A fundraising plan contains the fundraising activities your organization will implement over a set period of time. These activities will have specific, measurable goals. The end result will be a sustainable fundraising program that provides the necessary funds to fulfill the nonprofit organization’s mission. The fundraising plan is a powerful tool for any nonprofit. Before proceeding to Part 9 in our Writing a Fundraising Plan series, please review Part 1: Planning to Plan , Part 2: Reaching Out Into the Community, Part 3: Engaging Your Board in Fundraising, Part 4: Individual Donors, Part 5: Lapsed Donors , Part 6: Non Donors and Prospective Donors, Part 7: Donor Acquisition, and Part 8 Tribute and Corporate Matching Programs.
Nonprofit memberships basically fall into two groups: membership programs with benefits and supporting membership programs. Membership programs with benefits are most often integrated in fundraising plans for organizations like zoos, museums, and botanical gardens. Social service or health care nonprofits will have a supporting membership program. The final analysis of which fits your nonprofit is based upon whether you are providing benefits that the IRS would say have monetary value.
Memberships with Benefits
A membership with benefits will most often have membership levels with specific benefits attached to each level and a specific fee attached to the level. The benefits increase with the increase in the cost of the membership. Because the member receives benefits, the full membership fee is not tax-deductible. The organization must calculate the cost of the benefits and subtract that from the membership fee. The balance is the donor’s tax-deductible amount. If the donor does not use the benefits, they still can only take a tax-deduction on the membership fee minus the value of the benefits.
A membership program has a beginning and an end. When a membership program is launched, that is the start date. If at any time a level name, amount, or benefit is changed, the previous program ends and the new program starts. Even though the change may be minor, the previous program is no longer the same and is new.
A membership in a membership program with benefits most often is valid for 12 months starting at the time the membership is paid for.
Sometimes a nonprofit will have separate membership programs running parallel for individuals and corporations. Whether running an all-inclusive program or separate programs for individuals and corporations, keep the number of levels manageable. Five to seven levels at the most. Also consider the value and cost of delivering the benefits for the membership. The costs should not be so great in time and money that they undermine the fundraising aspect of the membership program.
A supporting membership program is like a membership program with benefits in that it has levels with associated membership fees and has start and end dates. There are, however, no benefits and the membership fee is fully tax-deductible. The start and end dates rather than starting at the time the membership is paid are set by the program. The dates could be a calendar year or the organization’s fiscal year.
Supporting membership programs are a way to engage donors as a part of the organization. Members are recognized in newsletters or and/or annual reports. They may be invited to special presentations to learn about new information that impacts the organization’s mission.
Both membership programs are built upon communication and cultivation through education. Members of either program have a unique loyalty to the organization and are more likely to be advocates for the organization in the community.