) and what you COULD attain in the new year with all the tools, budget, staff support you needed?

What if….you got to set your own goals for membership in the new year? Rather than someone in the finance department assigning a certain percent of increase in your revenue expectations without your input or without giving you additional budget to make that increase a reality?

What if….your members were totally delighted with the turnaround time on receiving their membership cards, and with all of your member events and communications?
What if….you could make all of this happen in the new year?

Maybe you can! Here’s how. Wrap up the numbers from 2014 and then create a “State of Membership” report. Tell your story – how did renewals do? What about new member acquisition? What worked the best? Where were your challenges? How was attendance at members’ events?

Then, pick at least one doable thing you can do to improve each of those areas. Some of your additions can be done without additional budget, some will require investment.

Renewals. Ideas such as adding email to the snail mail renewal reminders if you are not already doing, adding a phone contact for first year members who are the most vulnerable, adding a Facebook renewal contact to people up for renewal using Facebook retargeting.

Acquisition. Adding direct mail or new lists to your direct mail. Or a backend analysis to more fully understand exactly how many of your new members were touched by the mail that you are already doing, adding an online campaign that uses email to your audiences and outside audiences as well, to simultaneously conduct a Facebook campaign.

Engagement. Getting members engaged in your conservation mission, getting members to become your social media advocates, to recognize members when they visit, get members to give memberships as gifts or to involve them in a member get a member campaign.

Pick ideas to help tick up your renewal, acquisition and engagement numbers, commit to it in writing, make that new year membership plan part of your “State of Membership” and then share your report and plan with your boss, the marketing department, with your Director. Then put your plan into action! Catch everyone’s attention with these new efforts, and then report back. You will be a proactive Membership Manager who is not willing to accept the status quo. Hopefully you will grab attention and be more likely to make the ‘What if’s” come true for you and your program in 2015!

Membership Loyalty = Membership Renewal Success

•April 18, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Membership health and growth is dependent upon keeping your Members and keeping your Members happy! With a healthy membership renewal rate, our programs have a much greater likelihood of achieving growth. So it is sometime the little details that are a BIG deal to our members, and in turn, help them decide what to do at renewal time.

I am borrowing from a recent post in the Agitator (a great daily read at http://www.theAgitator.net) that they borrowed from a retail study produced by Aimia entitled Inflection Points: Seizing the Moments in Customer Loyalty. We all believe in recycling, right? See how this applies to your membership and donor programs. See how many of these you can say “Yes, we are doing that!” to!

1. Timely sending of a ‘thank you’ (and their membership cards)

2. Using personalization in any communication (in emails, renewal reminders and annual appeal asks)

3. Correctly spelling a name

4. Correctly making an address or any other record change

5. Effectively and graciously handling any ‘customer service’ type member inquiry

6. Honoring a member or donor request (e.g., a channel preference)

7. Demonstrating you know who that specific member is (e.g., referencing a recent contribution, a program preference)

8. Acknowledging the anniversary date of the member’s first engagement with your organization

9. Thanking a member for taking a non-contribution action (and especially when she sings your praise, on Facebook, social media, or in a letter to the Director!)

10. Asking the member for advice or input (e.g., member surveys)

This retail industry report is focusing on a loyalty program – and as Membership Managers, so are we. Here are some other good pointers to use as a lens to look at your program and your service delivery to members:

Break down the silos – what internal challenges are road blocks do you need to clear to provide better service to members?

Leverage data to improve service – Use your data to provide better service, know when to expect high volume, get extra help to keep quality and response high during your busy times.

Deliver a flawless renewal and joining experience – Make it easy, don’t confuse, deliver benefits in a user friendly way.

Practice surprise and delight – give your members little extras throughout the year – a thank you event, an extra discount at the shop. Make their day with special deals when they visit.

Exploit the network effect – Get your members involved in your social media. Get them talking about what a great experience membership can be. Let them be your brand advocates!

100 Tips for Revolutionizing Your Membership and Development Program

•February 18, 2014 • Leave a Comment

By Sheldon Wolf and Dana Hines

1. Have an annual and a longer-term Development Plan. Have this plan (based on Board participation) approved by the Board.

2. Define success to include cultivation and stewardship.

3. Know your marketplace. Who is your competition? What are they doing?

4. Read donor lists. Collect playbills. Read donor walls in libraries, hospitals, wherever names are listed. Having money is not enough. Who has charitable intent?

5. Know your Board? Who has greater capacity?

6. Seek out a Board member who will challenge other Board members to increase their gifts.

7. Use the nominating process to introduce the expectation of high giving levels.

8. Expand the circle of people invested in your museum by adding non-Board members to your committees.

9. Create ad hoc committees of non-Board members.

10. A major gift named after the founder or a key generous donor allows the message to be “Join this chain of philanthropy that extends back to our very beginnings.”

11. Draft a letter for Board members to send to their personal and business contacts.

12. The words, “Join me,” are extremely powerful.

13. The words, “Join us,” are extremely powerful. 100% participation by your Board in your campaigns is essential.

14. The more personal the approach, the more effective it will be.

15. Cultivate long-term relationships with donors to the collection.

16. Join the most important civic groups in your community. Be seen as a “player.”

17. Be visible at other cultural institutions and major community events.

18. Foundation executives are people. Meet them.

19. Every grant proposal tells a story. What need will you address? Why now? Why you?

20. Use special events to cultivate new relationships.

21. Thank special event guests as they enter, during the event, and as they leave.

22. Engage your staff and Board at events to make sure strategic conversations occur with the most important people.

23. At events, seek out people who are standing by themselves.

24. At a special dinner, your Board Chair and your CEO should be at different tables. Have two head tables rather than just one.

25. Read your local newspaper.

26. Use your communications to donors/members to help them feel like insiders. Give them information about your exhibitions and programs they can use to “show off.”

27. Invite special prospects to see recent acquisitions.

28. Once you have a constituency, and a sense that the organization is here to stay, mention planned giving in annual report, newsletter, online, etc.

29. Most planned gifts are bequests. You don’t have to be an expert in everything else.

30. Create a planned gift advisory group of experts from your community.

31. If you have a community fund in your area, work with the people there.

32. A capital campaign is an outcome of good strategic planning.

33. What is your Museum’s value for the community? Will changes in the program make it even more valuable?

34. Stress community in your communications.

35. Use photographs strategically. If your museum serves a poorer constituency, be careful with black-tie images.

36. While your annual report might acknowledge the past, use it to inspire donors about the future.

37. With your Board, create a Development Policy that addresses how/when you will accept gifts, who must approve them, who acknowledges what, etc.

38. The “public campaign” is the most costly part of your capital campaign with the smallest return, so hold off as long as you can.

39. Don’t let “public campaign” be an excuse for your Board and solicitors to stop doing their work.

40. Development must be included in marketing decisions (especially products=exhibitions).

41. Ask donors for feedback and advice.

42. Corporate philanthropy hardly exists anymore. It’s all about marketing.

43. If there are not enough people coming in the doors, development goals will not be reached.

44. Look at the relationship between admission fees and membership. When does membership become an offer that cannot be refused?

45. Develop a Membership Plan.

46. Your emphasis on money (we want more cash from our members) vs. people (we want more members) may lead you to different strategies.

47. A plan helps you stay on track and fend off other people’s ideas that will take you off track of what you are trying to achieve.

48. Include others in your membership planning

49. Have a monthly goal for number of members to join, renew, and a revenue goal, too. Check to see if you hit your goal and figure out why you did or did not meet goal.
50. Keep an eye on the competition. But don’t copy anyone else’s campaigns unless you know how it performed (don’t copy a failure)

51. Pick three top goals for your membership program and spend the year achieving those goals

52. Test offers – a premium vs. a discount.

53. Know your audience. Who is your typical member? Plan accordingly.

54. Ask people to join

55. Tell people why they should join your organization. Tell people why you deserve their support – quantify what you do

56. Tell people what you want them to do – be explicit. I want you to upgrade to $150, I want you to renew at the Patron level, renew your membership by December 31

57. Sell memberships face to face.

58. Train your frontline admissions and sales staff.

59. Develop an incentive program to get front line people to sell memberships

60. Don’t abandon direct mail – it still works!

61. Do letter packages to ask for money, not self mailers.

62. Code all sources of new members – you need to know what is working!

63. Put your museum’s name and address on each piece of the mailing.

64. Track the number and source of new members

65. Track renewals by each mailing – know what your response rate is for each contact.

66. Combine the methods of asks and track each method – phone, email, direct mail

67. Lapsed members are gold – solicit them often

68. Segment you lapsed member campaigns by year – learn how far back you can mail or email and still be able to recapture Members

69. Offer a premium to get people to join, renew, upgrade or give to the annual fund

70. Do not abandon the phones. Telemarketing works to renew memberships, get lapsed people to join or to get members to give a second gift

71. Run reports at month’s end

72. Know your renewal rate

73. Track numbers of renewals sent by each renewal contact. Use this to figure out your renewal rate

74. Stay in close touch with members. Email, phone or visit with members often

75. Survey your members at least every three years in a comprehensive, professional survey.

76. Survey lapsed members at the same time and compare the results.

77. Raise your dues every three years

78. Figure out how much it is costing you to service each member – make sure you are charging at least twice that amount in your lowest level membership category.

79. Evaluate your membership categories. Do you have too many? If so revamp and make easy, simple categories.

80. Know your average gift, response rate and cost per dollar raised on each campaign that you perform.

81. Learn from failures. Evaluate each campaign and find a gem of wisdom in each one.

82. Take risks, try something new.

83. Experiment with colors, shapes, formats.

84. Ask your members/donors to give in other ways. Annual fund, upgrade, tributes, give a membership gift, special project. Don’t be afraid to ask again and again!

85. Ask for more.

86. Keep stats on everything. Keep files to give to the person who take over after you leave. Don’t leave them in a lurch!

87. Share information with your peers – at your organization or at others. Being secretive doesn’t really pay off.

88. Share the names of key donors and prospects with the person who answers the phone for the Director.

89. Thank people profusely!

90. Evaluate often. The reality around you is changing often.

91. Remember to thank your staff, your volunteers, your Board.

92. Schmooze. Darcy Rezac in his book, The Frog and the Prince, wrote that schmoozing is “Discovering what you can do for someone else.”

93. Continually move from transactional to relational.

94. Survey people who are involved. Survey people who are not involved.

95. Involve the entire staff in your Plan. Everyone is meeting people and/or engaging with the public and/or improving your program.

96. Support your museum at the highest level you can. Challenge others on staff to give. (“Join me.”)

97. Hire staff with good people skills. The technology can be taught.

98. Your most important skill is listening.

99. Celebrate victories – not matter how large or small.

100. Pat yourself on the back every day.


101. Have a membership and development presence on Facebook and social media

102. Mirror your mail campaigns with a simultaneous, similarly branded email request

103. Have a JOIN tab on your Facebook page

104. Don’t abandon mailed asks (still the most important driver of giving) for electronic only asks

105. Don’t forget the members or donors you don’t have email addresses for.

106. Make email collection a priority with every contact

107. Host Facebook and social media contests and engagement to involve, excite and Create buzz – and make sure there is a way to collect name and addresses

108. Create branded landing pages for each of your campaigns that mirror the brand of the mail or email campaigns

109. Make sure you are in control of your communication schedule with your members/donors

110. Make friends with your organization’s marketing and IT teams – to get the support your campaigns and communications need

Sheldon Wolf
AdvancementCompany, LLC
806 Pleasant Avenue
Wyndmoor, PA 19038

Dana S. Hines
President & CEO
Membership Consultants
3868 Russell Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63110
314-771-4664 ext 105
314-771-2759 fax

Coffee and Conversation – an end of year Membership chat

•December 19, 2013 • Comments Off on Coffee and Conversation – an end of year Membership chat

Sit back. Get yourself a nice cup of hot coffee or tea. Or maybe pop a cork if you would like to celebrate. Let’s talk as you wrap up your membership year.

Clear your mind of all the clutter of last minute things to do before the holidays or the end of the year.

Let’s revel in our little successes – or big successes. The year is over. At this point there isn’t a whole lot we can do to change the outcome. So just sit and reflect for a moment.

What are you most proud of this year? No matter what kind of year you and your program may have had, there is probably at least one thing that will make you smile. What is that? How did you make it happen? Or how did you take advantage of a situation that happened on its own?

Over the course of the next month, count the times that someone asks you “How did membership do this year?” You should be ready with your Membership elevator speech! So thinking about what the highpoints were and how you want to communicate that is what we are focusing on now.

I was struck at the end of last year, when out of the blue, I got a note from a client at the end of the year. We had not yet done the final, official wrap up of the year and the projects we had done together, but she put the whole big picture together. Her email went like this…

““Online transactions are growing rapidly. In 2012, we sent online renewals for the first time. On average, we sold 14.2% of our Memberships online in 2012 – compared to an average of 9.3% in past 3 years. In December, we recorded the largest number of online Membership sales, ever in one month – 18%, thanks to the new eReminders instituted this year”

That was one membership manager’s reflection on her best accomplishment for the year – and she could quote that to anyone who ask the question of how her program was doing for that year.

So take a moment, reflect, and think about what makes you feel good about your accomplishments for 2013 as we wind down the year….Sing your own praises for a moment, before it is time to crank it up for the new year.

Share your 2013 Membership accomplishment “elevator speech” on our Facebook page at
Happy Holidays!

REcap of our Favorite AAM Sessions – 2013

•July 10, 2013 • Leave a Comment

If you missed the 2013 round of conferences that address membership issues, let us bring you up to date on a few sessions and our thoughts on the topics and issues addressed.  We were happy to participate in the AMMC conference in Atlanta in April and AAM in Baltimore in May.  Here are a few highlights of the sessions we most enjoyed:


At AAM Steve Sullivan, Membership Director at the Woodland Park Zoo gave a great presentation on the Zoo’s crowdfunding project entitled “Give Ten for Tigers.”  His presentation was a walkthrough of what he and two other staffers at the Zoo had to do to pull off this final $200,000 “capper” of their capital campaign to build a new exhibit for the tigers and other animals in this particular exhibit area.  Here are the highlights:

  • Steve’s vision was to get 10,000 people (new donors to the Zoo hopefully) to give $10 each.  He already had a generous donor making a $100,000 match challenge.
  • This campaign would be totally electronic – on Facebook, Twitter, via email and with some support of the electronic media of radio and TV in Seattle.
  • They had the support of Betty White, animal lover and longtime Woodland Zoo promoter.  Betty had done a generic give to the Zoo video a few years before that they were able to repurpose with a good lead-in and conclusion, with a message of “Who could say no to Betty” theme.
  • NO BUDGET  for this campaign, but remember, free isn’t free!  It took Steve and his two cohorts a total of three months to plan and three weeks to run the campaign – and he emphasized they were FULL TIME on this project for this timespan – so we really need to calculate three people full time for three months to know the real cost to produce this campaign!
  • They had a video to roll out each week – the first with tigers and the campaign mission to build a new exhibit for the tigers – replacing the last of the old enclosures from Zoo days of old, the Betty video and then a third one that included cute otters who would also be part of the completed exhibit.
  • They had a daily plan of messaging, posting, tweeting, and encouragement to share and retweet.  They did not employ the team fundraising tools that some walks and runs do. 
  • As Steve quoted a noted social media expert, “email is the secret weapon of social media” they had a weekly email appeal sent to all email contacts of the Zoo.

Results?   The online and social media campaign raised $149,000 from over 800 donors.  Most were donors from the Zoo’s existing file, but they exceeded their goal by $49,000!  Combined with the match donation, they raised almost a quarter of a million dollars!  Great work and wonderful presentation, Steve and crew!


Another great presentation was from the folks at the Dallas Museum of Art.  DMA has gotten much press lately for their “Free Membership” program.  This was a great chance to hear from their team just what they were thinking and how they deployed their idea of making their museum more accessible to a wider audience.  Here are the details:

  • Visitors can register at the Museum for a new “free membership” program.  Kiosks and staff members are standing by in the lobby to explain and get people registered.  All who register get a card to swipe at the Museum and in galleries whenever they visit.
  • Points are assigned to various activities – just for coming to the Museum, for visiting galleries, etc.  build up enough points and you earn benefits, like admission to a special exhibition or even a private screening of a movie of your choice for 100 of your friends!
  • Since unveiled earlier in 2013, by May over 11,000 people had signed up – and about 10% of those were actively utilizing the program with more than just their initial visit to the Museum.

Inquiring minds like mine wanted to know how can any organization do without their financial support that membership provides???  The answer is they just renamed Membership and now “dues paying” people are now called Partners.   Here is how that works:

  • All levels of membership under $100 were eliminated
  • Renewals and acquisition efforts continue as always, just under new program name and levels
  • Work is being done to upgrade all members who had been members at less than $100 to the new Partner levels.
  • So far, the Museum staff reported no drop in Partner revenues over prior year Membership revenues.

Our take?  This is a great idea, but they have not done away with paid memberships, DMA has just found a way to get contact names and addresses out of visitors!   Now they can solicit those people who signed up but may or may not be earning their free membership benefits.

Best of AMMC 2013

•July 10, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Below are our key takeaways from the AMMC conference held in Atlanta and attended by over 250 membership professionals:

Resonating with Donors: Making a Personal Connection Through Unique Campaigns, Kim Callahan, Seattle Art Museum Angela Perillo, The Field Museum Tiffany Tessada, Seattle Art Museum
o Adopt a T-Rex Campaign
 Great fundraising piece that created good awareness
 Amazing packaging
 Prominent space on website: http://fieldmuseum.org/support/adopt-trex
 Good use of social media by incorporating Flickr to engage visitors and supporters

Membership and Millennials: Engaging Generation Y; Kerstin Beyer, Walker Art Center, Lori Grecco, Indianapolis Museum of Art, Ben Whine, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
o iPad tours of cultural institutions are becoming more and more prominent
 4 out of 10 cultural institutions are not engaged with mobile/tablet technology…this means 6 out of 10 are!
o Guggenheim Museum Mobile App http://www.guggenheim.org/new-york/visit/app
 After the second year, the investment into a mobile app will be cheaper than continuing audio tours
 At time of AMMC, over 9,000 downloads

Big Ideas for Membership Marketing: Ambassador Program, Special Recognition, Year of the Member, and More; Jamie Clements, Kate Gleason, Shelley Wood
o Member Get a Member: Art Ambassador Program
 Campaign cost $35,000
 Created an “Ambassador toolkit” (physical bag, fact sheets, thank you card, goal card, programs and events, charter      membership brochures (with name written on it), instructions on how to set up their website, posters, sample        letter invitations, email worked to send a link right from their website to get others to join
 Developed a microsite to support the program
 Held an awards ceremony to recognize highest recruiters
 Prizes to incentivize ambassadors for 1, 5 members, 10 members, 20, and 30 members
 Gave ambassadors a short period of time to meet the goal
 Asked committee to find ambassadors and sent a targeted letter to active members and a pitch at every member            event and staff, docents and existing volunteers
 Overall involved 180 ambassadors, and the program was a great success

Grand Openings and Grand Results: Generating Excitement, New Members, and New Audiences; Mae Daniller, Dana Hines, Rosie Pokrandt, Rosie Siemer, Jennifer Thomas
o Start grand opening planning far in advance, about 1 year to 8 months out
o Look for opportunities to leverage new technologies like mobile, social media, and interactive print to raise awareness and capture member prospect contact info
o Create excitement and support the momentum leading up to and immediately after a grand opening with a path to membership
o Reach new audiences through digital strategies including social media contests, QR codes, and mobile marketing
o History Colorado saw real results from its investment in social media including:
 739 unique participants in total
 654 individuals engaged for the first time via social
 13% join rate overall
 270 QR code respondents; 18% joined
 39% of QR respondents opted-in for mobile texts
 Facebook grew from 766% from 1,285 to 11,122
 Media attention and primary driver to website
 Captured personal stories
o History Colorado’s integrated grand opening campaign realized:
 1,961 new members
 595 recaptured members
 888 upgraded members
 235 donors
 250% increase in target audience on Facebook
 40% increase in membership BEFORE opening
 89% increase in membership 6 weeks POST opening
 121% increase in membership revenues-FY2012

Mission, Marketing, Membership: A Magic Mix for Success; Dana Hines, Maureen McCarthy, Rosie Pokrandt, Rosie Siemer

o Very successful when marketing and membership work together: Integrating outdoor, radio, print, and TV with a consistent message
o Membership is often the driver of campaigns, need to be sure that marketing is aware of membership’s timeline
o Work to find ways around the everyday silos to collaborate and talk about the big picture
o Ensure that membership has a seat at the table when it comes to social media, website, and online marketing strategy conversations
o Critical that membership has responsibility and authority to be responsive via social media platforms as admins
o Partner with Marketing to run targeted promotions via social media
o Membership must have a “Join” tab on Facebook
o Contests can be a great lead generation funnel for membership, but must ensure adherence to Facebook’s Terms of Service!
o Marketing should report out to or provide access to Google Analytics, email click through, and online advertising reports
o Leverage online advertising to serve targeted ads to members and member prospects