How These 7 Organizations Grew Their Membership, Advocacy, or Donor Lists by up to 2400%

by Ann Dermody // Jun 23, 2016 Uncategorized

How would you like to quattuorviguple your membership?


Chances are you didn’t know that means growing it by 24 times?

But that’s exactly what the Computing Technology Industry Association (see below) did.

Would you settle for sextupling it, the way Mom’s Rising did?

(Hint: That’s making something six times bigger)

Sounds appealing, doesn’t it?

A spike in membership growth is almost always a good thing for your organization. So is a surge in new advocates or donors’ email addresses, and deep down probably what your whole job is about.

Of course it’s not easy, but it happens more often than you’d think. Sometimes that’s in response to a tragedy or cultural outcry.

The Pink Pistols, a group that encourages self defense for LGBT people through the legal use of firearms, increased its membership from 1,500 to 6,500 in the week after the Orlando nightclub shootings.

When wanted to create awareness and grow their membership back in 2009 they launched a Mother’s Day customizable video to staggering results.

The advocacy group, which relies on huge grassroots mobilization to fight for critical issues facing women, mothers, and families, saw their membership grow from 160,000 to over a million: an increase of more than 600%.

And their video garnered 12 million views.

Rapid growth is generally a good thing. Especially when it comes to a sweep of advocates suddenly getting behind your campaign and carrying it over the legislative finish line, or adding paying members to your revenue stream.

See how these seven organizations blew membership, donor and advocacy growth out of the water, thanks to successful campaigns, riding a viral wave, or responding to a social outcry.

The Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) increased membership by 2,400%, in 18 months

Organization: CompTIA is nonprofit trade association that provides members with IT certifications, IT business credentials, and IT education and resources. It also advocates on behalf of IT professionals and IT organizations, particularly regarding federal commercial policy, state government affairs and international policy.

CompTIA’s primary revenue source — and source of relevancy – is its vast certification program, but many in the organization felt it was the industry’s “best-kept secret” because access was restricted to its 2,000 member companies and 3,000 academic and training partners. The organization wanted a way to introduce more IT professionals to its offerings, hoping the exposure would boost membership and bring greater visibility, value and voice to CompTIA.

What They Did: In April 2014, CompTIA launched its “Open Access website and “freemium” association membership model, removing barriers to engagement and providing free access to much of its online content. The model let individuals and businesses engage with CompTIA, and view communities and programs cost-free. A new membership tier called “premier member” gave dues-paying members access to exclusive tools and training, as well as priority access to industry research.

Result: CompTIA soft-launched the new open-access website and membership model in March 2014, and by July that year their membership had climbed from 2,200 to more than 7,000. By the end of 2015, they had more than 50,000 members – an increase of about 2,400 percent in 18 months.

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Black Lives Matter turned a hashtag into a fully-fledged advocacy organization and political movement

Organization: Black Lives Matter (BLM) is a nationwide movement dedicated to addressing police brutality, violence and injustice towards African Americans. A Facebook lament by California labor organizer, Alicia Garcia, in the summer of 2013, was picked up by her friend, who slapped a hashtag on the post, making it a Twitter rallying cry.

What They Did: In August 2014, the first BLM national protest in the form of a “Black Lives Matter Freedom Ride” took place in Ferguson, Missouri, when 500 BLM members descended after the shooting of Michael Brown for a non-violent demonstration.

By the following August, BLM had at least 23 chapters in the U.S., Canada and Ghana, with chapters forming in London, Paris, Africa and Latin America. It has been described as a new civil rights movement.

BLM began creating hashtags based on the names of victims of police shootings, that continued their rise and expansion.

The movement not only “hash-tagged” well-known police-involved deaths, such as the Eric Garner strangulation in New York, but lesser-known cases involving police killings such as 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland in November 2014, gaining it more attention.

Results: BLM’s hash-tagged names of 20 black individuals killed by police in 2014 and 2015 generated 40.8 million tweets in a year. The movement says it has organized, supported or participated in 1,030 protest actions since August 2014.

The hashtag #BlackLivesMatter was voted one of 12 hashtags that changed the world, and the American Dialect Society chose #BlackLivesMatter as its word of the year.

In 2016, the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences awarded BLM its first-ever Webby Social Movement of the Year Award for its adroit use of social media.

Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) increased new member sign-ups by 60 percent, website traffic by 40 percent, and sales by 10 percent

Organization: The ACCA is the largest HVAC nonprofit contractor organization in the U.S. with more than 60,000 individual and 4,000 business members, representing more than 300,000 Americans working in the heating, ventilation and air conditioning industries.

It’s a national umbrella association with subsidiary state and local affiliates providing professional certifications, best business practices and technology updates. It also lobbies at the federal level on behalf of the HVAC industry.

What They Did: In March 2015, the ACCA set a goal to boost its membership. One obstacle to growing membership was an unwieldy dues structure that tied membership in the national organization with membership in local and state chapters, creating a confusing mishmash of differing dues schemes.

In mid-2015, the ACCA launched an open-access website and monthly auto-renewal memberships with a monthly, “join now” dues rate of $39, believing it could demonstrate the long-term value of membership to potential new business members by offering a monthly membership. They sought to make joining as easy as possible.

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It also dropped the requirement that members must join both national and chapter organizations, created a single annual dues rate of $450, developed a new website, introduced a new customer-relationship-management system, and enhanced its marketing automation system.

Results: Between July 1 and the end of 2015, new member sign-ups rose 60 percent, web traffic increased 40 percent, and sales went up by 10 percent.

About 40 percent of the new members joined via the monthly plan, and ACCA business membership rose from 3,500 to 4,000 member companies.

In addition, the monthly memberships presented an array of new membership metrics to track and analyze, such as month-to-month renewal rates, monthly members’ length of membership, how many members dropped and later come back (boomerangs) as well as insight into what motivates monthly members to buy, attend, or engage in, compared to annual members.

American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) increased the percentage of millennials among new members to 42 percent

Organization: ACHE is an international professional society of 48,000 healthcare executives in 79 chapters, directing hospitals, healthcare systems and other healthcare organizations.

Its mission is to advance members’ careers, and enhance healthcare management excellence through career development and public policy programs. They offer credentials and certifications in healthcare management, and their annual Congress on Healthcare Leadership draws more than 4,000 participants. ACHE’s Health Administration Press is also one of the nation’s largest publishers of books and journals on health services management, including textbooks for college and university courses.

What They Did: By 2020 millennials born in the early 1980s will be in their late 30s, making up the leadership of many associations, including ACHE. Recognizing this back in 2008, ACHE created a program specifically designed to get millennial members to induce other millennials to join.

According to studies, millennials rely more on word-of-mouth recommendations from each other, than Gen X’ers or boomers do. So ACHE revamped its “member get a member” (MGAM) recruitment program, to focus on recruiting millennials.

ACHE’s introduced a Leader to Leader (L2L) program built onto its original MGAM program by continuing to award points to any member who recruited a new member. Members could choose from gift items that rotated annually when they redeemed their points. The L2L program provides an incentive for members to visit student chapters, and connect with early careerists.

Results: In 2009, ACHE gained 1,872 new members, including 300 millennials, representing 6.2 percent. In 2013, it gained 2,483 members, including 1,061 millennials, 42 percent. The group’s overall total membership climbed from 44,000 in 2013 to more than 48,000 in 2016.

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Association generated $115 million in donations with a social media campaign

Organization: The Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Association, established in 1985 and based in Washington, D.C., is the only nonprofit organization fighting Lou Gehrig’s Disease in the United States, through a network of hundreds of state and local chapters.

What They Did: By 2014, the association was seeking another activity to help create awareness and augment fundraising in addition to its signature event, the annual ALS Walk, which had raised more than $220 million since 2000.

The Result: Perhaps the most effective social media fundraising campaign to date, the “Ice Bucket Challenge”  (where participants get a bucket of ice and water poured over them, post a video on social media and then challenge someone else to do the same or make a donation to fight ALS) was launched on July 29, 2014. By Aug. 24, 2014, it had generated $70.2 million in donations, and since then more than $115 million.

More than 17 million people uploaded their challenge videos to Facebook, it was watched by 440 million people, 10 billion times, and the ALS had huge numbers of potential advocates contact details to reach out to.

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One Fund Boston using #BostonStrong became one of the most effective fundraising efforts for victim-relief in U.S. history

Organization: “Boston Strong” was a condolence tweet issued in the hours after the Boston Marathon bombing in April 2013 that killed three and injured 264 people. The slogan rapidly became a popular hashtag, and Emerson College students began using it on t-shirts. Soon, it was appearing on billboards and in speeches.

What They Did: One Fund Boston, a nonprofit established to generate donations for victims and their families took advantage of the slogan’s popularity by selling it on t-shirts and other merchandise in partnership with Ink To The People.

Although the #Bostonstrong campaign appears in many online and print platforms, it was designed for Twitter and the #Bostonstrong was used more than 1.5 million times between April 2013 and April 2014.

Results: Spurred by #Bostonstrong, One Fund Boston raised more than $72 million in three years, enabling each of the families of those killed, and each victim with double amputations to receive $2.2 million. Each victim who lost one limb received $1.1 million.

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The hashtag continues to be used as a symbol of solidarity for cities grappling with more recent tragedies.

Best Friends Animal Society (BFAS)  #Invisibledog campaign saved thousands of “unadoptable” dogs in shelters by bringing awareness to their plight

Organization: BFAS is the only animal welfare organization in the U.S. dedicated exclusively to ending euthanizing dogs and cats in shelters.

It has more than 250,000 “household” members, runs the nation’s largest no-kill sanctuary, and orchestrates adoption centers nationwide in partnership with more than 1,500 rescue groups and shelters.

BFAS claims it has helped reduce the number of animals annually killed in U.S. shelters from 17 million to 4 million since the mid-80s. They publish “Best Friends”, a bimonthly magazine with 200,000 subscribers, and have used social media effectively to promote iPhone and Android mobile apps such as ‘My Dog ID,’ in which participants take pictures of themselves, and the app uses facial recognition to find a dog match for them.

What They Did: In October 2011, BFAS introduced the Invisible Dogs Campaign a symbolic reference to the “unadoptable” pets in shelters.

The #InvisibleDogs campaign asked people to pledge an action – a donation, volunteer, or adopt – to help an “invisible” pet in a shelter. The drive included a page that allowed people to create their own local “Invisible Dogs” walk, or “pup crawl.”

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In addition, they encouraged the public to visit their local shelter and “check in” via Foursquare on their smartphone or other mobile device on Nov. 12, which it designated as National Shelter Check-In Day.

Results: In the first month after being launched, the #InvisibleDogs campaign generated 40,000 website visits and 1,758 online donations culminating with 2,234 check-ins at animal shelters during the inaugural National Shelter Check-In Day.

Within six weeks, 52 groups in 20 cities created their own meetups to walk invisible dogs. Those new website visits, donations and check-ins meant BFAS had thousands of new leads for membership, advocacy and future donations.