Membership-based nonprofits face a unique set of fundraising and marketing challenges that other nonprofits don’t typically face.
Namely this: How do you convince someone to be both a member AND a donor?
Membership has its priviledges...and faults.
Many times, membership-based organizations are viewed by the public first and foremost as an entertainment venue. People often don’t even realize that most museums, zoos, aquariums, etc. are actually nonprofits. To them, they’re a place to go consume some family fun.
As such, the membership is very much a value-driven offer for them. They become members of the zoo not because they have a strong belief in conserving wildlife, but because they’re looking for an affordable source of family fun that they can enjoy all year.
The challenge then, is two-fold: convincing current members that their membership is a good value (retaining members), and attracting new members.
If you’re looking to attract new members, you’d be well-served to appeal to the uber-connected Millennial generation.
In just 5 short years, the Millennials are expected to make up 50% of the American workforce.
To convince this group that a membership with your organization is a good value and worth their hard-earned money, you need to engage with them in an authentic way.
One of the best ways to pull this off is an effective social media presence.
Here are 5 member-based organizations who are rocking their social media presence.
The LACMA grabbed headlines across the internet last year with their skillful adoption of Snapchat.
Art museums might suffer from a reputation of being stuffy, but LACMA certainly shook this stigma. By playing off popular internet memes paired with classic works of art, they achieved a light-hearted, tongue-in-cheek feel that is engaging and authentic.
Clearly, they don’t take themselves too seriously.
It’s not a difficult formula:
Instagram + adorable animals = success
Still, the San Diego Zoo has built an audience on the platform that eclipses most other zoos. Their consistency of posting helps engage this audience. They seem to have a coherent plan for using Instagram, rather than just posting something whenever they happen to remember their account exists.
They also seem to know exactly what the people want to see (i.e. - baby sloths, baby monkeys, baby hippos, baby...you get the idea).
Twitter is fast moving platform. Pulling off successful engagement is all about offering something authentic and relevant to what your followers are engaged in. Sometimes, this can be horribly forced and contrived.
But The Getty Museum in L.A. manages to pull off being relevant to their followers without being ham fisted.
They’re also quick to respond to visitors on Twitter, positive or negative, to thank them for coming out and asking them to share their favorite piece of art they saw during their trip.
The London Symphony Orchestra is a great example of knowing your audience. They’re Facebook following of 280K people certainly aren’t limited to Londoners or even Brits, but is made up of classical music lovers from all over the world. Many of these people love classical music because they themselves are musicians.
So naturally, it makes sense to share content that would appeal to an audience of musicians. The LSO shares articles about surviving auditions, interviews with musicians, behind the scenes photos, and musician’s-eye-views of concert venues. While this might not engage the general public, it’s very engaging for their audience and supporters.
The Field Museum in Chicago runs a phenomenal YouTube channel for science lovers. Rather than brand it under “The Field Museum,” they made the decision to brand it as its own show, “The Brain Scoop.”
The channel serves more as a source of valuable information for science lovers rather than strictly as a promotional tool for the museum. However by doing this, they engage their audience in a stronger way that leads to a much larger reach.
Valuable, entertaining content like this is far more likely to be viewed, shared, and enjoyed by science lovers (i.e. - potential visitors/supporters) than promotional content. Think about when you watch your favorite TV show; you don’t get excited about watching the commercials. You came for the good stuff!
This also works to further The Field Museum’s greater mission of educating the public on scientific issues.
Side note: I highly recommend you watch The Brain Scoop’s most popular video in which the host, Emily, tackles the issue of sexism both in the science community and online. Powerful stuff.
Engage, don't blast
There's a time and a place to be self promoting on social media, but the organizations that get the most out of social are the ones who engage their audiences with interesting content. By building up that trust, you're far more likely to have success when you do slip in promotional content.