Stewardship, Fundraising and Advocacy – What’s Working Right Now?

Our very own Dana Hines and Alicia Lifrak joined Mike Fulton of the Asher Group on April 7 to discuss what’s working and what’s not working right now during the global pandemic.

The discussion, which was moderated by Cyndi Greenglass from our sister company Diamond Communication Solutions, explored traditional, online and virtual tactics that can be employed by nonprofits in order to stay engaged with constituents without in-person experiences.

Specific topics included:

  • Helping clients develop innovative, virtual advocacy and communications strategies to reach and motivate elected officials and government regulators during the coronavirus pandemic and beyond in the absence of face-to-face communications.
  • Navigating the “new normal” with an industry roadmap to finding stability and a course to recovery from human services to health care to cultural institutions – the path ahead is riddled with uncertainty, but nonprofits are not totally unprepared to meet the moment for the third largest employment sector in the U.S.
  • Thoughtful strategies and tactics on the way forward for membership departments at visitation-based cultural organizations including planning, communicating and engaging audiences in uncertain times.

Watch the recording here.

Have questions concerning what you should be doing with your membership program right now? Contact us with the form below and we’ll get back to you soon!

Back to Basics: Membership Renewals

All of the hard work that you do to acquire new members is effectively useless without a solid renewal strategy. In this post, we’re going back to basics on membership renewals. Whether you are new to membership or are a seasoned veteran, here are the four T’s to keep in mind when planning and executing your membership renewal strategy.

1. Timing

Questions to ask: Are we sending out renewal reminders early enough? Do we have enough renewal touches in our renewal cycle? Are we sending out the last renewal reminder after members’ expiration dates to remind them to renew?

We all know that timing is everything! We find that successful renewal programs have a four month window during which reminders are sent. These renewal touches generally start about two months prior to expiration with one reminder sent each month through the month after expiration, for a total of four reminders.

2. Tracking

Questions to ask: Are we tracking renewal effort results? Are we tracking renewal rates by touch? Are we looking at renewal rates yearly for mature renewal rate?

Tracking your renewal efforts is very important. The first metric to know is your renewal rate. Knowing your renewal rate allows you to plan ahead and create accurate budget forecasts. Additionally, tracking by renewal touch can help you see the efficacy of your renewal reminders. Tracking by touch allows you to see how each renewal touch is performing, and it can show you if you need to add another renewal touch or if you are sending out renewals too early. Finally, you can get a matured renewal rate by seeing how many people still haven’t renewed after a year and comparing those numbers to the original renewal numbers at the start of the cycle.

3. Touches

Question to ask: Are you sending out multichannel touches?

Successful membership renewal programs utilize a multichannel approach. Mailed letters should have accompanying emails that mirror the look and feel of the mailed reminders. These emails are often sent out a week or so before the mailed reminders are sent. Additionally, there are digital marketing opportunities for renewals—such as uploading your list to Facebook and sending targeted renewal reminder ads to your expiring members—this can give your renewal program an added lift!

4. Testing

Question to ask: Are you testing your current strategy to maximize your renewal returns?

Just like we test direct mail letter packages in acquisition, we should also be testing renewals. Do we need a four-color outer envelope or will a two-color design work? Are we sending the right messaging about the support our members give us with their membership renewal, or should we focus more on benefits? Do we need a full letter package for each mailing, or will a postcard work for one or more mailings? Each of these can offer testing opportunities for your renewal packages. And remember: test only one aspect against the control each test for the clearest results!

Do you need help creating the best renewal strategy and implementation for your program? Just fill out the form below to find out how we can assist you in your most successful renewal strategy yet!

Back to Basics: Membership Direct Mail Acquisition

Using direct mail for acquisition is a very viable channel for attracting new members. In this post, we’re going back to basics on direct mail acquisition. Whether you are new to using direct mail or are a seasoned veteran, following are the five key things to keep in mind when executing a direct mail acquisition campaign.


The purpose of direct mail acquisition is to reach a new audience and ask them to join your organization. You should utilize a mix of three types of lists:

  • In-house non-member prospects, such as camp registrants, event ticket purchasers and special exhibition ticket buyers, as well as lapsed members
  • Traded lists from other like-minded, local cultural organizations
  • Rental lists, often subscribers or buyers of magazines or catalog items


Successful direct mail acquisition mailings should include an attractive offer. A 10% off discount on the new memberships, premium item offered as part of the membership purchase, additional free months applied to the membership or another exclusive offer are proven options to entice recipients to join.


Many membership direct mail campaigns are full-color packages and contain a full-color outer envelope, letter, brochure, reply device (often attached to the letter) and return envelope. The envelopes and letter should include attractive images of the organization’s offerings, such as animals or artifacts, as well as images of benefits offered to the prospective member, such as event photos or special access tours.


Performing matchback analysis on direct mail campaigns is a great way to show the success of a campaign. A matchback analysis compares the entire mail file to all membership transactions that occurred since the mailing (or since the first mailing when there were multiple mailings in one campaign). Any member that joined or rejoined and received the mailing should be attributed to the success of the campaign—even if they did not reply directly to the mailing or use the provided promo code when purchasing their membership. Since many people that receive a direct mail piece will purchase online or wait until their next visit to your organization to join, you cannot rely on mailed responses and promo codes alone. A successful direct mail acquisition campaign generally has a response rate between 0.5% and 1.5%.


Finally, continuous testing is crucial to successful direct mail campaigns. Through testing, you can identify what works best for attracting new members to your organization. A/B testing is one of the least complicated ways to test—requiring only a control package and the test package to be mailed, each to a segment of the mail file. Some various testing options include:

  • Full-color (referred to as four-color) versus two-color outer envelopes
  • Package sizes (e.g., a #10 envelope versus a 6×9 envelope)
  • Offer testing (e.g., 10% discount versus $10 off discount or guest passes versus event passes)
  • Imagery on the envelopes and letter (e.g., family images versus artifacts images)
  • Messaging (e.g., value versus experience messaging in the letter)

Testing works best when only one element is being tested so that results are clear. Additional testing can be completed in subsequent mailings. For example, let’s assume that artifact imagery was the “winning package” after testing imagery of families versus imagery of artifacts. The winning artifact package could then be tested against another image or you could choose a different element such as package size to test. Direct mail testing helps you learn about your marketing and helps your team better target your audience.

Direct mail may seem “old school” to some, but it is still the backbone of acquisition programs and is even more powerful when paired with email and digital campaigns with the same messaging and creative as the direct mail campaign.

Make this powerful medium work for your program!

Need help on your next direct mail acquisition campaign? Just fill out the form below to find out how we can assist you in developing your most successful direct mail campaign yet!

Success Story: Lions, Tigers and Amazing Results for Hogle Zoo!

In 2018, Utah’s Hogle Zoo partnered with Membership Consultants in order to create a fresh approach to their membership initiatives as well as their creative focus and messaging. Their goal was to improve results in their direct mail acquisition and renewal efforts.

In celebration of the Zoo’s new red panda exhibit, we created a fun, animal-focused campaign that invited people to meet the Zoo’s latest additions. The Zoo also identified their “Big Six” animals of focus for their conservation efforts.

This enhanced focus on membership in the creative strategy told the story of Utah’s Hogle Zoo and the animals in their care, resulting in amazing outcomes for the Zoo’s membership program.

The direct mail campaign was sent to 225,000 households and was supported by an email series that helped boost overall results and the bottom line. The campaign results exceeded projections while resulting in …

  • A 1.26% response rate
  • 3,722 new/renewed members
  • A $175 average gift
  • More than $651,000 in membership revenue
  • A $5.22 ROI for every dollar spent

Additionally, the overall net revenue of the program exceeded the prior year’s results by $189,000!

Need help with enhancing your new member acquisition strategy? Contact us for more information on how you can increase your direct mail results!

Do You REALLY Know Your Membership Program?

The Usefulness and Importance of Membership Audits and Strategic Plans

As a membership manager, you live and breathe your membership program.

You know all the weird quirks of your database system.

You know the names of your “problem” members—each direct mail campaign is accompanied by the phrase, “Make sure Mr. Jones does NOT get two letters this time!”

You know all of the basic things like your membership numbers, popularity of your benefits, renewal rates, and annual revenue.

So, you know just how well your program is doing—right? Possibly. Here are a few reporting metrics you should also know. Do you know the answers to these questions about your membership program?

  • What is your first-year renewal rate?
  • What is your cost per member household?
  • What is your net revenue per member household?
  • What are your response rates and revenues of your last direct mail campaign?
  • What are your response rates and revenues of your last direct mail campaign after a matchback analysis? (Have you ever had a matchback analysis performed on your acquisition campaigns?)
  • Do you have the right amount of staff for your membership size?
  • Do your membership benefits match the dues your members pay? Are you doing enough in terms of benefits? Are you spending too much compared to your dues?
  • Have you met your membership projections from last year? (Did you have projections?)
Image Credit: Max Pixel

These questions cover just some of the many caveats of really knowing your membership program. If you don’t know the answer to any of these questions, you should try to find the answers. These answers help to tell you exactly what your program is up to, and they give insight to what your program could be. Knowing these answers also gives you the information you need to construct a well-rounded membership strategic plan.

Developing a well thought-out membership plan will ensure that your membership program is functioning properly, and that you have a course of action put into place to maximize all of your efforts to maintain and grow your membership. A membership plan is a step-by-step guide to success.

Have you ever stepped back and really had a look at your membership program? Have you looked at all of the things you offer, the things you and your staff do on a daily basis, the ways you communicate with your members, and all of the data that your membership program creates? Performing an audit lets you take a critical eye to all of the aspects of your membership program. It shows you your program’s strengths and weaknesses; the things you are doing well and the things you could improve on; and all of the many special quirks and facets of all that you do in your program.

So, why do a strategic plan for membership? Here are a few reasons:

  • Jump start a stagnant membership program
  • New direction when new staff take the reins of the program
  • To take advantage of the excitement of an expansion, new building or remodel of a current building by revamping your membership program

Your plan should cover every aspect of your membership program—from acquisition and renewals, to processes and staffing, marketing and communications, dues and benefits. Your plan should also include a general schedule and projections for the next five years, taking into account anything out of the ordinary, such as…

  • Grand Openings (and closed buildings)
  • Anniversary years of your organization as well as other stakeholders (such as city celebrations)
  • Major events and exhibitions (or lack thereof)
  • Major institutional changes, such as price increases, change in leadership, mission expansion, to name a few.

These could impact your numbers in unique ways. Your projections will give you goals to aim for, as well as a way to see how your program is actually doing compared to what you projected could happen.

Often, we look at the creation of a strategic plan as something that should occur at the beginning of the year. It’s great to get a solid set of data to guide your decisions for the upcoming year. But, let’s face it—the beginning of the year is crammed full already! With all of the added planning for the New Year and processing from end-of-year appeals and gift memberships, you’re busy!

But, truth is, you will always find yourself too busy to do an audit and plan. You’ll always be busy with something.  Even in your slow season, you’ll find other matters more pressing than an audit and plan. But, you just need to find the time and energy to do it NOW. It’ll seem like at pain while you’re pulling everything together, but when you are done, you’ll be very happy that you have a comprehensive plan for your membership program.

If you are still sure you don’t have time to perform your audit and plan, we can help! Just fill out the form below to find out how we take the burden off of your shoulders by performing your membership audit and creating your strategic plan for you!

Telemarketing – How to Make it Work for You!

A brief one on one conversation with a current or lapsed member offers a customized and personal touch that you can’t get with direct mail and email. Believe it or not – even in 2016, a well-planned Telemarketing Campaign remains one of the best methods of growing your membership program.

Have you ever utilized or considered telemarketing for your nonprofit?

Follow these simple “Do’s and Don’ts” to make your next telemarketing campaign a success!


DO: Utilize telemarketing for renewals and lapsed recaptures

A personalized contact with members is sometimes more successful than direct mail. Renewal and Lapsed telemarketing is not a “cold call” and is often more successful than other campaigns. In some cases, a brief phone conversation serves as a welcomed reminder of membership expiration and will prompt the member to renew.  Telemarketing campaigns can be implemented very quickly—with proper planning, campaigns can be up and running in 2 to 3 weeks, if needed.]. Adding this personal touch to your renewal cycle or a “welcome back” to lapsed members can provide a boost in revenue and renewal rates.

DON’T: Think telemarketing is outdated or unwanted

A telephone conversation is the next best thing to being there in person and individuals are more likely to answer a call from an organization they already support. A brief call to thank members for their participation, update them on upcoming events or exhibitions or just ask for feedback about membership can all be positive ways to use telemarketing to make your members feel appreciated.  Members who feel appreciated are more likely to renew and encourage their friends to join, visit or support your organization.

DO: Train and retrain

An effective telemarketing campaign will take place over a period of several months. As exhibitions open and close or events and seasons pass, your telemarketing team needs to be kept up-to-date. Evaluate and refresh your script monthly to be certain that the most recent and important information is being shared with your members. Be certain to have ongoing conversations with the team to address any questions, concerns, or member feedback.

DON’T: Be afraid to change it up

With telemarketing, it is very easy to change messaging and offers in real time. If something doesn’t appear to be working – switch it up. Update your script to lead with a different ice breaker. Change the offer to something more appealing. Schedule a monitoring session to evaluate individual callers to see if a switch needs to be made. Flexibility is key!

DO: Offer an incentive

A special and exclusive offer will sweeten the deal, encourage upgrading to higher levels of membership and entice people to join over the phone. Incentives don’t have to be costly. Discounts, free guest passes, parking passes, event tickets, exclusive tours, scooter and stroller rentals, ride passes – be creative. Remember that members want to feel special – so make sure your offer feels exclusive. Bonus – offer an additional incentive for upgrading to a higher level as well!

DON’T: Leave it up to volunteers to make calls

To maximize the success of a telemarketing campaign it is essential to have a professional firm who has been trained as direct representatives of your organization and is familiar with the climate and intricacies of phone campaigns. It’s important to ensure the firm has the ability and capacity to efficiently manage the call volume.

While volunteers can be a wonderful way to spread the mission of your organization, they are not always the best choice when it comes to phone campaigns. Many volunteers feel uncomfortable making a financial ask and often the volume of people who need to be reached is far too large for volunteers to effectively manage.

Volunteer phonathons and calling sessions can often be time consuming and labor intensive for staff. In the long run, bringing in a professional firm will be more cost effective as it both increases revenue and frees the staff and volunteers to use their time more effectively in other ways.

DO: Track member feedback

Telemarketing campaigns can be a wonderful way to informally survey current, renewing and lapsed members. Utilize a calling strategy that leads with a conversational ice breaker about your organization and membership. Ask leading questions about recent events, membership benefits, favorite part of your facility, etc. and briefly capture the responses. Professional calling firms can capture brief notes and reasons for non-renewals in reports and transaction files.

There is so much to be learned from a simple phone conversation that increases the value of a Telemarketing Campaign to an organization. What events do your members love? What member benefits are used the most? What is the reason for not renewing? Having these answers at your fingertips will help you structure and build your membership program for the future!

When and how to conduct a telemarketing campaign

Telemarketing can be a part of your renewal cycle, a way to recapture lapsed members, before a major event or exhibition, as part of first year renewal strategy or a “preemptive strike” to get blockbuster members to renew. Also, the phone is excellent for upgrading members or the Annual Fund Campaign for donor gifts.

Multi-channel campaigns perform best!

By coordinating Direct Mail, Email and Telemarketing timing and messaging, it will keep your museum, garden, zoo or science center at the top of your members’ minds increasing the likelihood that they will renew or rejoin!



Membership Consultants offers the professional telemarketing campaigns that can add to your program’s success. Let’s talk! Email us to schedule a chat or request a proposal!

AMMC 2016 – Chicago Recap

We just got back from our weeklong trip to Chicago, IL for AMMC 2016 and we had a great time! The American Museum Membership Conference is always one of our favorite conferences to attend. We were very excited for Membership Consultants to be a lead sponsor. At the Premier level of sponsorship, we are always happy to help out by making this and other conference possible for all to enjoy!

Every AMMC is not only filled with loads of information on membership programs of all shapes and sizes, but also great fun at our host museums, and, of course, meaningful conversations all throughout. The sessions were fantastic and filled the rooms with information and inspiration for the future, while the roundtables offered a chance to have some in-depth conversations on a particular topic, such as membership and loyalty or multi-channel acquisition efforts. The evening events offered opportunities to experience Chicago’s incredible museums and connect with colleagues outside of the conference rooms.


From left to right: Karen E. Meyer, Tabetha Debo, Karen Mariani, Dana Hines, John Keefe, and Rosie Siemer at the Adler Planetarium.

While we enjoyed all the sessions at AMMC 2016, we thought we’d share some highlights of our favorites.

“Oh! Your museum has this problem, too?!”

So many first-time attendees come to AMMC thinking that their museum’s membership program is filled with issues and “pain-points” (that was a definite buzzword of this conference) that it could not possibly stack up against any other program. But, then you get to the conference and you find out that institutions big and small have all the same issues you face at your museum—lack of cooperation with other departments (silos anyone?), small budgets (has anyone ever had enough budget?), and high demands from your director (“We need to triple membership revenue in the next six months. I don’t care how—just do it!”) are just a few of these issues. AMMC is such an important resource for membership professionals because it facilitates truly honest conversations about the challenges that all museums face, as well as the emerging trends and best practices in every facet of membership.


This year’s keynotes were exceptional! While most come from backgrounds outside of the museum world, they shared insightful information on trends that are relevant to our cultural institutions. Beyond being wonderful speakers, each keynote presenter offered great takeaways and food-for-thought for everyone that attended. In John List’s Let’s Get to the Why of the Matter, he opened our minds to the science behind what makes people do what they do and the incentives that work.  Wednesday’s keynote speaker, Nandika Suri, gave us the ins-and-outs of United Airlines Mileage Plus Rewards Program—a loyalty program serving more than 2 million members—in her presentation, Member Engagement Strategies that Really Take-off. In the final keynote presentation, Influence is Behavior Change, by Art Markman, we learned how we can change our behavior to influence the behavior of others. Listening to each of these keynotes got our wheels turning on how we can make changes in our own museums.

Membership Consultants’ Sessions

We were thrilled to have the opportunity to participate in three sessions at this year’s AMMC.

In Making Email, Online Advertising, and Social Media Work for Membership, Rosie shared the options for incorporating digital marketing and online advertising into membership campaigns. With help from the membership managers at Baltimore Museum of Art, Desert Botanical Garden, San Antonio Zoo, and Phoenix Art Museum, Rosie’s live Q&A style presentation allowed the audience to gain a multitude of perspectives on how digital strategies can be used for membership acquisition and retention.


From left to right: Rosie Siemer with Membership Consultants, Lauren Stachowiak with the Baltimore Museum of Art, and Halee Lynch with Desert Botanical Garden.

In the session, Loyalty and Membership: Love, Passion and Long-Term Relationship, Rosie facilitated a dynamic Q&A-style panel on how loyalty programs can boost the member experience, increase membership totals and revenues, and raise all ships across departments. With perspectives from the Royal Academy of the Arts represented by Annie Wong, Head of Loyalty & Partnership Development, Membership Consultants (with our own Dana Hines on the panel), and John Keefe with SKIDATA. This session covered the critical need-to-knows of loyalty and membership—explaining how it could work, addressing misconceptions, and emphasizing the need for loyalty to compliment,rather than compete with, membership.

Our last session was On-site Late Night: On the Couch with On-site Sales Experts. Our Manager of On-Site Sales Karen Mariani moderated a panel of membership managers that oversee on-site membership sales. We were lucky to have three very different organizations offer their perspectives and experiences in this session. On the panel were the membership managers from Monterey Bay Aquarium, Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, and The Trustees of Reservations. Each panelist shared their perspective on hiring and training on-site membership sales staff, the relationship needed with the visitor services department, and the metrics used to judge the efficacy of the on-site membership sales team.

Session Highlight

In the session, Beyond the Free Pass: Members and Art as Cause, Jon Alexander from the New Citizenship Project and Rob Halkyard, Head of Membership & Audience Engagement, Tate discussed the theory, framework, and research for engaging members as participants in art as cause, not just consumers of art as product. The session was very interesting, and opened up a discussion into building deeper relationships with members and modeling retention strategies based on visitation behavior. The presenters discussed opportunities for “priming” messaging and the importance of data capture to better personalize the member experience and enrich the visit.

Awesome Museums!

This year we were lucky to have the conference in the Chicago—and the AMMC Board and host committee did a wonderful job with this conference. We had the chance to visit and spend some time at three great museums—The Art Institute of Chicago, the Adler Planetarium, and the Museum of Science and Industry.

The opening night dinner was amazing at the Art Institute of Chicago, with the opportunity to see the Van Gogh exhibit. Tuesday’s evening reception at the Adler was very interesting (oh, and the view of the lake and the city skyline was breathtaking!). Here’s the Membership Consultants team on the moon!


From left to right: Karen E. Meyer, Tabetha Debo, and Karen Mariani.

Wednesday night’s trip to the Museum of Science and Industry was so much fun! It made us feel like kids again—looking at Legos, creating tornados, getting lost in a hall of mirrors, and seeing how avalanches work were all very fun!


We couldn’t possibly visit Chicago and not go out of our way to try some tasty food! We were able to enjoy exceptional treats, including Chicago-style pizza, delicious paella, and even took a break for High Tea!


From left to right: Dana Hines with Membership Consultants, John Keefe with SKIDATA, Christopher Panek with CZS/Brookfield Zoo, and Rosie Siemer with Membership Consultants.

Conference Takeaways

Key takeaways from the conference were the need for better data capture and systems integration, the need for more investment in membership marketing, and the opportunity for building deeper relationships with members. A common theme throughout was the need to get to know our members better to deliver more personalized experiences.

What was your favorite part of AMMC 2016? Please share your biggest takeaways, best memories, and favorite experiences below!

2016 New Year’s Resolution: Healthy Habits for Your Membership Program

berriesIt’s the New Year, and we are all looking to start off on the right foot. We’re promising ourselves that we’ll exercise more and eat healthier. We resolve to keep better organized and get to those projects that we never seem to get to. While you’re getting organized and starting those fresh and healthy habits, we’d like to offer a few good habits to keep your membership program fit and focused throughout the year.


Do it and do it often. Membership software programs hold a lot of data about your program. However, some don’t give you the reporting you need in the way you’d like it. The best option is to do monthly reporting and compile your own data. This way you, you’ll have accurate data for your program that you can use for benchmarking, projections, and goals—both short- and long-term.


Do you know how much more (or less) successful your program is from last year? What about how your program stacks up to other membership organizations of similar type, size, and budget? Do you know how you compare to your “competitor” organizations in your area? These are all very useful figures to know. Knowing each of these benchmarks gives you a good and data-backed way to measure the success of your program.

Keeping Up on New Trends and Membership Options.

Did you know you can remind your members to renew though Facebook retargeting? Have you ever conducted a back-end analysis on your direct mail or email campaigns to see how successful they really were? How about using mobile strategies and other member-focused social media posts as a way to communicate with your members? Have you thought about implementing a loyalty rewards program that will compliment your membership program? These trends and more will become the membership waves of the future. You need to know what’s out there to know what you could be doing with your program, and keeping your membership program relevant in today’s world of ever-changing technology.


Make 2016 the year of communication between you and your members. While the means and frequency of your communications are not always in your control, you’ve got to try! Work with your communications or marketing team to make sure you get membership messaging into your organization’s email, social media, and print communications. A new year is an excellent time to get membership needs on your institution’s communications calendar. Being proactive with your communication and promotional needs for the whole year heads off push back at busy times. Email, social media, and other channels can be utilized to communicate with members.


Departmental and institutional planning are very important tasks. Get all of your acquisition, renewal, and member events on everyone’s calendars NOW! Make sure membership is everyone’s priority. Members are your organization’s most loyal audience and stable revenue stream!

If you have any membership questions, please feel free to contact us at any time!