Membership Best Practices

Prioritization, Innovation and Efficiency. Over the past year, SOURCE has learned how important these three words are in developing effective non-profit membership strategy through our partnership with Sustainable Claremont, a local environmental advocacy organization in Claremont. After conducting interviews with each board member to learn about the organization’s strengths and weaknesses, our team helped Sustainable Claremont redefine its approach to membership strategy. Below are our takeaways on the importance of prioritization, innovation and efficiency.


Before organizations develop new membership approaches, it’s important to ask “Who are we trying to engage?” At the beginning of our membership project, our client and our team recognized that Sustainable Claremont has four main target groups: students, families, businesses and the elderly. Once we identified these groups, we realized that we could tailor specific events and activities that would appeal to each of these four target groups. By specifically developing programs for each target group, non-profit organizations are much more likely to engage current members and attract new members.


Albert von Szent-Gyorgy, a scientist who won a Nobel Peace Prize for his work in medicine once said “"Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought." During our discussions with our client, we realized the importance of innovation through new events that have never been tried before.
For example, many environmental organizations advocate and spread awareness about environmental policies through discussions and presentations. Although these methods can be effective, more modern techniques can also achieve the same, if not better outcome. For example, one idea that we discussed with our client is to hold a movie night on a pressing topic of environmental policy. After holding the movie, organizations have an informal discussion with their attendees about the policies and ideas with their attendees. Through events such as these, organizations can experiment with different approaches to membership activities.


During our meetings with our client, we recognized that their current method of organizing their membership contact information, email, and membership could be streamlined. Non-profit Customer Relationship Management Systems are systems that allow non-profits to efficiently organize donation, membership and email systems. Through a CRM, nonprofits can have one computer system that effectively organizes all of these functions together. Over the course of the semester, we hope to help our client pick the CRM system that best fits their needs.

Through our research, we learned how important and beneficial efficiency can be, given the resources, time and staff of nonprofit organizations.

by michael choi