Blackbaud hosted its annual conference for nonprofits from September 29 through October 1 in National Harbor, MD. Nonprofit experts from around the country presented best practices to over 2000 attendees.
It’s pretty safe to say that everyone wants more donors for their nonprofit. As you know, getting more donors is easier said than done. During BBCON, Rosita Bradham, a Principal Consultant from Blackbaud, and Jeffrey Lieb, Principal Consultant at Jeffrey Lieb Consulting, took on the issue of taking people who have interacted with your organization once and turning them into subscribers or members.
The presentation was kicked off with common obstacles to turning people into members. Among those listed were a lack of necessary information, uncooperative staff, and a lack of institutional support for promoting memberships. It was interesting to see the response from the audience as everyone seemed to be able to relate to one of these issues. Conversations started as part of these points:
- Lack of necessary information: Make sure you define what is necessary. It’s easy to say “we don’t have the right data” but it’s harder to identify what that data is and encourage people to acquire it. You will never have the right data is you don’t know what you’re looking for. In this discussion, it was recommended that you collect, at a minimum: name, email, and address.
- Uncooperative staff: Often you are relying on front line staff to acquire information about your visitors. Make sure they know the impact that data has on the rest of your organization and why it’s important. Often showing that connection encourages cooperation. Additionally, make sure that every department is on the same page. Competing departments does not create an environment conducive to a good customer experience.
- Lack of institutional support for promoting memberships: Encouraging memberships has to be something that is bought in from the top down and has to be a focus from the entire staff. This has to be something that the executive director and measuring. Even the front desk should be encouraged to participate. To steal a quote from another session, “If the people at McDonald’s are willing to ask if you want fries with that why can’t your staff ask if someone wants to become a member?”
The session continued by encouraging organizations to know who is visiting your organization. Using the data you’re collecting identify what percentage of your visitors are first time guests, returning guests, members, groups, or free admission. This will let you identify how to have the conversation about membership. This will also help you determine the benefits to offer in your membership to make it valuable to your target market. Your membership needs to encourage loyalty and offer something unique that other organizations aren’t offering. Be able to answer the question “Why should I be a member at your organization?”
Rosita and Jeffrey offered several strategies for increasing your membership conversion. Their recommendations included:
- Provide day of purchase discounts for them to upgrade their ticket to a membership
- Increase your membership program’s presence on your website and keep it up to date.
- Follow up with visitors via email or letter. In that communication, thank them for coming and let them know what is coming up next at your organization that they may be interested in.
- Canvas your organization with signs and banners in high traffic areas about the benefits of membership
- Leverage additional people to promote your membership program. This can be a hired sales team, development professionals, or members themselves.
It was great hearing tips from industry experts on how to nurture people from visitor to donors. Whether you have visitors, patrons, or event participants, upgrading them to members and donors is key for your organization’s long term success.
Rosita Bradham lives in Austin, Texas and has over 10 years’ experience working with or at arts and cultural organizations. She currently implements Blackbaud’s general admission ticketing software, Altru, for organizations across the United States. She has worked with hundreds of organizations and is recognized for making a positive impact on arts and cultural organizations’ ability to fundraise.
Jeffrey Leib is a consultant based in New York City and works with clients such as The Guggenheim Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and Jazz at Lincoln Center, to name a few. He has over 10 years’ experience working with or at arts and cultural nonprofits and is a respected thought leader in the arts and cultural industry.
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