Membership organizations know a lot about building loyalty

In case you haven’t heard, DonorDreams blog is hosting for the second year in a row the Nonprofit Blog Carnival in the month of May. This year’s theme revolves around building loyalty among various non-profit stakeholder groups such as donors, employees, volunteers, etc. If you are a blogger and looking for the “Call for Submissions,” then click here. The carnival will be posted right here at DonorDreams blog on Wednesday, May 28, 2014. Stay tuned!

In the interest of building momentum, we’ve dedicated the entire month of blog posts to this topic. We’re specifically focusing on what a variety of non-profit organizations are doing (or are looking at doing) to build loyalty.

Serving people’s interests inspires loyalty
Elgin Area Chamber of Commerce

elgin chamberNot all non-profit organizations are the same. Social service agency are different from arts organizations, and colleges/universities have different wrinkles than churches. However, the differences in many cases are slight and everyone can always learn from each other if they just look hard enough for the teachable moment. So, it didn’t come as a surprise to me that I learned a lot about how to build loyalty from Carol Gieske, President of the Elgin Area Chamber of Commerce, a few weeks ago.

Unlike other non-profit organizations, membership-driven organizations need to focus on building loyalty because without members to serve there is no need to keep the doors open.

In the time that Carol and I sat down to chat, she shared two great strategies that any non-profit organization can use to help build loyalty.


Everyone does it because as the old expression goes:

If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail.”

planningEvery good planning process begins with some form of evaluation. It could look like a SWOT analysis. It could be significantly more intensive and involve going through an accreditation process. Regardless of what evaluation process you use, good planning starts with evaluation because it is difficult to figure out where you want to go if you don’t know where you are currently.

After establishing what “Point A” looks like, the planning process usually involves engaging in discussions focused on:

  • mission
  • shared vision
  • shared values
  • goals
  • strategies
  • tactics / action steps

While talking about strategic planning with Carol, she made the point that involving her chamber members in the planning process is critical to building loyalty. Why? Because when members participate in planning, they have buy-in to where the chamber is going. And when members buy-in and the ideas on the page are theirs, then they are more likely to roll up their sleeves and stay engaged.
Affinity groups
elgin leadership academyAnother loyalty strategy upon which Carol and the chamber of commerce focus is affinity groups. While this term takes on many different meanings, in chamber circles it simply involves bring like-minded people together to talk about their similar interests. The following are a few examples of affinity groups:

  • entrepreneurs who are in the process of opening new businesses in town
  • non-profit organizations
  • manufacturers
  • restaurant owners

You might be wondering how is this a loyalty strategy?
On the surface, this is simply a perk of membership for people who join chambers. So, giving customers what they want (and doing so with quality) naturally builds loyalty.
However, it goes a little deeper than just giving people what they demand in the marketplace.
When you place your agency at the center of a relationship building exercise and do a good job facilitating it, affinity group participants do more than just build relationships with each other. They also end up building a last relationship with you.
Members — in fact any stakeholder group — become more loyal to your agency as the strength and depth of your relationship increases. This is one of the reasons we hold staff meetings, develop donor recognition societies, host client focus groups, etc.


If you want to learn more about what other non-profit organizations are doing to build loyalty among various stakeholder groups (e.g. donors, employees, volunteers, etc), then tune in here to DonorDreams blog every Tuesday and Thursday throughout the month of May. We will also publish the Nonprofit Blog Carnival on May 28, 2014 with a number of links to other non-profit bloggers who are talking about loyalty related themes.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847