Membership schemes are, by their nature, transactional. David Burgess asks ‘At the point of asking someone to become a Friend you are asking them to make a ‘value for money’ judgement – is the package of benefits worth (at least) the amount I am being asked to pay?’
Individual giving to the arts is on the rise. The oft-quoted ‘Private Investment in Culture’ Survey valued individual giving at £245m in 2014/15, meaning it accounts for over half of all private investment to the sector. With corporate support diminishing and ever-greater competition for support from trusts and foundations you can expect this growth to rise as more and more organisations start turning to individual supporters for help.
Individual giving comes in lots of shapes and sizes – from a small number of committed supporters making transformational gifts (either during their life or through a gift in their Will) to building an army of passionate supporters who each give smaller amounts. This latter group can take many forms – one-off appeals, crowdfunding campaigns, donation boxes and the “ol’ faithful” of arts and culture fundraising – the Friends or Membership scheme.
From the largest national companies to the smallest, volunteer-run organisations, the Friends scheme has become a fundraising staple. While the specific rewards of membership may change, the premise is usually the same – a Friend pays a monthly or annual subscription in return for a package of benefits.
The problem is, just because something is popular doesn’t meant that it is right. In fact, many of the Friends schemes I see are inappropriate, inefficient and inhibiting. Ultimately, they are not fit for purpose.
So, how do you know whether a Friends scheme is right for your organisation?