Let’s consider the value of a membership program for some of our most beloved destinations: primarily zoos, aquariums and museums.

The costs to sustain an organization’s active membership program—“FREE admission for members,” discounts on parking, member periodicals, costs of doing business, etc.—are often challenged as potential revenue-busters.

But a value-driven, multi-tiered membership program can be a crucial asset, not only to help build a zoo, aquarium or museum’s earned revenues and base of support, but also through many other benefits that boost an organization’s ability to achieve its mission-driven goals.

We’d like to join the conversation by offering some insights on the “true value” of a healthy membership program, one that contributes to an organization’s overall health and success in the long term.

  • Members are an organization’s best advocates and ambassadors, promoting good will and providing positive word-of-mouth advertising.
  • Members guarantee an annual base of zoo, aquarium or museum attendance (usually in the 33-40% range or more). A growing membership base means reliable attendance and additional earned income through food, souvenir and attraction ticket purchases.
  • Strong membership numbers indicate a healthy and successful organization, worthy of philanthropic support and public sector advocacy.
  • A large member base gives an organization more opportunities to make significant marketing impressions. This in turn attracts potential sponsors who may be looking for exposure to a large membership base through underwriting special events, programs, etc. Exposure to your members can be offered through publications, social media, mailings, well-attended special events and on site.
  • Members can be a great base for cultivating volunteers at all levels—mission-related (docents), service-oriented (special event support) and administrative (office and program assistants). Committed volunteers are good prospects to become annual, major and planned giving donors.
    Members make up a solid source of participants in fee-based education programs and special events.
  • The more members that an organization has, the more people who are exposed to its mission-related work through insider’s information, behind-the-scenes tours and participation in members-only programs.
    Members make up a reliable portion of attendance at special fundraising events throughout the year, advancing their role as an organization’s active supporters.

Any membership program should be considered for its full value to an organization and tapped as a resource to advance its mission and goals.

Special Content: The Roadmap to Recovery

As nonprofits everywhere face unprecedented challenges, S&W is stepping forward to help—working on rapid response strategies with our clients, curating resources for easy access, offering answers from our expert team, and bringing people together from across the nonprofit world to share ideas. The point, as we say, is Powering Missions That Matter—now at the moment they matter most.

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