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TOPIC: Funding an Affiliate

Funding an Affiliate 05 Oct 2008 14:21 #133

  • mver
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Obviously, a sustainable affiliate will have adequate funding among other attributes.

FCA affiliates vary widely in their funding practices, from seeking modest amounts under $20 to $35 or sometimes more for memberships. A very few offer their goods and informational services to anyone without immediate charge or push for a donation. Some charge for price surveys, some do not.
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In this post I'd like to capture some remarks from the email discussion list that bear on funding:

"We only have a voluntary donation of $15 per family for lifetime membership. The board does not want to raise it. We are working on getting 501(c)(3) status so we can get more donations outside of this. We do give them printed materials on several topics and a form for recording their wishes.

Barbara Degler"

On Oct 1, 2008, at 12:57 PM, Funeral Ethics Organization wrote:

"Barbara,

What do your members get for their membership fee? If you're wanting to
not always be a "low budget" affiliate, perhaps you might offer more to
attract new members.

Lisa"
Separately Lisa also wrote:
"1. The $15 membership fee is 30 years out of date.
2. "Lifetime" is unrealistic. No other organizations I know of promise "lifetime" unless one is a major donor.*
3. Even with "lifetime," I hope you're asking for annual voluntary dues or donations.
4. No other affiliate that has raised the membership fee and dropped "lifetime" has lost members as a result.
5. As a (c)(3) you will have to accept as members those from the general public who can't afford a membership fee. Those of us who can afford more than $15 understand and don't mind paying more.
6. Even at $15 you can afford to give away the BIG packet, a much more visible benefit to offer.

Lisa"

On the other hand, Gere Fulton wrote:

"... a recent exchange of opinions on a reasonable fee for membership in an affiliate and, regardless of that amount, whether it's a good idea--or even feasible--to offer a lifetime membership. I'm a proponent of a different model for growing and sustaining an affiliate, although I must admit that the "takers" have been few.

"I believe that it makes better sense to try to get our message and materials to as many people as possible and to do so by offering to send them our newsletter at no cost. Nothing. Free. But for a limited period of time...unless they respond with a contribution--which we ought to be asking for at least once a year--sufficient to at least cover the cost of production and mailing.

"After making them aware of our materials--including our Before I Go, You Should Know kit--we should make them available for purchase or offer them as a "premium" (like Public Television) for a contribution of $15 or more. We should be asking them for the names and addresses of friends who they think might also be interested in being added to our mailing list for a free copy of the newsletter. And we should be asking regularly whether they would like to have a speaker come to a group they're involved with. I've found that people are, understandably, more receptive to this when they realize that you're not there to "sell" them anything, including membership in your organization.

My experience has been that people are willing to help support those organizations that they feel are providing a worthwhile service, a regular funeral price survey being the most important of those we can offer. [/quote]

Gere Fulton
Columbia, SC"

To these thoughts about fee and free I want to add a return on investment approach:

Investment context is important: Yes, $15, $25 or $35 for membership still buys a meal or a bit of entertainment. But it seems to me that prospective members might reasonably see that the return on investment of affiliate membership or materials is very high.

For example, just learning that embalming is not required can bring savings of $350 and up --- a return of ten-fold or more. And that's only the beginning of possibilities: Caskets, grave liners, cremation urns and obituaries are other areas where an affiliate can suggest ways of honoring a loved one without breaking the bank.

Where else can you get that kind of return? In addition, with the knowledge you get from a membership you can reduce your level of uncertainty and stress in ways that you cannot measure in dollars. So look at money you send to an affiliate, or to FCA itself, in that context and understand that our outreach to others like you depends partly on the money folks donate to us.

P.S. I also suggest that "lifetime membership" is a great way to create a loss-leader product: a membership kit and one postcard or newsletter per year will exhaust a one-time membership amount in just a few years. After that it is all downhill for the organization; the more you sell the more you lose, because of the negative cash flow.

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Michael Rulison | Volunteer |
Funeral Consumers Alliance of the Triangle
www.fcat-nc.org
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Tag Lines -- was -- Re:Funding an Affiliate 22 Oct 2008 04:01 #134

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Tag lines are, to me, short phrases to attract attention or impel action.

Here are two (from the back of donation reply envelopes send by Urban Ministries of Wake County, North Carolina):

"The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others" -- Mahatma Gandhi

"Think of giving not as a duty but as a privilege" -- John D. Rockefeller, Jr.

Perhaps these can be useful as well on web sites or in newsletters.
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