Building Loyalty Through a Different Kind of Membership Program | npENGAGE

Building Loyalty Through a Different Kind of Membership Program

By on Aug 27, 2014


Many membership programs reward their loyal members with things like free admission, gift shop discounts, and invitations to special events, but what if you let your members choose which benefits they want?

I travel pretty regularly, and as such, I’ve racked up enough miles to have gold status with my frequent flier miles.  Many stores I shop at reward loyalty by allowing customers to earn points for different purchases as well.  Even free apps like FourSquare reward checking in to locations with badges and titles like “Mayor”.

Why Not Mirror This At Your Museum?

What if your membership program allowed members to earn points they could use to redeem the rewards they wanted?  Think about it!

Here are just a few activities that could earn members points:

  1.        Buying a membership
  2.        Volunteering
  3.        Attending a lecture or event
  4.        Renewing a membership early
  5.        Completing a visitor survey and offer feedback
  6.        Making a purchase in the gift shop

By tying member points to various activities at your organization, you can encourage increased interaction and participation. This model focuses on engaging members through ongoing interactions while still allowing members to choose when and how they want to interact with you.

Special Benefits

The redeemable rewards could grant them access to benefits they might not otherwise have: meet with a curator about a specific work in a collection, limited edition tote bags not available for purchase, behind the scenes tours, free parking, or even subscriptions to magazines.  A points based model gives your members control over how and when they want to redeem their rewards.


A points based membership model also taps into what so many social media apps and video games have done well: adding a game element, which is not only fun, but can create a strong sense of loyalty.

Because of the perks I receive as a gold status frequent flier, I tend to go out of my way to fly my preferred airline, sometimes event taking flights at less convenient times or with longer layovers, simply because I want to earn more miles and the experience of flying with them as a frequent flier is better than with another airline where I have no status.  Even if the benefits aren’t tangible, such as those badges you earn in FourSquare, I’m still drawn to do my best to earn them because it’s fun.  Do those badges mean anything? No, not really, but they’ve made it a game and so I want to check in places, leave tips about that business, and earn more badges to display on my profile.  It’s fun, interactive, and keeps me coming back.

Long-term Engagement

The goal here is not to replace a sustaining or affinity membership program, but to rethink the value based memberships and create a new model for ongoing member engagement.  Members who are engaged with your institution in the long term are more likely to become your advocates, perhaps by ultimately upgrading to a sustaining membership or by becoming a brand ambassador, which can have long term and incalculable value.

Even if a points based membership program isn’t right for your institution, what aren’t you doing that you could to encourage your members to engage with you more? Have you found strategies that were successful in increasing your members’ activity at your organization?


Jen is an Altru consultant with a background in fine and performing arts.  In 2012, she received her M.S. in Organizational Change Management from the New School, where she focused on non-profit organizations managing technology changes.  Jen uses that knowledge every day and enjoys finding innovative ways to help customers spend more time focusing on what’s important: their mission!

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