How to Transform Your Association’s Members into Donors

An association member smiling while donating online

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With over $300 billion flowing into the nonprofit sector via fundraising efforts in 2023 alone, association professionals like you might be wondering how to get a piece of that pie. If your association is a 501(c)(3), you’re in luck — you can collect tax-exempt fundraising dollars! Even if your association is not  a 501(c)(3), you can set up a foundation that can collect donations and reinvest them into your community, allowing you to achieve your association’s mission. 

If your association wants to launch its fundraising efforts on the right foot, start with your most powerful asset — your member community. After all, their existing connection to your association and belief in your mission primes them to be ideal donor prospects. 

In this guide, we’ll explore how to deepen your members’ support as donors. Keep in mind that each association has a unique member community dynamic, so your member preferences should shape all of your strategic decisions. 

1. Offer many ways to give

Before you launch your fundraising efforts, you need to determine how you’ll collect donations from your members. Avoid putting all of your eggs in one basket — diversifying and expanding your ways to give allows members with a variety of giving preferences to contribute. Consider adding these ways to give to your fundraising strategy:

  • Matching gifts. Some employers match employees’ charitable contributions as a corporate social responsibility initiative, often doubling your donors’ original gifts. Promote matching gifts to your members and use a matching gift tool on your donation page to facilitate the submission process.
  • In-kind donations. Do you need physical items to make your mission possible, like a space or materials for your upcoming event? Ask donors to donate in-kind items to your association (they can still get a tax credit, too!).
  • Crypto and stock. Stock and crypto donations can translate to thousands of dollars for your fundraising efforts. Similar to matching gifts, accepting gifts of stock or crypto is easy with an integration on your donation page.

These are only a few of the possible ways to give your association can offer. Ask your members about how they’d like to donate and record their feedback so you can continually optimize the giving experience.

2. Understand why members like to support your association

Knowing why your target audience likes to give helps you focus your fundraising efforts from the outset. Plus, by understanding how your members’ giving motivations change over time, you can future-proof your donor stewardship strategies. Get started gauging your members’ motivations by:

  • Tracking performance indicators on marketing campaigns, like click-through and conversion rates, so you know what types of appeals they respond best to.
  • Sending surveys to loyal members to ask what they like most about your association, what they’d like to see from your organization going forward, and why they continue to renew their membership.
  • Researching common unconscious giving motivations, such as social proof and emotional triggers (feeling rewarded, welcomed, and charitable).

Once you start to tailor your fundraising appeals based on these factors, test out different formats so you can tell which ones engage members the best. For instance, you might send two different email messages to different segments to see which ones yield a higher open or click-through rate. Then, investigate why and hone in on those strategies in future emails.

3. Create a donor-specific impact report

You’ve probably heard of annual reports, a staple of nonprofit life — but did you know that you can make an impact report specifically with your donors in mind? In fact, this resource can be used to attract prospective supporters and members to your organization, as it shows your community’s hard work and impact. 

The best donor impact reports include information about:

  • Specific donor contributions
  • Milestones reached and effects on your mission
  • Financial activity for transparency purposes

No matter how you decide to structure your donor impact report or the information you choose to include, you must use it to tell a story

Use a narrative structure, complete with a plot and characters, to illustrate how your association is helping others. This inspires your members and makes them eager to learn more about your fundraising efforts and be part of the story themselves. Just ensure you get permission from all members you decide to feature in your impact report and communicate its purpose clearly.

4. Create a giving club

Chances are, your members joined your association to access the member perks you offer. You can leverage this exclusivity to encourage members to become donors by introducing a giving club. Make giving club membership desirable for your community by offering special benefits on top of member perks, such as:

  • Monthly catered luncheons or dinners
  • Branded association merchandise
  • Access to exclusive networking opportunities and other association events
  • Prizes, like gift cards or experiences

To boost member engagement in your giving club further, create an executive board headed by members themselves. Allow them to make decisions for the giving club, such as which events you’ll put on and how you’ll budget for them.

5. Show recognition and appreciation for support

The best way to gain and retain member donors is to show your gratitude for their commitment. After all, your association can’t achieve your purpose without their support, so they deserve your appreciation. Take your donor recognition efforts to the next level by:

  • Adding their name on a donor wall or Donor Hall of Fame
  • Sending handwritten thank-you notes 
  • Organizing donor recognition events
  • Highlighting specific donors at association events

No matter how you decide to recognize your donors, ensure you stay authentic. Avoid sending generic “Dear donor” messages — using donors’ first names to personalize messages will inspire giving in the future. Take every opportunity to send heartfelt, personalized messages so your members feel your sincerity.

Remember, your fundraising efforts will take some time to gain traction as you gauge member preferences and tailor marketing materials accordingly. However, once you hit your stride using these tips, you’ll be able to reach new heights in achieving your mission and giving back to your community.

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