Sunday, July 23, 2006

"Why use the word 'member' in the context of fundraising?"

Here's what one very successful fundraiser had to say on this topic.

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: the LP's use of the word "member"
Date: 7/11/2006, 11:41 AM
From: Rob Kampia
To: Wes

Hi Wes,

I thought I'd take a moment to summarize my thoughts about the use of the words "member" or "membership" that I expressed to you at the beginning of the LP convention in Portland.

As I mentioned at the microphone in the main convention hall on Sunday, I raise $20,000 a day for MPP -- every day, including weekends and holidays -- in addition to having recently raised $25,000 for the LP, plus $2,100 for each of five congressional candidates. With a total budget of $7,000,000 for 2006, MPP is the largest organization in the world that is solely dedicated to ending marijuana prohibition. I say all this only as a way of noting that I have some experience with raising money.

To my mind, there are two ways for the LP to view the word "member": To determine the number and distribution of voting delegates at the national convention, and to maximize the amount of money the LP raises.

When the LP determines the number of delegates each state may send to the LP's national conventions, it makes sense to make each state's number of delegates proportional to the number of people in each state who have donated, say, $25 or more to the national LP in, say, the last 12 months. Whether or not you call such donors "members" or not is immaterial, but it might be useful to call such people "members" -- or some other word -- as shorthand for "people who have donated $25 or more to the national LP in the last 12 months." In this sense, you'd be giving the word "member" a legal definition.

On the second question -- the use of the word "member" as it applies to fundraising -- I absolutely encourage the LP to use the word "member" in this arena. But, in this arena, the use of the word is merely rhetorical; it has no legal meaning.

Why use the word "member" in the context of fundraising? Because the American people -- through decades of exposure to nonprofit organizations, for-profit membership organizations, and almost any other type of organization -- associate the word "member" with the notion of "needing to donate annually in order to keep my membership current." In other words, asking someone to become a "member" of the LP is a powerful marketing tool because -- even though you're initially asking people to make only one donation -- you're also putting the LP in the morally upright position of being able to ask them to renew their "memberships" one year later; indeed, they will *expect* you to ask them to renew their "memberships" one year later (and a handful of times in between). The same expectation does not apply to, say, someone who donates money to an organization by buying a ticket to a benefit concert or buying a brownie at a bake sale.

In addition, someone who views himself or herself as a "member" of an organization is necessarily more mentally and emotionally invested than someone who merely "donates" money to an organization.

In sum, the word "member" is a gift to the LP from thousands of organizations that have worked together to define the word in a way that increases organizational revenues. The LP should accept this gift and use the words "member" and "membership" (in a non-legal sense) when building the LP's donor base in the months and years to come.

Please feel free to share these thoughts as you see fit. Thank you for reading this far ...

Rob Kampia, Executive Director
Marijuana Policy Project
P.O. Box 77492, Washington, D.C. 20013

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