Membership is the cornerstone of a solid financial backbone for many nonprofits, associations, and clubs. Does your group have to have membership levels to succeed? Absolutely, not. For some groups, you’re either in or out. For others, things aren’t so black and white. Read on to learn about nonprofit membership levels (with examples) so you can create the best structure for your group.
Single Membership Level
Required Single Membership Option
Membership name example: Crestview Condominium POA Member
For some groups, such as HOAs, you’re either a member or you’re not. There’s no opting out of this type of membership, and that is made clear upon the purchase of the property. The purpose of an HOA varies by association and should be detailed in your group’s CC&Rs. Each property owner’s membership dues go toward achieving the HOA’s goals, so membership is required.
This neighborhood association in Utah offers convenient membership payment online.
Elective Single Membership Option
For other single membership level groups, there is no requirement. Groups such as the Women’s Inspired Network only allow for one option: Annual Membership. So, you’re either a member and you can receive those benefits, or you’re not.
Multiple Membership Levels
Tiered by Benefit
Membership name examples: Monthly, Annual
One of the most common ways to structure your membership is based on the benefit received by the member. In other words, it costs you time and money to perform more functions and make more resources available to higher-tiered members. So it only makes sense that the higher the tier, the higher the price.
This Booster Club offers membership based on benefits received at school athletic events, such as tickets and concession cash.
While NANOE’s membership tiers do have a user component, there are also many additional benefits as you move up the membership ranks.
This lighthouse conservation group in Pennsylvania has a variety of membership categories.
The Jefferson Educational Society in Erie, Pennsylvania has quite a range of membership options, from $25 to $10,000.
Tiered by Category or Group
Membership name examples: Rookie, MVP, All-Star
Some organizations have distinct services for different categories of people. This could be based on employment (think “student, employee or retired”).
It may make sense to tier your membership levels for individuals and the teams they work with. Corporate memberships are a great way to get a larger group of members on your roster in one fell swoop. Corporations love to pay for things like this as a benefit to their staff.
The U.S. Sailing Club tailors its membership levels by demographics such as whether the person is a student, family or individual.
Another example of a membership level tiered by group is the California Association of Nonprofits, seen below.
Lions Club International is a service organization, and while members volunteer their time, there are also dues to be paid. Here’s how their current membership levels are structured.
While this Arboretum offers membership based on who in the household will be utilizing the benefits.
Tiered by Billing Cycle
Membership name examples: Monthly, Quarterly, Annual
This is typically something we see more frequently in the for-profit world, but another option is to include multiple levels where pricing varies based on payment intervals. Typically, it’s great to get money upfront, so there are discounts offered for an annual payment in comparison with monthly (which sometimes comes with additional administrative costs to collect).
The Hive in Cincinnati is a nonprofit which offers one month free when membership dues are paid annually.
Free Membership as an Option
With any of these options, you may still find that a free membership level serves your group well. For one, it keeps people interested and abreast of what’s going on with your group. When the time is right, they may uplevel their membership.
This homeschooling organization offers benefits to both free and paid members.
Did you know Arbor Day offers free membership? They’ll send you 10 free trees to plant in your yard! There is a required donation as little as $10, however.
Whether free or not, it’s also valuable to include some core benefits that all members will receive, like the Salt Lake City Chamber Bureau does in their brochure.
For some groups, offering a lifetime membership is a great benefit for older members. This also makes a great gift. The U.S. National Park Service offers a Lifetime Senior Pass for ages 62 and over. Trout Unlimited has many membership options, including a Life Membership chock-full of benefits.
Manage Membership Dues Online
MyStore from MoneyMinder lets you set up a payment page unique to your organization to manage membership dues without having to deal with paperwork or cash! This add-on for MoneyMinder connects to your account so you can easily perform all of your bookkeeping functions related to membership and more.