Skip to Main Content

10 Steps to Plan a Successful Membership Drive

9 min read
November 14, 2023
Shannon Whitehead headshot
Shannon Whitehead
Content Strategist, Neon One

For associations and other organizations with memberships, your members are the life force of your work. Attracting members—especially engaged ones who plan to be active long term—with a membership drive is crucial for your organization’s continued growth and success.

By regularly driving new members to join, organizations stand to reap many rewards: Financial stability, sustainability, credibility, community support, and so much more. But how do you attract new members and consistently increase membership numbers?

That’s where a well-planned membership drive comes in.

What Is a Membership Drive?

A membership drive is a strategic effort by an organization to recruit new members and increase its membership base. It’s a campaign geared toward targeting and attracting people interested in the organization’s mission, goals, and activities. 

The main objective of a membership drive is to find potential members and encourage them to join, thus building a strong community of people who want to participate in the organization’s programs, events, volunteer efforts, etc. Membership drives help organizations reach their goals, expand their impact, and ensure their future growth.

Membership Drive Benefits

Why do a membership drive? Is planning a membership drive for your organization worth the effort? We say—resoundingly—yes. Membership drives present a ton of potential benefits for your organization—including some benefits that go beyond the more obvious financial ones.

For one, a membership drive is a chance to communicate your mission far and wide and highlight what it means to be a member. 

Sharing your mission during a membership drive raises awareness for your organization and expands your reach, even if people don’t join right away. Someone could become interested because of this year’s membership drive and decide to take the plunge and join next year. 

Additionally, membership drives encourage participation among current members. With a membership drive, you can get your active members involved and draw in new members at the same time!

Now, let’s cover what it takes to make your membership drive a success.

1. Set Clear Membership Drive Goals

The first step in planning a membership drive should be to set a few clearly defined goals. Goals help you measure your success, track your progress, and get clarity on what you hope to achieve. What are your objectives for the membership drive?

Of course, you want to increase your membership base. But goals are even better when they’re S.M.A.R.T. Make your goals specific. For example, two of your goals could be to increase your membership by a certain number or percentage and raise a certain dollar amount.

2. Define Your Target Audience

What kind of members do you want to bring in? The answer can’t be “everyone.” In this stage, think about who would benefit from joining your organization and how a membership would help them. This will help you determine who your target audience is.

When you consider the ideal members for your organization, who comes to mind? You don’t have to look far—you can reference data for current members or send them a survey to discover their interests and motivations. 

Defining your audience is critical—this step helps you make the most of your membership drive marketing budget, and tailor your strategy and messages to resonate with the right people.

3. Develop Your Value Proposition

What unique value and benefits will members receive by joining? Make these membership benefits a key focus in your campaign. Your value proposition needs to be a compelling presentation that answers one of a potential member’s biggest questions: What’s in it for me?

This is your chance to highlight special discounts, exclusive perks, or member-only events your organization offers. Pull out all the stops and put it all on the table. Highlight your coolest perks as well as the positive impact members can have through the organization’s mission in the community or around the world.

4. Create a Membership Marketing Strategy

This is how you’ll get the word out about your membership drive and the benefits of being a part of your organization! Build a marketing plan to promote the membership drive and include language that highlights the value proposition you defined in the previous step. 

Your membership drive marketing strategy should be comprehensive and persuasive, encouraging potential members to pay attention and get involved.

Utilizing various marketing channels is the best way to make sure your membership drive marketing is effective. You want to reach as many people as possible! Make a plan for how you’ll use social media, website materials (such as banners), press releases, and email campaigns to maximize your reach and visibility.

Marketing your membership drive is also a great way to feature your current members. Let the potential members you’re trying to connect with hear from those who currently enjoy being a member!

On the hunt for a CRM? Considering Wild Apricot? Click on this image to explore our side-by-side comparison to see which platform would be best for your organization.
On the hunt for a CRM? Considering Wild Apricot? Click on this image to explore our side-by-side comparison to see which platform would be best for your organization.

5. Give Multiple Membership Options

People love options—just not too many. Some may be able to commit to a one-time membership fee while others need a small offering. 

When you provide a range of membership levels, your membership drive appeals to a broader range of people. Multiple membership options accommodate various budgets and commitment levels in a way that one membership tier cannot.

Ensure that your membership drive materials clearly articulate all that’s included in each membership tier. This should include the cost of membership and all the different benefits members enjoy at every level.

6. Make It Easy to Sign Up

After you successfully market your membership drive, your quest is halfway complete. Once your amazing marketing campaign has convinced a potential member to join, the sign-up process should make it quick and easy to complete this last step.

If signing up to become a member isn’t a simple and user-friendly process, your marketing efforts were in vain. A clunky sign-up process can be a major turn-off that discourages potential members from following through. 

Make your membership application process as smooth and straightforward as possible, offering both online forms and physical forms with clear instructions.

Neon CRM for Associations comes with an easy form builder with tons of best practices built in. If you want to learn more about how you can create an awesome membership application form (and see how easy that process is in Neon CRM), check out the blog post below!

7. Add Incentives and Rewards

Sweeten the deal—offer your potential members something desirable as a “thank you” for joining! The options are plentiful:

  • Implement a referral program that rewards current members for getting their friends to join
  • Give members a shoutout on social media or in a “member spotlight” section of your newsletter
  • Send personal thank-you notes to new members along with a small gift 
  • Do a raffle for a gift card or exciting technology product that new members are eligible to win
  • Host an exclusive new member event with plenty of bells and whistles
  • Offer early bird discounts that incentivize potential members to join by a certain date
  • Free branded merchandise, such as a “swag bag” that goes to each new member
  • Special pricing for various business services or workshops in your community (This is a great way to partner with local businesses!)

Whichever way you incentivize potential members to join, make sure your offer is intriguing enough to capture their attention and help them recognize the value of membership.

8. Leverage Your Networks

Chances are that there are already people in your organization’s network who would love to tell people about the benefits of membership! Use your membership drive as an opportunity to engage your existing networks: current members, volunteers, community partners, corporate sponsors, and board members. 

Make it easy for your network to spread the word. Create easily shareable marketing assets for your membership drive and provide your network with digital assets to post online and pre-written messages they can quickly share within their sphere. 

You can also encourage your current members to share their personal testimonies about how being a member has impacted and benefited them. Your current members’ stories could be very persuasive for potential members and inspire people in their networks to join!

9. Track and Analyze Progress

If you plan to have a membership drive on a yearly basis, having past data to assess is immensely helpful. When you track data about your membership campaign’s progress and performance, you can analyze it to find what works and doesn’t and implement improvements where needed.

Use your membership management software to track the most important metrics: Engagement rates for newly enrolled members, how many new members signed up as a result of the membership drive, the membership drive’s conversion rate, which marketing emails had the highest open rates and number of clicks, etc.

10. Follow Up and Focus on Member Retention

Recruiting new members is great, but retaining them is better. How will you engage new members after they join? Before your membership drive kicks off, develop a plan to connect with new members. 

First, send a welcome email series that includes helpful information about your organization, outlines their benefits, and shares ways they can be involved members.

It’s best not to throw new members into the same communications schedule as veteran members at first. Send new members exclusive content that will make sense to them, invite them to events where new members can learn and connect, and regularly share upcoming events and initiatives they can participate in.

It’s normal for new members to join and wonder, “What exactly am I doing here?” Remind your new members how impactful their membership is and the value they get for being active!  Think of these communications as the very first plank in your membership retention strategy

A well-planned and well-executed membership drive can be a major component of your organization’s long-term success, sustainability, and growth. With the steps above, you can organize a successful membership drive that results in long-term, active members for years to come.

A Successful Membership Drive Needs Fully-Connected Software

To track your membership drive campaign and engage new and current members effectively, you want a software solution that’s more than membership management.

Imagine having all your marketing tools, member information, events management, and more in one place! Neon CRM for Associations includes every feature you need in an easy-to-use platform. With user-friendly widgets, comprehensive reports, and email marketing inside our trusted CRM platform, you’re equipped with the tools you need to attract, recruit, and retain your members.

Discover how Neon CRM for Associations can make management easier—request a demo today!

Join the discussion in our Slack channel on connected fundraising

Looking to become a more connected nonprofit leader?

Join 73,000+ of your peers getting industry news, tips, and resources straight to their inbox.