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Membership programs are some of the most effective ways for nonprofit organizations to move beyond relying on just a handful of major gifts and grants for the lion’s share of their funding. Still, they don’t have to just be revenue sources–they also have the potential to deepen supporters’ commitment to the organization and its mission. 

NationBuilder offers the tools you need to build an effective membership program from the ground up or  migrate your existing membership program into our software. In this post, I’ll cover some key reasons why you should use NationBuilder to manage and grow your member base, as well as some scenarios for which it’s not as well-suited.

Why should I build my membership program with NationBuilder?

It’s easy to set up.
You can set up the necessary pieces for your membership program in ten minutes or less by following the steps in this guide. And better yet, all the key pieces are automated, including triggering a membership based on payment or a particular action on a page, renewals and the notifications associated with them, and even notifications to the member if a renewal payment doesn’t process successfully.

Support for all kinds of membership concepts.
While paid memberships are common among nonprofits (and easy to set up in NationBuilder!), membership can mean different things. For some nonprofits, members might be people who have taken a meaningful action, regardless of whether it’s donating, participating in a volunteer opportunity, or even something as simple as signing up for the organization’s email newsletter.

Because any page action in NationBuilder can add a membership to a supporter’s profile, you can choose the approach that makes the most sense for your organization. Then, once you’ve configured your website, the software takes care of the rest, and you can focus on the crucial work of engaging and growing your membership.

Provide exclusive content and benefits to your members.
Because NationBuilder websites are integrated directly into your database, you can easily gate access to specific parts of your site so that only members can access them. For example, you might use this to create a portal for members with exclusive content, limit event RSVPs to only your members, or give members their own channel for sharing suggestions and ideas with you via a feedback page or suggestion box.

To set this up, go to the “settings” tab for any page and select “Members” in the “Who can view this page?” dropdown.

Personalize communications and content for members.
We’ve already covered the integration between website and database, but another key advantage of NationBuilder is the way both tie in with your communication tools. Because all three work together, you never have to send a “one size fits all” email or text blast to your entire list. NationBuilder’s filtering tools allow you to segment and target communications to people based on a host of criteria ranging from their location to their donation history to, yes, their membership status.

Better yet, you can save those filters for future use, especially if you have a set of people you want to communicate with regularly. For example, you can quickly queue up a winback-focused email or text blast targeted to recipients whose membership expired within the past month.

When composing email blasts, you can use smart fields to personalize your content too, adding in attributes like the recipient’s year-to-date donations, their membership expiration date, or the contact information for their assigned point person within your organization. And for particularly tech-savvy users, the potential for even more creative personalization of both email and website content using Liquid is nearly endless.

Why shouldn’t I use NationBuilder for my membership program?

NationBuilder won’t be the right fit for every nonprofit’s preferred workflow, and while I truly believe that the benefits listed above far outweigh the caveats below, I want you to be aware of them so you can make the best decision for your organization.

Your membership program relies heavily on shared memberships across families or organizations.
NationBuilder’s software is built on the assumption that your relationship with each individual is distinct, and it functions accordingly. This means that each membership always applies to a single database, and while NationBuilder does support organization records with relationships to individuals, a membership for an organization cannot automatically also apply to the people associated with that organization.

As a workaround, you can apply memberships to multiple records as a batch action, but I only recommend this if the workflow feels manageable to you based on the number of organization members you work with and the frequency with which you need to update them.

Your membership program is based on meeting defined gift thresholds, rather than just a membership fee.
If your paid membership program isn’t tied to a single recurring payment, but is based on aggregate totals a person gives to your organization, you’ll find this approach tricky to administer with NationBuilder. Our software does not currently support applying memberships programmatically, so if, for example, someone becomes a silver member based on exceeding $10,000 in total gifts, NationBuilder can’t apply that membership automatically.

Just as with the previous limitation, there’s a work-around, which in this case involves regularly batch updating records based on filter criteria (or for Enterprise customers, having a developer implement a custom solution via our API). Whether this more manual approach works for your organization is up to you.

Still not sure?

If you’re still trying to decide if NationBuilder is the right solution for your membership program, you can start a free trial any time and test it out for yourself! Our Customer Onboarding team can answer your questions and point you to additional helpful resources as you evaluate the software.

And if you work for a larger organization with a complex membership infrastructure, our sales team is here to help map out an enterprise solution to meet your needs. Just drop them a line here to learn more. 

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