Running a member-based nonprofit association can come with unique challenges. From managing members’ feedback to offering diverse services to support equity, member-based organizations have a lot to think about.

Considering More Stakeholders

In a member-based nonprofit association, decisions are made by a board of directors, but it is crucial that the board also considers members’ interests. This can often mean that any changes to a strategy or business model require consideration beyond the board. When organizations or individuals join an association, they benefit from and depend on the services provided via their membership. Any changes to those services could impact members’ continued membership. 

It is important for member-based nonprofit organizations to bring their members together on a regular basis. Gathering members is critical to receiving feedback, maintaining and improving involvement, and remaining connected. These gatherings can take many forms, from annual conferences to local chapter meetings each month. Communications like newsletters are also a great way to share news and request feedback on major decisions.

Projecting Revenue 

A considerable portion of a member-based association’s revenue comes from membership fees, which can be hard to predict. Membership is typically renewed on an annual basis, meaning that revenue can drastically change year-over-year. This can be complicated further by tiered memberships, where members can vary their level of support each year. While it is challenging to accurately predict future membership revenue, it can be beneficial to do a look back. Understanding how your membership has changed over recent years, and how the economic conditions affected both your membership and the impact of your mission and programs, can be helpful knowledge in planning for the future.

There are many tools available online to nonprofits to help run these types of analysis, which produce planning and forecasting reports based on publicly available information. It can also be beneficial to work with a financial analyst to perform economic models, review past budgets and test different scenarios based on membership levels. 

Providing Access

Diversity and equity are a throughline for all nonprofits, but member-based associations are often concerned as the nature of their association—requiring membership— creates another barrier to entry. It is important for organizations to consider who is represented in their membership and take action to align their membership with the mission they’re serving. Some organizations require a steep paywall to function effectively, but in cases like these, the organization should consider how to also give access to those unable to afford the membership and work to expand services across public and private spheres. 

Deep research and understanding goes a long way towards equity. When looking at representation in an organizations’ service base it is important to understand who wants and needs your services. If you have identified an under-represented group that both wants, and could benefit from your organizations’ services, just expanding access isn’t always enough. Your traditional services may not be the right fit for a new sector. To equally serve, your organization must be sure that the services offered are diverse enough to meet different needs. This may mean tailoring and adjusting existing practices and services. 

With the right planning, research and consideration, member-based associations can manage their organizations successfully and make a deep impact in their community with their programs and mission. 

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