Nonprofit Membership Models: How to Increase Membership in Your Nonprofit Organization

membership models

In order to increase membership in a nonprofit organization, it is important to understand the different types of membership models available. This article will discuss the most common membership models for nonprofits and offer tips on how to establish a membership model that will work best for your organization based on nonprofit business model.


Membership Models For Nonprofits

There are many different membership models that can be used by nonprofits. The most common models are trade associations, members as donors, members as consumers, and members as advocates.

Trade Associations

A trade association is a nonprofit organization that represents the interests of a particular industry or business sector. Trade associations typically have both corporate and individual members. The benefits of membership usually include access to industry news and information, networking opportunities, and discounts on products and services.

Members as Donors

Many nonprofits rely on membership dues to fund their operations. Members who donate to a nonprofit are typically motivated by the organization’s mission. In return for their donation, members may receive benefits such as invitations to exclusive events, complimentary services, or special recognition.

Members as Consumers

Some nonprofits offer memberships that provide access to discounted products or services. For example, a museum might offer a membership that gives holders free or reduced admission to the museum’s facilities. Memberships that offer discounts on products or services can be an effective way to raise revenue and increase member loyalty.

Members as Advocates

Many nonprofits rely on their members to help them advocate for their cause. Members who serve as advocates typically receive benefits such as invitations to exclusive events, complimentary services, or special recognition.


How To Establish a Membership Model/Program

Now that you know the different types of membership models available, you can start to establish a membership model that will work best for your organization. To start creating your membership model, follow the steps below.

Determine the Structure of The Membership Program

The first step in creating a membership program is to determine the structure of the program. Will your organization have individual members or corporate members? What type of benefits will you offer to members? How much will membership dues cost?

Establish Membership Fees

The next step is to establish membership fees. Membership dues should be set at a level that will cover the costs of the benefits you are offering and also generate income for your organization.

Decide on Membership Benefits snd Levels

Once you have determined the membership fees, you can start to decide on the benefits and levels of membership. Will all members receive the same benefits or will there be different levels of membership with different benefits?

Decide Who Will Manage the Membership Program

It is important to decide who will manage the membership program. This person will be responsible for promoting the program, signing up new members, and maintaining member records. Depending on the size of your nonprofit and the membership program, you may need a team for this rather than one person.

Invest in Membership Management Software

Investing in membership management software will make it easier to manage your membership program. This type of software can help you track member data, send email communications, and process payments.

Develop a Marketing Plan

Once you have established the structure of your membership program and set membership dues, you need to develop a marketing plan to promote your program to potential members. You can use a variety of marketing channels to reach your target audiences, such as print and online advertising, direct mail, and email marketing.


How to Increase Membership

Once you establish a membership program, you need to focus on increasing membership. Below are a few ideas to help you increase membership in your nonprofit.

-Create a Referral Program:  A referral program is a great way to increase membership. Offer existing members a discount on their dues or a free month of membership for every new member they refer.

-Make Joining Easy:  The process of joining your membership program should be easy and straightforward. Provide potential members with all the information they need to make a decision and make it easy for them to join online or in person.

-Offer a Discount Or Promotion:   Offer a discount or promotion to new members or those who sign up for a longer-term membership. This can help increase membership in your organization.

-Offer a Free Trial:   Offering a free trial is a great way to increase membership. This will allow potential members to experience the benefits of your membership program before they make a commitment.

-Promote the Benefits of Membership:  Be sure to promote the benefits of membership to potential members. Highlight how your organization can help them achieve their goals or make their life easier.



Nonprofit membership programs are a great way to generate revenue and engage supporters. By understanding the different types of membership models available, you can establish a membership program that will work best for your organization. And, by following the tips in this article, you can increase membership in your nonprofit.