Cultural Organization Reopening Protocols

As cultural organizations are in the process of planning for reopening their facilities around the country, we have been in communications with a variety of organizations nationally.  Here are some experiences and guidance we are offering as plans are being made to reopen institutions:

  • To date, outdoor facilities are the only institutions that have reopened, although many are in the planning phase
  • Most organizations are planning to reopen with some controlled visitor volume situation
  • Timed ticketing for both members and visitors is a predominant plan – free reserved times for members
  • Some organizations are planning to host soft openings, some for members only, as a way to test opening policies on smaller groups
  • Giving members the first chance to visit or reserve timed visitation slots can be seen as a thank you for their patience during the closure
  • Many organizations have given members a two month extension on their memberships due to their institutions closure; the implementation varies by organization
  • Reopening plans are being directed by governmental entities which differs by location and type of organization
  • Capacity of visitors is anticipated to be lower, perhaps at 25% of what would normally be possible.  Some of this will be directed by governmental policies.
  • Communicating opening plans with members and the public is key.  Informing audiences of the cleaning and safety protocol is important to communicate.
  • Most places are requiring masks for staff and making it a recommendation of masks for members is common. Some are requiring masks for visitors and make them available for sale.
  • Many are making plans for a one -way traffic pattern once inside the facility
  • Any interactive exhibits with a touch component are probably going to be closed for now. Some specific include:
    • Eliminate as many high touch points as possible.  This could include propping open doors to restrooms, cafes, gift shops, etc.  Remove lids from trash/recycle receptacles.
    • Place signage where high touch points exist warning visitors that this is a high touch point. 
    • Additional signage about safe distancing through the venue.
    • Place markings/signage indicating six foot spacing in areas where lines form to ensure safe distancing.  Consider similar markings in special exhibitions or high traffic areas.
    • Additional hand sanitizer stations, especially near high touch points
  • Some places are requiring all admissions be timed tickets and reservations that will minimize personal interaction at entry.  If this is the fact, the opportunities for membership sales at entry could or will be impacted.
  • According to visitor intent research being conducted by IMPACTS and spokesperson Colleen Dilenschneider, a prominent firm in the museum and visitor attraction market, the following data points have been documented:
    • Intent to visit within a particular time period (1 month, 3 months, etc.) is mirroring that of data collected in 2019, suggesting that people are looking forward to visiting their favorite institutions again once they are open
    • The venues that people feel comfortable visiting include outdoor venues first, followed by museums and indoor venues, and lastly by theaters and venues with confined spaces
    • There is greater intent to visit by households with incomes of $100,000 or more
    • An institution that has well defined safety and cleaning practices and communicates that plan will make the returning public feel safer and more likely to visit
    • The ability to avoid lines is a factor that will make people feel safer when they visit

What are you and your organization planning to do to reopen? Let us know in the comments!

Have a question for us about what to do to reopen? Fill out the form here to contact us with your questions!

Questions and Answers from our Digital and Social Media Webinar

The following Q&A is from our recent Digital and Social Media for Membership webinar, originally aired on July 23, 2015

Social Media ImgeMembership Consultants recently hosted a webinar entitled Digital and Social Media for Membership, with some great tips on how you can utilize digital and social media for your membership programs. This webinar was very well attended, with great participation and some very specific questions from our attendees. Here are a list of those questions and answers. Feel free to listen to a recording of that webinar and send us any questions that you might have. You can find an on-demand recording of the webinar on our website.

Let us hear from you if you have digital projects that we might be able to help with. For more information about our digital marketing services, please click here to send us a request.

Q: What is a “Dark Post”?

A: A “dark post” is an unpublished status update, link, video, or photo that is hidden from showing up on the organization’s Facebook page as an organic post. Rather, this type of post is only displayed as an ad.

Q: Is the Facebook ad in the timeline an additional fee?

A: Yes. Any ad on Facebook requires a fee. That said, an ad displayed in the timeline is not necessarily more expensive than an ad displayed on the right hand sidebar. Facebook has two ways to bid for ads: (1) cost per click (CPC) or (2) cost per 1,000 ad views (CPM).

Q: Can you explain a little more about “Call-to-Action” overlay? Is it a free service from Google? What is the actual name of it?

A: Yes! This feature is available through the free YouTube for Nonprofits program (part of Google for Nonprofits) that allows qualified nonprofits the opportunity to place a call-to-action overlay on any of your videos. A call-to-action overlay is sort of like a pop-up text ad that can include a headline, description, clickable URL, and thumbnail image.

Q: When on social media, what kind of voice/tone is recommended when addressing your audience? Fun? Formal?

A: This is a tricky question because it really depends on the voice and tone that is appropriate for your organization’s specific brand. Generally speaking, the voice and tone used on social media should be less formal, more conversational, and more concise than other communications channels.

Q: How do you define Mobile Marketing?

A: We define mobile marketing as any type of marketing or communications strategy that is displayed or accessed via a mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet. This can include text messaging, social media (e.g. Instagram), mobile apps, mobile ads, geofencing, near field communication (NFC) and beacons, and more.

Q: Do you find that organizations are deferring traditional direct mail acquisition towards social media campaigns by hiring experts to develop and launch campaigns?

A: No. And we don’t recommend abandoning traditional direct mail in favor of digital and social media campaigns for acquisition. Rather, we advocate for additional budget to support layering digital campaigns into the acquisition strategy to support and enhance direct mail.

Just for perspective, In a recent comprehensive campaign for a full service type client where we were doing robust direct mail and social and digital marketing, the client attracted 4,000 new members through a year’s worth of direct mail, and 500 new members from digital.  So at this point, direct mail still provides more volume of memberships sold.

Additionally, due to the complexity and need for real-time optimization of online and mobile strategies, we recommend organizations engage with an experienced agency partner to execute digital marketing campaigns. Without this type of expertise, digital marketing efforts can end up being all-consuming for staff while not maximizing limited dollars.

Q: For an organization that has not had much of a membership presence in social media – what kind of a budget would be a starting point?

A: This is a difficult question as every situation is unique. Social media campaign budgets can be affected by many factors such as platform, duration, goals, ad spend, graphic design and programming costs, testing, prizes, etc. For a very small campaign, a budget of a few thousand dollars may be adequate to get some traction. For a more aggressive and comprehensive campaign, an organization should be prepared to invest in the $10k to $30k range.

Q: Can you send too many emails for communication? We send more than 48 per year. Should we be concerned?

A: No! Too often, we find organizations are afraid of sending too many emails without the proper data to support this fear. As a general rule, it’s always better to err on the side of over communicating when it comes to email. While every situation and institution is different, we recommend an email frequency of between 24 to 48 emails per year. Remember, email helps maintain a connection with members and visitors and keeps the organization top of mind.

Q: The frequency recommendations – are these number of times in contact with members for any reasons or just membership related reasons?

A: As a general rule, our recommendations for email frequency include all types of communication both membership and non-membership related. The key takeaway here is not to withhold or delay sending timely and relevant information (membership related or not) because of an arbitrary limit to the number of emails members or visitors can receive in a given week or month.

Q: Do you have a recommendation for the best way to administer a mobile member card? What are options for providing members with digital membership cards? Would you do that through an app or a weblink?

A: Sure! While every organization and situation is unique, at a minimum, a mobile member card should be easily accessed via an app or mobile optimized webpage, and should be scannable for quick entry. There are many ways to accomplish this using various mobile technologies such as QR codes and bar codes.

Q: Are there any options for creating and sending blast emails inhouse where click-through rate reports will be generated without needing to pay an outside entity for these services?

A: Yes. Any legitimate email marketing platform such as MailChimp or Constant Contact will include reporting at no additional charge.

Q: Can you tell us more about the expanded email acquisition – were these emails from a house list or were they rented, etc…? If rented, what regulations should you be aware of?

A: An expanded email acquisition program is a marketing strategy that to reach a targeted list of prospective members who have opted-in to receive special offers from organizations just like yours! Targeting criteria can include demographic and lifestyle selects such as geography, gender, presence of children in the household, affinity, hobbies, and more. This process is similar to renting an email list; however, the campaigns are deployed by a third party to ensure CAN-SPAM compliance. As a best practice, current members and previously unsubscribed email addresses are scrubbed from the list prior to deployment.

Q: What if an institution doesn’t have an in-house list for ticket buyers? (We’re in the dark ages – no online ticket sales here.)

A: Without the benefit of an in-house ticket buyer list, one way to extend the reach of your membership marketing efforts is to institute an intentional email list building strategy. We find the “give-to-get” model works well to encourage visitors, website users, and social media followers to provide their email address in exchange for something of value. In this context, value could mean anything from a chance to win free tickets to a personalized Facebook cover photo.

Q: What about frequency for Facebook posts?

A: Go crazy! Seriously, due to Facebook’s recent algorithm changes, organic post reach has significantly declined. This means Facebook will limit the number of organic posts your fans will see in their News Feed on any given day. Some industry analysts have speculated that organic reach has declined by upwards of 97%. Why the change? Facebook has stated that the “…News Feed is already a competitive place — as more people and Pages are posting content, competition to appear in News Feed has increased.” To combat this flood of content, organic post reach and referral traffic will decline if there are limited interactions (e.g. likes, comments, shares, etc). Additionally, in 2015 Facebook began limiting the reach of organic posts, specifically organic posts deemed as “promotional.” In short, there is no need to be worried about posting too frequently on Facebook. Rather, organizations will need to focus on posting highly engaging content often, and allocating budget toward Facebook ads to ensure fans see important posts.

Q: Can you review again the response times that are expected for Facebook, Twitter, etc?

A: Research has shown that in general social media users expect a response to questions and comments within 30 minutes to an hour regardless of the time of day/night or day of the week.

Q: Does it make sense to cut back direct mail communications (ie museum monthly calendars, newsletters) and convert this to email communication or should we keep both? We are doing both for our membership renewal campaigns but are considering converting our marketing/communication pieces to email communication only.

A:  They key Answer to this question is Communications vs Transactional!

It may make sense to transition to an electronic newsletter and/or calendar of events; however, it really depends on your audience and whether or not this change would be appropriate given the type of information and how members prefer to receive it. In general, email is a more cost effective, timely, and user-friendly communicationschannel for day-to-day news and updates. That said, we don’t recommend abandoning traditional direct mail for transactional notices such as renewals or special announcements such as invitations to major events.

Additionally, members may feel disappointed if a benefit such as a nice annual calendar or glossy newsletter is retired. A best practice is to conduct a member survey to determine the appropriate course of action. The other question to ask yourself with communications going electronic is:  How many members are going to be left out if we only communicate via electronic methods?   Often times these are the longest tenured, potentially most well-heeled members for whom we have no email address.  If that is the case, be sure that this audience is still hearing from your organization

Q: When will the new book be published? This fall???? Which month? 😉

A: Glad you asked! Our new book, Membership Marketing in the Digital Age will be published in November 2015. Membership Marketing in the Digital Age provides all the tools you need to implement a membership program that is healthy and growing. Written specifically for all those who are involved with membership, this comprehensive “how to” book includes traditional techniques, plus social and digital media trends and tactics for growing membership.

Q: What are some easy ways to increase your email click-through rate? This is something that we struggle with, even though our average open rate is quite high. Our constituents seem to be receptive to email marketing from a Development and Membership standpoint, so we’re constantly trying to figure out what we could be doing better.

A: Test, test, test! Images, text links, call-to-action, button color and placement, layout, and content are all possible aspects that can impact click-through rate. To ensure accurate results, only test one thing at a time. For example, you might test the words “click here to learn more” against an in-text hyperlink such as “our tiger conservation program…” Additionally, marketing automation is quickly becoming a game changer for tailoring content and increasing engagement metrics such as click-through rate. This type of software allows an organization to personalize email communications based on an individual’s unique behavior and interests.

Q: Do you recommend any organizations for mobile campaigns?

A: Yes, Membership Consultants! We offer mobile marketing capabilities including text campaigns, mobile advertising, mobile apps, and more!

Q: Another department controls social media and they are hesitant to post items that would not appeal to the whole Facebook audience (i.e., we have fans from all over the world). So membership is one thing they won’t post. What are your thoughts on this?

A: This is a shortsighted view in our opinion. Facebook and similar platforms will always serve a multitude of audiences just like a website. Prioritizing membership messaging on social media, including Facebook is a best practice for leading institutions. Indeed, not leveraging such a powerful channel to acquire new members is a far greater risk to the long-term sustainability of the organization than the risk of posting content that does not appeal to all fans. In our experience, Facebook users will simply disregard content that is not immediately relevant to them. If there is still extreme concern that membership messaging will alienate Facebook fans, then a discrete budget should be allocated to implement dark posts and Facebook advertising to reach a more targeted audience with membership promotions.

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

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?

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

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 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

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

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 high points 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.

Happy Holidays!

Recap of our Favorite AAM Sessions – 2013

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 walk-through 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 re-purpose 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 time span – 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

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:

 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

 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

Successful Marriage: Membership and Marketing!

In the Zoo and Aquarium world there has long been a debate on where Membership “belongs.”   Marketing or Development?  And every time a poll is taken, it always seems to be a split decision.  No matter where your organization comes down on in this poll, there needs to be a very cozy relationship between Membership and Marketing.

At the 2012 AZA National Conference, the message that seemed to run through all of the Membership sessions what to make sure there is a close working connection with your Marketing Department.

In too many organizations we still see the silo mentality, where one department has blinders on and doesn’t cross the line with other departments in planning, communications and in implementing the activities of their own department.  Here are a few examples of projects and ways of thinking and planning that will help ALL departments be more successful:


  • Membership usually pays for the mailed newsletter, but often can’t get “real estate” it its own publication – be sure that there is always a member and donor news page in the newsletter.  And, if there are promotions going on in Membership or Development, make sure those activities are highlighted – like Adopt campaigns, Annual Fund Appeal, Gift Membership Appeal.
  • The same goes for website and Facebook pages – make sure Membership has a tab on the Facebook page – people will join from the page, especially since people like to stay on the page and don’t have to jump over to a web site.
  • eNewsletters are another opportunity to get everyone on the same page. Plan for the eNews to members to have messages that relate to them – which may mean eNewsletters to the public and members that have some unique differences.


  • Sit down with Marketing and Membership – map out your promotions for the year, get on the other department’s schedule, make sure you are not working at cross purposes, get on their calendar, be sure to get those tweets, Facebook entries and banner ads planned for when your major membership drive is happening.
  • Have Membership be part of the Marketing Departments planning sessions and Marketing sit in on Membership’s planning meetings to make sure you are covering for each other – AND get everyone’s brain power to work for each other.


  • Membership direct mail campaigns work the best when they have the support of advertising.  And the campaigns work the very best when a marketing message and graphics work in tandem.  Membership works months ahead of other people’s schedules especially for graphics – so get everyone working ahead instead of last minute!

In summary, a well oiled, non siloed relationship between Membership and Marketing is a perfect marriage for everyone!