Looking to structure the way you collect dues and give your members their perks and benefits? Then it’s time to start looking into the best options for nonprofit membership models!

Choosing the right membership model is key to delivering all the perks of your membership program. Plus, it helps you bring in a steady stream of revenue for your organization. In order to figure out which model is best for you, you’re going to want to dive into your membership program’s goals.

Let’s explore a few different nonprofit membership models, along with what types of organizations they work best for and how to manage their dues.

What does your membership program offer?

Depending on what kind of organization you run, your program will offer different perks, goods, or services. Choosing the right model is not a one-size-fits-all deal—really think about what’s valuable to your particular membership base!

Here are some examples of what membership program benefits could look like for different organizations:

  • Associations: Private networking events, community resources, professional certifications, and workshops.
  • Animal shelters: Quarterly newsletters with adoption stories and a discount on adoption fees and merchandise.
  • Botanical gardens: Newsletters with upcoming events, year-round general admission, free parking, and free or discounted admission to special events like gardening classes.
  • Sports clubs: Free equipment rentals, discounted equipment for sale, access to  practices, games, and special social events.
  • Community theater: Discounted or free tickets to a certain number of shows per season, and a thank you in the playbill.

Nonprofit membership models structure how dues are collected and exchanged for these perks.

Which nonprofit membership model will work best?

Once you know what perks you would like to include in your membership program, you might be wondering which membership model is best for you.

Nonprofit membership models typically come in a couple of formats:

1. Tiered Model

A tiered model offers different levels of membership. With this model, benefits become more valuable as the dues get more expensive. One goal of this model is to provide varying price points while always emphasizing the value of upgrading.

Imagine you’re in charge of a community theater. A tiered membership model for your organization might look something like this:

  • Silver: 30% discount on shows throughout the year, access to post-show Q&As, and your name listed in the program.
  • Gold: Two free tickets to one show per season, a 30% discount all year, access to post-show Q&As, and your name listed in the program.
  • Platinum: An annual pass for all productions, access to post-show Q&As, and a special thank you in the program.

If your members are enjoying your shows, it’s very possible that they will upgrade as soon as it makes sense for them financially!

Who does a tiered membership model work best for?

This style of membership model typically works best for associations and charitable organizations.

2. Perks Packages

A perks package gives your members multiple membership options but focuses less on increasing value between those options. Instead, it offers different perk bundles that appeal to different audiences, like young professionals, seniors, or families.

Let’s bring back the community theater! A perks package model for your organization might look something like this:

  • Kids shows: If your theater puts on youth productions, this package would be great for families. While the adults buying the package might not typically be theatergoers, this package would make it more affordable to bring family members to shows their kids are starring in.
  • Classic package: This would be a variation on the tiered model from above. You could choose what discount or free ticket options make the most sense for your budget.
  • Student package: If your theater is near a university, offering discounted memberships to students is a great way to get them in seats. You could even advertise this package to the school’s theater department.

Who does a perks package model work best for?

This model would work best for an organization where there are different subsets of offerings and activities and multiple audiences to target. If you have recurring “groups” of members, you can build a package just for them.

Offering multiple options for people is a great way to increase membership!

3. Flat Rate

A flat rate model is less complicated—one price, one set of rewards. This model is best for organizations with more straightforward offerings.

For our hypothetical community theater, this would look like the simple option for a season pass.

Who does a flat rate membership model work best for?

If you run a park or a club, membership could be as simple as accessing the location. If there isn’t a wide variety of offerings, going with the flat rate model will keep things easy.

What about membership dues?

The money your members pay to access your perks and services is known as “membership dues.” These dues are a fantastic source of revenue and offer you real data on how many people are engaging with your organization on a deeper level.

When you’re figuring out how you want to structure your nonprofit membership model, dues are an essential consideration because they are what will ultimately sustain the program and generate value for your organization.

There are a few key questions to think about:

  • How much do you want to charge? Undercharging will lose you funding in the long run, but overcharging might lose you prospective members.
  • How often do you want to charge it?  Some people prefer to pay once a year and forget about it, whereas others like to stagger their payments monthly. Business members of your association might prefer an annual fee for ease of accounting, whereas individual supporters of a nonprofit might prefer to budget for a smaller monthly charge.
  • When do you want membership renewal to occur? Would you rather have people renew one year to the date of their membership? Or would it be easier to have all of your members renew on the same calendar day?

Keep in mind that your dues should always feel equivalent to the quality of your services. If people feel like they are getting their money’s worth, you’re more likely to boost member retention!

Remember: there’s more to a membership program than just making money. It is just as essential to build a flourishing community, and there are many opportunities to keep yourself financially supported with other forms of non-dues revenue.


From the start of your supporters’ member journey all the way through to renewal, your members should always feel connected to your nonprofit. Choosing a membership model that caters to their goals and needs will go a long way to building that relationship.