Welcoming New Members: Examples from the Field

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As part of my year-end giving, I decided to join four different history organizations (one historic site, three historic preservation organizations).  I support the mission of every organization I joined–there’s no attempt to embarrass them here–but I also wanted to see how a new member and unsolicited gift was received.  In this tight economy, every organization seems to placing a great emphasis on growing membership and support, so it’s useful to learn what others are doing.  Admittedly, this is just a limited experiment, but for each one I downloaded their membership forms from their websites, filled it out, and then sent it in with a check for the basic individual membership level all on the same day in mid December.  So far, I received responses from three of the four organizations (and they arrived about a day apart) and here’s how they compared:

  • All three were in the form of letters on color letterhead: one handsigned by the executive director, two by the director of development or membership using digital images of signatures.
  • Two recognized my donation as membership, one as a gift to the annual fund.
  • All said “thanks” and two had extensive statements about benefits (printed on the back side of the membership card or letter).
  • One misspelled my name (okay, it’s a bit tricky) but another had a misspelled word in the body of the letter.
  • One included a membership card (die cut and removed by peeling it off the page); one included two membership cards (perforated to be torn out of the page) and the latest newsletter.
  • All mentioned the amount given and the amount that was tax deductible.

For comparison, here is the opening paragraph of each letter:

  1. Thank you for supporting Preservation Maryland through your Annual Fund contribution of $35.
  2. Thank you for becoming a member of the Friends of Drayton Hall.  I am delighted to welcome you into our community.
  3. Welcome to Indiana Landmarks membership!  Thank you for your full tax-deductible Individual membership dues of $35.00, which we received on Wednesday, December 14, 2011.  Your new membership card, valid through 12/31/2012, is attached below.

And the closing sentences were:

  1. We greatly appreciate your contribution and hope to see you at our spring Homeowner’s Expo.
  2. Again, thank you for joining!
  3. The Board of Directors and staff of professionals join me in thanking you for your leadership and involvement in historic preservation in Indiana.

Every organization has to craft a membership program that’s appropriate to them and takes advantage of their distinctiveness–I wouldn’t recommend copying the content or format of another organization you admire.  Just in these few examples, however, you can probably identify things you like and things you would change–and perhaps prompt you to review your membership materials.

4 thoughts on “Welcoming New Members: Examples from the Field

  1. Carter Lively

    Did all of the organizations have development offices, or officers? I ask this because some small organizations do not have them and the responsibility remains with the small office staff.

    Aside from that, bravo to Tyler Gearhart and George McDaniel! Take a bow guys!!

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    1. Max van Balgooy Post author

      Good question. I did a check on the websites of the three organizations and here’s what I found:

      Preservation Maryland: seven staff including a director of development and communication.
      Drayton Hall: 23 fulltime employees including two in development and five in communications (wow!)
      Indiana Landmarks: Nearly 40 employees with a half dozen people working in development, communications, and membership (wow-wee!!)

      By the way, I received a response from the fourth organization today and they only have three fulltime staff (so capacity is the lowest among the four organizations).

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    1. Max van Balgooy Post author

      Thanks for the offer and I’ll take it under consideration! 🙂 It does prompt me to think that we might want to expand our knowledge base by not only subscribing to magazines and journals like History News and Museum to stay informed and sharp, but join organizations that we admire or want to emulate to have a more direct connection. Of course, that’s more money we have to spend on memberships, which is more often considered a luxury in today’s economy.

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