Fundraising for Membership Organizations

Aug 19, 2020

Last week, I told you about the launch of The Joy of Membership Podcast. The first episode shares the story of a leader who set out to hike 500 miles (yes, 500!) through the Rocky Mountains to raise funds to support Danish American organizations. For his nonprofit, raising donations for other organizations was the core purpose of the endeavor.

More often, though, I get asked about how membership-based organizations can raise funds for *their own* organization without unduly trampling on the fundraising efforts of members. While most organizations will put a “Donate” button their website, the idea of actually going out and pursuing donors tends to raise some squeamishness.

The underlying belief seems to be that soliciting donors for a membership organization is potentially diverting much needed donations from members. For organizations that aim to be seen as supportive, any perception of doing financial harm raises alarm.

While I totally understand the concern, pursuing donors for your own organization is totally do-able. In fact, your pursuit of donations can actually be helpful to members if you do 2 things:

  1. Focus specifically on the things that you do to make member organizations (and their projects) stronger and more sustainable.
    The typical role of an association, trade group, or parent organization of a chapter-based nonprofit is MUCH bigger than any single member.
  • Are YOU helping members get the word out about their work? 
  • Are YOU helping them peer-share? 
  • Are YOU helping them use their limited resources in a better way? 
  • Are YOU helping them get better at what they do? 

If you are doing ANY of these things, your organization is an “amplifier.” To attract the right donors without stealing anyone away from your members, you need to tell the story of how you help your industry/focus-area get better at doing what it is that your members do.

2. Once you’ve identified #1: Look for donors who are more interested in capacity-building and sustainability than operational programs.

There are donors out there who simply aren’t interested in throwing money into direct services. While they may recognize that the direct services are critical, they want to make investments in gaining efficiencies, applying lessons learned, and making limited resources stretch further.

If you keep these 2 focuses in mind – what you uniquely do and the unique type of donor who will be interested, you create a path to strategic donor attraction that not only does no harm to members, but actually becomes a benefit to them.


I’d be interested in hearing about your experiences with this topic. Is your organization currently doing member cultivation? Have you run into the same sorts of questions and concerns about pursuing donors?

Hit reply and let me know.

How MY Team Has Been Helpful This Week:

In the spirit of focusing on helpfulness, I’ve started closing out these weekly emails with a snippet of insight into the kinds of things my team has been doing to be helpful to clients. This is by no means exhaustive, but just a quick peek into the many, many ways we help clients:

  • We’re helping an international organization with thousands of members move from a membership software they despise and onto Wild Apricot. (Based on what I’ve heard, I don’t think “despise” is too strong of a word.)
  • We’re helping another organization make the same transition which they estimate is going to save them $4000/year!
  • We’re helping a client manage their educational webinars – setting up new webinars, prepping all the emails, following up with attendees, etc.
  • We helped a client get set up with a new credit card processing account.
  • We virtually participated in a client’s board meeting and took minutes.
  • We provided guidance to an organization that has been struggling with member engagement.
  • We helped a client make tweaks to their website to make it more user-friendly for members who seemed to be having trouble figuring out what to do.
  • We set up a super cool integration between a client’s online form and their Google drive so that a new Word document was created in a shared folder every time a form was filled out. This kicks off a workflow that is going to work beautifully for their newsletter process.

Want to talk about how we could be helpful to you and your organization?

Let’s set up a time to talk:



Hey there.  I’m Joy Duling, Founder and CEO of The Joy of Membership.

Clients hire me to help them design and deliver exceptional member experiences. If you lead an association, trade group, or membership-based nonprofit, you can find FREE resources to help you run and grow your membership organization by visiting here:

I look forward to connecting with you there.