Building a Membership Site to Serve Your Nonprofit

If you’re looking to better serve your community, building a membership site is worth consideration. A membership site is one of the easiest ways to boost engagement with your nonprofit. A members-only portal can build relationships among your volunteers, donors, or the community you serve. It can also increase your organization’s revenue or help you serve the community better.

What is a Membership Site?

A membership site is a gated section of a website that offers exclusive content or services. Users typically must sign up or pay subscription fees to access this privileged area. 

Why Launch a Membership Site?

Building a membership site puts you in the driver’s seat of your member experience. Offering access to quality, curated content will boost your organization’s credibility and legitimacy. A members-only experience can promote exclusivity, privacy, community connection through shared experience, and a safe space for discussion or collaboration. It can provide services directly to those who need them. 

Developing a membership site will help provide effective communication with your member community and boost involvement and member numbers. 

Building a Membership Site to Serve Your Nonprofit

Building a membership site for your nonprofit can help generate broader influence for your cause and educate your community. Depending on your platform, there are various ways to create a membership site. 

Decide Your Membership Model

Before building your membership site, decide what perks you’ll offer and how much (if anything) you’ll charge members for access to the bonus content or services. Structure your model to serve your community best. 

To help you find the right setup, ask:

  • What should we offer? 
  • Who is it for?
  • How much will we charge, if anything?
  • How often will we charge?
  • Will there be different levels of membership?

Different membership levels allow you to offer additional benefits and deals to your members. There may be value in keeping it simple with every community member at the same level. Audit your offerings and see where you can add value. Brainstorm what your members want and need special access to.

Create Members-Only Content

Members-only content will vary based on the goals of your platform. Your offerings might include gated content, pages, or courses. Scheduled emails to your members will keep them informed and engaged. If you map the content out ahead of publishing your site and can offer perks right away, you’ll save yourself and your members’ frustration. 

Choose a Membership Platform or Plugin

Once you’ve decided on a membership model and offerings, you’ll need to decide on a content management system or a membership plugin. Knowing what to look for in a membership platform will make it easier to narrow your choices. 

Helpful features include:

  • Contact Segmentation. The ability to divide your contacts based on membership status.
  • Gated Content.  You want to be able to control access to content based on membership status.
  • User Member Pages. The ability to create member-specific pages and forms.
  • Automated Workflows.  You don’t want to have to remember to post content or send emails. Look for a platform that allows you to schedule content and email releases.
  • Payment Provider Integrations. You may want to be able to accept payments or donations at some point. Be sure the platform incorporates different forms of payment.
  • Analytics. You want to see how your members engage with your content. Analytics help you know what’s working and what to consider changing.
  • Membership Levels. Be able to separate sections of your site based on levels of membership.
  • Member Directories. Determine if you would like to showcase a member directory, add member profiles, allow members to see one another’s profiles, or contact one another.
  • Discussion Groups. While it removes some of your content control, one great feature for collaboration and community connection is to implement member-only discussion groups. It can also help democratize support by allowing long-time volunteers and champions of your organization to help those who are newer or who may have questions.

Some of these features may be more important for your organization than others, so choose the best platform for your needs. There are additional features that come packaged with some membership platforms and plugins that may be less critical to your program but are sometimes nice to have.

Publish Your Members-Only Pages

All of this preplanning will prepare you to publish your membership site. You can announce the publishing and any new additions through social media, email, and blog posts. A limited-time promotion can help boost initial membership.

Examples of Nonprofits that May Benefit from a Membership Site

Businesses commonly use membership sites for businesses, but building one for your nonprofit can be an effective way to create a strong sense of community and better serve people. 

Nonprofit organizations that may benefit from building a membership site include:

  • Community Centers. If your community center offers access to local services and recreational activities, a membership site can help you get the word out. Booking and requests will be easier to facilitate, and you can keep the community up to date on local news.
  • Outdoor Groups. Your hiking group or walking club can offer trail maps or walking guides to their members. Exclusive access to apps that include these is a membership perk you might offer. A member site is also an efficient way to communicate safety information.
  • Activist Groups. A members-only area for passionate activists can create a safe space to share views, support one another, and make plans for activities.
  • Wildlife and Environmental Organizations. Wildlife and environmental organizations might offer informative content on their member portal. You can offer members invitations to events like expert talks and annual celebrations. 
  • Animal Sanctuaries. A membership site for your animal sanctuary or charity can help you encourage members to adopt or sponsor a pet. Allow sponsors to stay up to date on the animal they housed or include information from pet professionals for members who have already adopted a friend.
  • Groups with Products. If you have a food pantry or other products that you provide to the community, you can use your membership site for ordering and availability information.
  • Associations and Alliances. Membership sites can help organize communications and member-only content for associations and alliances. It can also provide access to member-only online forms for requests.

Let CauseLabs Help

You are not just building a nonprofit. You’re building an entire community ecosystem. Once you know the goals of your membership site, CauseLabs can help you build a site or site integrations to best serve your community. Contact us for help building a membership site to serve your nonprofit.

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