Friday, January 14, 2011
Building a Prospective Member Database
by Bunnie Riedel, Host of Nonprofit Conversation
I recently received a question from a reader regarding how to build a prospective membership database. It seems the organization did not keep good records and he was trying to sort it out. But he also wondered how they could get prospect names for potential membership. If you just don’t have a very good prospect list, there are several things you can do to get started.
Buy a list from a similar organization.
In this instance, the organization was a small community historical museum. I would look at similar kinds of organizations in the community, such as the other types of museums. Are there other types of historical “societies” in the community, such as Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), railroad societies, antique car clubs, genealogy clubs, etc? Any group, association or organization that may have an interest in history. Can you buy a list of their members? In instances where like minded organizations already have established lists, there is often “list sharing” that goes on.
Some organizations might be hesitant to turn over their lists, feeling somewhat territorial or afraid of losing members to the other organization. I understand that fear, however, I know from practical experience that cross pollinization of organizations has the opposite effect. Between two or three or more organizations that sell or trade lists, memberships or donations actually increase. For example, I support a horse rescue farm and my husband supports the local humane society. Our goal is exactly the same, to help do what we can to alleviate animal suffering and encourage animal adoption. It would never occur to us to choose one or the other, we think both are important.
Partner with a similar organization.
Host an event at your organization for the members of another organization. Think of the example of the historical museum. What if they host the annual meeting for the members of the railroad society or the antique car club? They will have accomplished a couple of things, first they will have built good will with the other organization, becoming real “partners” with them and they’ll have gotten all those members into their museum.
You can easily capture the attendee’s names and contact information by hosting a raffle or drawing and having them write down their contact information and put it in bowl. This is something you see all the time at trade shows, vendors raffling away gifts to those who leave their business cards.
Look at affiliation benefits. Here the museum offers a discount to members of the railroad society on tickets or gift shop purchases. Perhaps you create a coupon that they have to fill out with their contact information in order to get the discount. Or you provide cross membership benefits “If you become a member of the railroad society you will receive a year’s membership in the historical museum for half price,” or vice-versa.
Host a conference together. Or offer discounts on your conference to their members and again, vice-versa.
Trade advertising in each other’s newsletters or on your website. If online, make sure the click-through includes a sign up form.
Buy a table or a booth at similar organizations’ conferences or meetings. Make sure you’re giving something away, even if it’s a discount coupon. Again, capture those names by hosting a raffle or drawing.
Enlist those already affiliated with your organization.
I love “member-get-a-member” campaigns. That’s when you ask your members to bring in new members. If you sweeten the pot, say offer a premium for every member they bring in or offer a contest with a really great grand prize, your success will be better.
Has everyone on your board turned over their address list yet? They should. Or at the very least, they should send a letter to their friends and colleagues asking them to join or support your organization. I would provide your board members with the sample letter, outside and return envelopes.
There are a lot of great minds out there that read this blog. Please post your suggestions and comments below.