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New Membership Program to Increase LLL Members

Strategic Membership Workgroup
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 43 No. 3, July-August-September 2007, pp. 68-70


Strategic Objectives for Membership

The LLLI Strategic Plan set the goal of increasing the number of LLL members by 25 percent over two years to an average of three members per Leader. Increasing membership revenues can improve the financial situation at LLLI and in local LLL entities. But members do so much more than simply provide financial support for the organization. Increasing the number of members increases the number of local promoters and word-of-mouth advertisers for LLL, adds volunteers to help with Group work, and creates a pool of potential Leader Applicants. Having seen many years of flat or declining membership, the LLLI Strategic Planning Committee recognized that changes to the existing membership program would be necessary to meet this goal. A Strategic Membership Workgroup reporting to the LLLI Executive Director was formed to explore options to improve member services and recommend changes that could increase memberships.

Membership Program Survey

After reviewing existing information about member services, the workgroup determined that more data was needed to really understand why memberships have not been growing. The workgroup therefore developed a survey to determine how LLL Leaders, members, and non-members rated LLL member services. The survey was distributed by Leaders in the United States via Group email lists and other contacts. (By starting the analysis with the US program, the workgroup avoided issues of currency, language, and Affiliate structure for the LLLI membership program outside the US.) This survey approach yielded over 1,000 responses from across the country in only four days. The respondents were a nearly even mix of LLL Leaders (34 percent), members (30 percent) and non-members (36 percent). Each group was asked unique but similar questions.

First we asked members and non-members their reasons for joining -- or not joining -- LLL. The top reasons for joining show that members identify with breastfeeding mothers and LLL philosophy:

  • I wanted to join LLL because I believe in its philosophy (70 percent).
  • I wanted to give back to the organization for the information and support they provided me (65 percent).
  • I wanted to help other mothers breastfeed their babies by supporting LLL financially (54 percent).

Non-members didn't join LLL because:

  • I couldn't afford to pay the membership fee (32 percent).
  • I didn't see any reason to join when the phone/email support and Group meetings were available to me for free (21 percent).
  • I don't think the benefits of membership are worth the membership fee (14 percent).
  • I am a former member not currently renewed (14 percent via write-in).
  • I plan to join but don't get around to it / forget money at meetings (nine percent via write-in).

We also asked Leaders why they thought mothers joined or didn't join LLL. Leaders' responses largely matched those of members, but they deviated on the reasons mothers do not join. To a larger degree, Leaders believe that mothers cannot afford (68 percent), don't see a reason to join (72 percent), or don't value the benefits (54 percent) of LLL membership.

After examining the reasons why mothers decide whether or not to join LLL, we asked a variety of questions about membership benefits and fees. Subscription to New Beginnings was the most highly valued membership benefit (members rated it 4.23 out of 5). Many Groups offer additional membership benefits (including the highly rated "Group lending Library privileges") and promote different membership "packages" that include basic membership plus locally provided benefits at special rates (e.g., copy of THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING). Respondents also wrote in many additional ideas about membership benefits, including many suggestions for different membership levels/tiers from low-cost to premium with differing benefits packages.

In terms of membership cost, the majority of respondents felt the current $40 membership fee in the US was reasonable. Surprisingly, even 41 percent of non-members who said they could not afford the membership fee agreed that the fee is reasonably priced. But many expressed that the $40 price was a hardship for some mothers who would otherwise like to join, and suggested payment plans, scholarships, and lower-priced or sliding-scale membership pricing to make membership more affordable for all mothers who want to join. (See Chart 1.)

New LLLI Membership Program

Based on this feedback, the Strategic Membership Workgroup recommended that LLLI implement a tiered membership program which allows Leaders to sell memberships at several standard fee levels, each with different benefits. The LLLI Executive Director and staff have established a new structure to implement this recommendation. (See Chart 2.)

The new LLLI Organizational System will allow entry of new and renewal memberships at different levels. It will also incorporate different tools to promote memberships and invite mothers to join LLL.

Increasing Membership

In evaluating how Leaders can effectively promote memberships with this new program, it may be useful to examine the challenges Leaders face selling memberships under the current program. In the survey, we asked Leaders how successful they felt they were in selling memberships to the mothers they help (through phone/email support and Group meetings). Eighteen percent of Leaders felt they were so successful that it would be difficult to sell any more memberships. Almost one-half (49 percent) of the Leaders felt they were successful, but could sell more memberships than they were currently. However, 33 percent of Leaders felt they were not successful in selling memberships. We asked these Leaders why they felt they were unsuccessful. (See Chart 3.)

One of the major reasons Leaders cite for their lack of success in selling memberships is their belief that the mothers they help cannot afford the current $40 membership fee. With the new membership program, these Leaders can promote new Supporting Memberships. By offering a lower-cost, $25 per year membership, Leaders can encourage more mothers to enjoy the intangible benefits of LLLI membership: helping other mothers to breastfeed their babies and supporting LLLI philosophy.

On the other end of the spectrum, Leaders of Groups with more affluent mothers or serving professionals may choose to promote the new Sustaining or Premier Memberships by creating special benefits packages. For example, a Leader could offer a new mother the Sustaining Membership package, which includes a copy of THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING and a sling in addition to the regular member benefits. The Leader could keep copies of LLLI books in inventory for membership sales, or she could order them via the LLLI Online Store at the time she enters the membership information and have items shipped directly to the new member. A Group that has fostered relationships with local health care professionals may choose to offer a "professional" Premier Membership, which could include a subscription to Breastfeeding Abstracts and various LLLI pamphlets and tear-off sheets. Some Leaders may choose to promote the Sustaining or Premier Memberships as simply a way to join LLL and to simultaneously make a generous donation with no additional benefits. In all cases, these new membership tiers offer options for local LLL entities to create value-added membership programs tailored to the particular interests of mothers in their communities.

The new membership program is rolling out concurrently with the new LLLI Organizational System. This system has other features to help Leaders increase membership sales. New options will allow Leaders to send email invitations asking mothers to sign up themselves as LLL members. Sending invitations should appeal to lone Leaders and Groups which do not maintain a Group bank account. The email appeal may also be more successful for Groups with few repeat attendees. Leaders can easily send invitations to moms whom they help over the phone or via email or following a home visit. An email invitation may also make joining easier for the nine percent of non-members who plan to join but forget to bring their checkbook to meetings.

Finally, in the survey many Leaders indicated that they wanted more of the membership fee to remain at the local Group level. By selling Supporting Memberships ($25 US per year) to mothers who might not have otherwise joined, local entities (Group, Area, Division) will earn $10 (US) per new member. To encourage creation of local benefits packages and promotion of Sustaining (or Premier) Memberships, 50 percent (or 75 percent) of revenues at these tiers will stay with local LLL entities. The new systems will also allow members to designate a local Group to receive funds when they sign up themselves online. These options should all increase revenues to local Groups. For this fiscal year, LLLI will still retain $26 US of the Regular Membership ($40 US) revenues. However, if we reach our goal of 25 percent more memberships quickly, the revenue influx may allow LLLI to reevaluate the revenue split in April 2008 and share even more Regular Membership revenue with local Groups.

Global Membership

These changes to the LLLI Membership Program initially will only impact US members. To address the needs of the global LLLI community, the program and systems must be expanded to accept memberships in local currencies, with information provided in languages other than English. Fees will be reviewed, since for many countries, even the new Supporting Membership fees are too high. International members will want benefit options appropriate for their language and culture and local nonprofit regulations must be addressed. The details of how the program will be modified for non-US Areas and Affiliates will be determined in the coming months. However, the new tiered structure allows the best flexibility to adapt to local needs. New tiers can be added for different locations, and local benefits can be selected in addition to or in place of the current LLLI options. Finally, we will examine the success of Areas/Affiliates that already exceed the goal of three members per Leader to determine how aspects of their programs can be incorporated into the global LLLI membership program. The new LLLI membership program will help Leaders worldwide to encourage more mothers to join our organization and support LLLI.

For more information about the survey, please see the Membership Workgroup Key Findings and Recommendations Report (PDF) in the LLLI Community Network Shared Library.

The Strategic Membership Workgroup

Martina Carabetta
Pam Freedman
Cindy Garrison
Judie Gibel
Anne Hutton
Charlene Jenkins
Nancy March
Rachel O'Leary
Ellen Shein
Nikki Simmons
Shelly Stanley
Kathleen Whitfield

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