Knowledge Centre Tips from the Industry

When setting up a friends or membership scheme:

  • Set the objectives for your friend or membership scheme– Going through the process of setting achievable objectives for your scheme is a way to help focus your efforts and set appropriate levels of expectation for your scheme. To help you do this, ask yourself the following:
    • How many events would you like your friends or members to attend each year?
    • What level of revenue would you like to achieve from your scheme in year one/each year?
    • How many friends or members would you like to have in year one/each year?
  • Budget for the costs associated with your scheme – Like all fundraising activities, there will be a cost involved with running a friend or membership scheme. You will incur short-term costs such as the cost for brochures, website design and changes, postage or events/trips but what is often overlooked is the human resource required for running the scheme. As subscriptions to your scheme increase, the human resource required to manage it will likely increase.
  • Consider the level(s) of contribution carefully – assessing the target market for your friend or membership scheme and their price sensitivity should be an objective of the market research you undertake into your scheme. For example, if your audience is largely arts professionals or students, setting a low membership level might be particularly important.
  • Consider your benefits carefully – it is vital to budget for the cost of delivering the benefits you offer to your friends or members. Highly desirable tangible gifts such as priority booking to high profile events or free/reduced rate ticket prices can be highly successful & low cost benefits to offer. In some cases, the financial benefits accruing to a friend or member through a scheme (such as from free tickets) can outweigh any emotional commitment/loyalty they have to the organisation.
  • Test your offering with a focus group – focus groups give honest feedback regarding what they like and dislike about a friend or membership scheme, which can then be incorporated into its design or implementation. Although they can be expensive, the process can save you money in the longterm by getting the offering right the first time.
  • The Importance of Data Capture Capturing accurate data from your friends and members should be a priority from the outset of your scheme. Without accurate data such as names, telephone numbers, email and postal addresses, maintaining contact with your subscribers and the renewals is difficult. Some organisations have two people involved with data capture, a data inputter and a second data checker to ensure information is recorded correctly.
  • Managing Subscriptions and Renewals In the early days of a friend and membership scheme, there is usually no need for specialist membership management software. Many arts organisations use password protected Excel or Access files to manage their schemes. Complex friends or membership schemes however may require appropriate management software from the outset. (eg. Raisers Edge, Salesforce). If you would like to keep the management of your scheme as simple as possible, consider issuing your subscription renewal notices, annually, semi-annually or quarterly instead of monthly or as they are due.
  • Check whether you can offer tax relief on subscriptions – Some arts organisations believe they can automatically provide tax relief of the subscriptions they receive. This is not the case, there are several criteria that must be fulfilled before you can offer tax relief. Check the Tax & Legal Considerations section of our site for up-to-date information.

Advice for existing friends or membership schemes:

  • Communications Calendar & Forward Planning – As the saying goes; It pays to plan ahead, it wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark… A very simple yet effective exercise to help manage your membership scheme is to create a calendar at the beginning of the year and mark in all planned mailings and communications for the year ahead. Ideally if visible on one page, you can easily identify where your communications strategy falls short in some parts of the year or is overloaded in others. This allows you the opportunity to communicate effectively with your members and maintain a balanced presence year round. In addition, highlighting major events and main deadlines helps put structure on the membership calendar year. The document should be easy to read and navigate, and not bogged down by minute detail. This helps keep your objectives clear and your mind organised. When used effectively it can be your best Friend in busier times ahead.
  • Use Technology/Software Effectively – If your friend or membership scheme has grown to the point where managing subscriptions is a large resource drain for your organisation, you might want to investigate what specialist membership management software is available. Some organisations spend alot of money implementing fundraising software. However, there may be cheaper options which fit your needs. Contact Business to Arts if you’d like an impartial overview of some of the options or connections to organisations using different fundraising software.
  • Identify Volunteers from your Friends or Members – Friends and members usually know your organisation and it’s offering very well. A friend or member with the ability to volunteer (eg. a student or retired person) can often be an ideal candidate to help manage/administrate friend or membership schemes with the executive.
  • Know the trends among your friends and members
    • Payment time – this will help you manage your cashflow. It is not unusual to issue renewals up to four months in advance of renewal date to ensure that subscriptions are renewed when expected.
    • Average life-time period of membership – by knowing when typical friends or members are likely to not renew, this will help you re-engage them in advance of when they maybe considering ceasing their subscription.
    • Average life-time value of membership – this will help you gauge how much you are likely to raise from particular profiles of members or friends. For example, the cost of engaging a (€) high-level friend or member maybe high, in the long term, the value of this friend or member might be considerable if they renew for a number of years.


Design by New Graphic.