5 Ways to Start, Grow, & Maintain A Membership-Based Organization
The best reasons for starting a membership-based organization are practical. You want to play softball, but you need to put together a team. You love working on restoring vintage cars, and you want to trade notes with others who can’t get enough chrome. You want to support your fellow alumni or put your energies into an important cause. All of these reasons essentially boil down to finding people who share your focus, interests, or mission—and who want to join together for that purpose.
How you start your group goes a long way to helping it thrive and grow. Use these four suggestions to prepare your organization for a strong and productive future.
Set up your group for success
Start with a clear, detailed plan for what you want your group to be and do. At this early stage, no detail is too trivial to explore and define. First, what’s the focus of your group? Write out a description of what you’re about, one that can serve as the basis for your mission statement when you get to the point of creating one.
Define your membership. Do you want to create an organization that appeals or is open only to a specific age group, such as a sports club for high school aged participants? Do you want to limit your organization to people who live in your city and its surrounding environs, or open up to nationwide enrollment? Will you charge member dues? Will members need to meet specific eligibility criteria, or do you want to allow anyone to join?
Make a strong case for support
To attract a strong base and become a viable choice for people who fit your membership criteria, you need to provide prospects with a compelling answer to the question, “Why should I join your organization?” People sign up for all sorts of memberships and affiliations that they then abandon, and that’s often more of a reflection on the groups than on their members. You want your organization to become a vital, lively part of its members daily lives.
Your initial case for support should convey what you do, how you do it, and what your members stand to gain. What problem do you want to solve? What’s missing that your group can supply? What positive outcomes are you aiming to accomplish? Above all, what’s unique about your group that makes it the right choice for them to join? In business, that’s called your unique selling proposition (USP), and it’s the key to making your group essential to others.
Add value to what you offer your members
As you work your way through your initial setup and begin to put together your USP, think about the ways in which you can add value to your members’ lives, hobbies, causes, or other pursuits. If yours is a sports-related group, have you perfected a training regimen that offers better results than other alternatives? If you’re starting a car club, have you compiled a detailed history of a particular make or model, or put together a new approach to restoration techniques?
All of these types of plans, tips, and methods make great subject matter for e-books or video series, items you can sell based on a free sample of your insights. These kinds of materials really can help you put your group on the map. On a more superficial basis, some organizations give new members a commemorative t-shirt, tote bag, or other merchandise branded with their logo. These items can be a good way to publicize your group, but you’ll have to contend with the cost of customizing them.
If you’re planning to charge membership dues or fees, think about what you’d expect in return if you were the prospective member instead of the group organizer. What would justify that cost for you? What unique opportunities would make it worthwhile? The answers to these types of questions can go a long way toward helping you determine what to provide your members as part of the value of membership.
Connect with other relevant groups to magnify your mission
You want your organization to stand out as unique, but that doesn’t mean you can’t collaborate with other groups to increase your impact. For a sports club, that can mean a broader range of opponents to play, or a fellow organizer to help put together a tournament. For a car club, that could be an exhibition that features two types of classic autos. For a group devoted to a social or societal cause, that can become an alliance to heighten awareness.
Just as you strive to offer unique value to your members, you’ll want to find a unique premise that gives another organization a dominant reason to join forces with you. Think about what you can do together than neither of your groups can manage on its own, and you’re on track to identifying that strong basis for collaboration.
Build a website that makes your organization easier to run
One of the easiest ways to simplify and strengthen your group’s practical affairs is to build a website that takes much of the complexity out of the business of running an organization. With online membership registration and payments, for example, you can sign up members without having to send out and process forms or deposit checks. Choose the right membership-based organizational website software provider, and you can take care of everything from event management to member surveys while your attractive, responsive site transmits your group’s message loud and clear to the public and to prospects.
At Membershine, we’ve built our member-based website software with groups like yours in mind. Our software grows with you—and we’re always planning new updates to add even more functionality than the powerful platform we already offer. Let us show you how easily you can build the right site to support everything you’re planning for your group.