6 min read

Membership Schemes: A beginner's cheat sheet

When memberships are well designed and effectively managed, you can find yourself generating extra income from philanthropic giving and welcoming a lot of happy customers more often – in short, everyone wins! But to achieve this, you first need to take a step back and do your homework. This means understanding exactly why your organisation has (or wants to have) a membership scheme in the first place, researching your customers and having a clear marketing strategy for the short and long term. Use this cheat sheet if you’re developing a membership scheme for the first time or to check that your current scheme is up to scratch.

Related Reading: Encouraging Online Giving With the Donations Web Component


1. Think about your objectives

Knowing what your objectives are will help determine what type of scheme to develop:

  • To increase attendance and secondary spend, you need a benefit scheme. This type of scheme offers a financial incentive to join, rewarding customers who book the most and encouraging them to book more. They can easily be sold by the Box Office team and online.
  • To generate philanthropic giving and get donors on the first rung of the giving ladder, develop a philanthropic scheme. There are little or no financial benefits to this scheme for the member and all income is eligible for Gift Aid. People who want to make a charitable gift or get access to non-financial benefits will be motivated to join this type of scheme.
  • If your goal is to do a bit of both, you need a scheme that combines a membership fee with a philanthropic gift. This way you can offer financial incentives while still having an element of charitable giving.

2. Choose the benefits to offer

When you’re thinking about which benefits to offer, remember: you want to make more money with your membership scheme than it will cost you to run it. This might sound obvious, but there are lots of schemes out there that don’t do this.

In addition, beware offering a single scheme at one level of benefit. Not only can it end up costing you revenue, but it’s much better to offer multiple entry points by developing tiered memberships that offer benefits at different levels.

Benefits that cost money

There are some great benefits you can offer that will cost you money but will be an effective incentive to join the scheme and make it really easy to sell, therefore generating income and more bookings. Many of these can be powered using the offers tool in Spektrix:

  • Waived booking fees
  • Percentage discounts on some or all tickets
  • Top price seats at a discounted price
  • Discounts at your bar or café
  • Free programs

Benefits that don’t cost anything

There are also some great benefits you can offer members that don’t cost anything, these are great if you want to set up a philanthropic scheme:

  • Priority booking (in Spektrix, this gives priority access to events once a member has logged in online).
  • Priority mailings
  • ‘Thank you’ in show programmes, on the website

Benefits you can charge members for

Then there are benefits that do cost something, but you can charge members for them. These are great for any kind of membership scheme, but don’t forget they take up the most admin time:

  • Pre and post-show talks
  • Building tours and backstage tours
  • Dress rehearsals
  • Meet and greets

Spektrix makes offering the benefits of memberships super easy. Many of the benefits we’ve described can be managed in Spektrix and can become available to eligible customers online as well as at the box office without any manual intervention required.

3. Tailor your memberships for your customers

You might know what you want to get out of a membership scheme, but to really attract members you should also make sure your membership scheme will give your customers what they want. You can find out by looking at previous booking history to see if the benefits you have in mind match your customers’ needs. Here are just a few examples of how to do this:

  • Priority booking. Use the Customer List tool and the standard reports in Spektrix to easily analyze your bookers, so you know exactly what will appeal to them. For example, you can segment on when customers book and if they join a waiting list. If your events sell out and you always have a waiting list, offering priority booking is a great incentive to join the membership scheme. This won’t cost you a penny and you’ll generate income through the membership fee – great if you’re already selling out your events and want to increase income.
  • Waiving booking fees. A quick look at your Ticket Sales Analysis report will tell you if a large proportion of your customers book over the phone. Waiving booking fees online isn’t just a great incentive for customers to join the scheme, but also frees up time in your box office team.
  • Philanthropic giving. Your Donations Analysis report will tell you if a lot of customers are donating at the point of sale. If that’s the case, a philanthropic scheme would be the next step in the donation ladder and something a lot of your customers might already be considering.
  • Membership price. You can also look at how much your customers are spending using the Customer List tool. This will give you an indication of how much to charge for memberships. For example, if the average spend per order is £30, a £20 membership is reasonable but a big percentage increase to the basket value. If the average spend per order is £150, a £50 membership is an easier upsell.


4. Do some due diligence

Make sure that you’re asking the right questions about your scheme before you commit to anything:

  • Does your membership scheme offer a better deal to customers than any current offers (e.g. flexi-series, season tickets, preview nights)? Your scheme needs to be easy to understand, so avoid conflicting messages and make sure your members get the best deal.
  • Does your membership scheme undermine your other arts fundraising efforts? If you have targets for individual giving, make sure you’re not confusing people by encouraging them to become members while also asking them to sign up to regular donations.
  • How many members do you need for the scheme to be profitable? Don’t forget to take into account any staff time required. Once you’ve worked this out, is it still feasible?
  • Who will be responsible for managing the scheme? Although there are lots of tools you can use that make the administration of the scheme very easy, someone needs to keep an eye on the figures, targets and marketing of the scheme.


5. Market your memberships

Even with great benefits, you’ll still need to market your scheme to customers. Here’s how to do it and some Spektrix tools you can use to make it super easy:

  • Target potential members. The Customer List tool lets you segment your database to find the customers who will be most interested in your scheme. These might be customers who have spent over a certain amount in the past year and who therefore would have saved money as a member. Alternatively, you might want to find customers who regularly donate at the point of sale.
  • Flag potential members to upsell. Customer Groups in Spektrix enable you to flag up potential members so your box office team can upsell the memberships at the point of sale.
  • Make them available online. Spektrix has an iframe for memberships which you can easily add to your website so customers can quickly purchase a membership online.

Related Reading: 5 Creative Uses of Customer Tags in Spektrix


6. Keep your members on board

So you’ve developed a solid membership scheme and you’ve got a growing list of members. Good job. Now you need to keep them on board. Here’s how:

  • Use Auto-Renewable Memberships. In Spektrix, a member can set up an auto-renewable payment at the point of joining to make their membership roll over, making them far less likely to lapse
  • Keep an eye on them. Once your scheme is up and running, make sure members are making the most of any benefits you offer and are engaged with your organisation. If this isn’t the case, encourage them to use their benefits before their membership expires. You can use the Customer List tool to see what your members are booking, and if you’re emailing members via dotdigital you can see if they are opening your communications and clicking on links.
  • Set up Customer Groups. Create a Customer Group to tag customers as members. When they come into the box office, this will get highlighted to your team so that they can recognise their contribution.
  • Set a discounted renewal rate. Spektrix enables you to offer a discounted renewal rate. This provides a great incentive to renew before the membership expires.
  • Listen. Give members the opportunity to tell you what they think, ask them why they don’t renew, ask them what they would like to see or receive. You can’t accommodate everyone’s requests, but by asking for feedback you’ll spot patterns.


7. Keep experimenting

Finally, once you’ve developed a scheme that fits your objectives and the needs of your customers, don’t just stop there. Too many membership schemes fall flat because they never get reviewed. Of course, once a membership has been purchased you need to honour the benefits, but that doesn’t mean you can’t undertake regular analysis to check if the scheme is working as you intended. If your scheme isn’t making enough money if members aren’t engaged, if the lapse rate is high or if you just have a bright new idea that might put a smile on your members’ faces – make that change.



More insights and best practice ideas from Spektrix


Kate Mroczkowski is a former member of the Spektrix team

6 Things I Learned My First Time at Capacity Interactive Boot Camp

Hybrid conferences in 2022: connecting failure with success, reframing goals to support change, centering accessibility, and dog GIFs.


Create your own story arc for fundraising conversations

A guest post by Kel Haney, Senior Consultant at Donorly. Kel introduces her method for shifting fundraising conversations from transactional moments...


Spektrix UK Hubs: Enriching connections across the cultural sector

In summer 2022, Spektrix users in the UK and Ireland were invited to Spektrix Hubs - our first full series of in-person events since Covid-19. This...