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!

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


Membership Acquisition – 25th Anniversary Perspectives

Membership Consultants celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2012! To commemorate that milestone we will take on 25 membership topics – looking back and looking forward – presenting a topic each week until the end of our anniversary year via our blog. We invite you to celebrate with us and weigh in on your membership experiences and opinions.  Here is Topic #2 – Membership Acquisition…

What are your best sources of new members? Direct mail, on-site sales, member-get-a member campaigns? Can you quantify what percent of new members come from what source? If not, get counting!

Having a quarter century perspective on membership can be an interesting place to be. And thinking back even before the start of Membership Consultants to my early days as a membership manager, direct mail was definitely our primary source of new members without question. In fact, the program I served at a botanical garden far outpaced all other organizations in our city with our membership totals simply because our garden and our director was an early adopter of the use of direct mail way back in the 1970’s! He saw it as a scientific experiment – which it still is today.  In those days, direct mail accounted for 60% to 70% of our new members. Today, direct mail probably accounts for 30% to 50% of most viable organizations’ new members. But direct mail IS still a very viable source of new memberships – it is still targeted, timely and YOU control it – you are not waiting for people to come to you! But it may DRIVE people to you in other ways – as in to visit you in person and join at that time. Or to “visit” your online and join in that way. Direct mail is definitely not dead!

On–site sales at a visitation-based organization or sales at the point of purchase for an association (such as when people sign up for your annual convention) has most likely taken over first place from direct mail. On-site sales can account for 40% to 60% of new member sales for some organizations. We have gotten much bolder at asking people to join. Being direct, or in-your-face, is the best way to get a new member. If you have a prospect before you, simply ASK them to join! This method of getting new members is usually the most cost effective – often with a cost per dollar raised of just $.25 to $.50, as compared to direct mail, which may cost $1.00 to $1.50 to raise a dollar.

Other methods of acquiring new members might include using your existing members to bring you new members – often called ‘refer a member’, ‘member-get-a-member’ or a gift membership program.  In fact, this is exactly how most membership programs started. Ladies who lunch would ask their friends to teas and encouraged them to join. Board members of an organization would ask their peers to support their causes – the person-to-person ask. Today these efforts are still alive online, such as when runners in a marathon get their friends to join an organization in support of their fundraising event. Gift memberships, for certain types of membership organizations, are also a viable source of new members. Friends like to share their favorite places with one another, and giving a gift membership is a great way to make sure you will experience your favorite place with your friends. These referral and gift sources can account for another 10% to 20% of your membership totals.

Email campaigns are probably best used to recapture lapsed members or get people with whom you already have a relationship to join or rejoin. After all, if you didn’t already have a relationship, you wouldn’t have the person’s email address, and an email appeal without a relationship is just SPAM, right? That is not to say that there aren’t email campaigns to strangers; the results are just infinitesimal.

There are many types of special projects and promotions that organizations try to get new members. Some work, some are trial and error, but most new members come from one of the tried and true tactics described above.

Know your sources! Figure out where your members are coming from. Then crank up the best producing acquisition activities and start growing!

Thanks for reading. Please feel free to join in, we would like to see your comments.

Spring Fever! Be prepared with this On-Site Sales Checklist

Spring is on its way and so is Spring Break. That means ringing cash registers, lines at the admission window and the opportunity to cash in on the throngs of visitors to be able to convert at least some of them to members! So here is an On-Site Sales checklist to make sure you are ready!

• Set Goals. Do you know what percent of visitors you have been able to convert in the past? If not, track down your paid visitor numbers for last year. Also find the total number of people who bought memberships while visiting. Divide that number by paid visits and your will know your on-site sales conversion rate. Set you goal a little higher this year. Shoot for a 2% to 4% conversion rate.

• Publicize your goal – the percentage you want to convert and a numeric goal. Break that down by week, or month or just for spring break. Be bold and put that number out there so everyone knows what they are working towards. Put a tote board where staff can see progress towards that goal!

• Signage. Break the rules and make some bold, clear signage that will support your salesperson’s efforts. “Members Enter FREE!” “ Membership is a Great value!”

• Select and Train staff. Sales aren’t for everyone. It takes an energetic, outgoing, fearless kind of person. Select people who represent your organization well and who are not afraid to ask people to join! Then train them about everything they need to know about membership and your organization. Retrain frequently to keep them pumped up and up on the latest changes.

• Use an incentive. People are suckers for something FREE! Walking away with a plush or a tote bag makes the member feel good and it will cause ENVY among other guests who will ask “Where did you get that?”

• Tabulate sales by salesperson. Let everyone know how many memberships they sold, reward them in some way and let them know what a great job they are doing and how they are moving the needle on the sales goal.

Now, go out and break some spring sales records!

Clients Win Top Honors in Second Annual MC Awards

Clients Win Top Honors in Second Annual MC Awards

It’s the Awards season, and Membership Consultants is rolling out the red carpet to its clients with exceptional performance in 2010!

Membership Consultants celebrates the achievements of all its clients and is delighted to announce the second annual MC Awards.  In a field demanding so many hats and with relatively so little accolades, our hats are off to you!


Direct Mail – The New York Botanical Garden

Membership Consultants was pleased to serve The New York Botanical Garden with direct mail and membership planning services in 2010.  Both projects achieved noteworthy results with the direct mail campaigns producing significant results worthy of praise and accolade!

Direct mail was utilized for a series of spring acquisition campaigns, a first-ever dedicated membership upgrade campaign, and a three-pronged approach to the calendar year-end annual appeal campaign.  In each instance, the campaigns were successful in attracting more gifts and more dollars than the previous year’s efforts.

The acquisition campaigns featured a return to a full letter package from a self-mailer.  The upgrade campaign focused on the Garden’s important mission of understanding and preserving our natural world and asking members to increase their commitment to the garden.  A total of 58 members accepted that challenge, moving into the upper levels of membership support.  Finally, the year-end appeal used a three mail drop strategy with increased personalization, more targeted segmentation, and increased asks to significantly increase the dollars raised and the numbers of gifts generated.

Congrats to the Garden staff for this wonderful year of direct mail success!


On-Site Sales – Saint Louis Art Museum

The magnificent Saint Louis Art Museum will soon be even more so! It is in the midst of a 200,000+ square foot expansion designed by world renowned architect, David Chipperfield.  But even during a construction year, the museum’s membership staff remained committed to aggressive membership sales through the use of professional membership sales staff supplied by Membership Consultants.  Working only weekends during two major exhibits, a total of 969 memberships were sold, generating more than $63,000 in membership revenues.  All at a free museum!

The Saint Louis Art Museum continues its on-site sales success, with an 8 year history of 9,975 memberships sold and $621,217 of membership revenues from selling memberships in a personal, face to face fashion that highlights the benefits of membership and the benefits of supporting a wonderful art venue.

Our congratulations and best wishes to the Museum and staff as membership support grows right along with the new expansion!


Progress Award – St. Louis County Library Foundation

Progress comes to organizations of all sizes and ilk.  Consider the St. Louis County Library Foundation.  The Foundation supports the library system that serves all of suburban St. Louis.  Funds raised provide for teen centers, promotes literacy and hosts the best collection of live author events in the country!

With just 300 members two years ago, the Foundation has more than tripled the size of its membership program to 1,094 members currently.  By developing wonderful benefits and events, creating great offers to new members and by utilizing the on-site sales staff of Membership Consultants at its author events, the progress has been amazing!

Congratulations to the Library Foundation and its small, hard working staff on their impressive membership progress and growth!


Membership Audit and Planning Award – Happy Hollow Park and Zoo

In 2008 the staff of the Happy Hollow Park and Zoo embarked upon a membership audit and planning session with Membership Consultants in preparation for the closing, renovation and reopening of the beloved Park and Zoo.  Happy Hollow holds a special place is the hearts of generations of San Jose residents, so the staff’s top priority was to careful plan how to keep its 8,500 loyal members occupied, entertained and belonging during the 9 month closure – a major challenge.

Fast forward to the fall of 2010 and the grand reopening of the new Happy Hollow Park and Zoo… not only did the “Bridge Membership” keep people on the membership rolls, the grand reopening of the fabulous new animal exhibits and child oriented fun park managed to pack in a whopping 25,000 members!

The moral of this story is that planning pays. And so does creativity, perseverance, sleepless nights and long work days.  Congrats to the staff of the Happy Hollow Park and Zoo for one of the best membership plan implementation efforts ever!


Telemarketing Award – Woodland Park Zoo

Some people think telemarketing is a dirty word… but the folks at Woodland Park Zoo know better, because using the phone is a special opportunity for two-way, personal dialogue with members that traditional mail and e-mail can not provide.

Incorporating a telemarketing campaign in 2010 resulted in improved lapsed recapture and renewal rates, and a thriving annual fund campaign, all with exceptionally high credit card rates that translate to 100% fulfillment and increased profitability.  With this success over the phone, it was apparent the Zoo has earned a great level of member loyalty and satisfaction.  The conversations held during this campaign helped to strengthen it!

From the standpoints of both membership revenue and relations, these campaigns reached new heights, thanks to the strategic use and personal touch of the telemarketing services provided by Membership Consultants.  Congrats to the savvy membership team at Woodland Park Zoo!

We’re giving a standing ovation to all of the award winners for these successful efforts and we applaud our clients everywhere who deliver amazing performances, day in and day out, to keep the membership world going ‘round!

Your Friends at Membership Consultants,

Dana, Debbie, Karen, Michelle, Toni, Stephen & Doris

Here are the awardees from 2009:

2009 Performance Award:

Forest Park Forever


2009 Progress Award: 

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation


2009 Benchmark Award: 

The Art Institute of Chicago


2009 Planning Award: 

Old Salem Museums & Gardens


2009 Upgrade Award: 

Santa Barbara Zoo


2009 On-site Sales Award: 

The Field Museum


2009 Direct Mail Award: 

Denver Zoo