10 Essential Ingredients of a Successful Membership Organization

1. Deliver real value:

  • Do local journalism that matters.
  • Solve community problems, don’t just identify them.
  • Communicate with your audiences, not at them.
  • Develop (and continuously improve!) products and services that highlight unique local journalism of the highest quality.
  • Connect audiences to you and to each other.

2. Utilize a funnel approach (and scorecard):

3. Get everyone involved:

4. Get the tech stack right:

5. Make decisions based on data:

  • Recognize that your gut instinct is valuable and important. But develop a hypothesis-driven culture and continually challenge your own assumptions with data. Understand that the right data can make you smarter, faster and more effective.
  • Stay laser-focused on key performance indicators (KPIs) that actually matter.
  • Keep track of progress against those KPIs and share them with everyone.
  • Test and learn religiously.
  • Make quick decisions, without lots of layers of approvals and bureaucracy. Fail fast, fail cheap.
  • Recognize that growth doesn’t happen by accident; continually improve based on data/insights and testing results.

6. Obsess over the UX:

7. Maximize return across the demand curve:

  • Be deliberate in your approach to pricing/packaging/bundling/tiering to convert audiences of all kinds into paying users, including one-time donors, recurring members and high-dollar supporters.
  • Identify all the ways in which you can generate value — financial and otherwise — from your audiences.
  • Recognize that, while improving, the notion that journalism is a philanthropic cause is not widely known. It takes considerable effort to explain to regular news consumers that journalism should be considered in the same light as after-school programs and fine arts institutions.

8. Treat members like the gold they are:

  • Provide compelling and appropriate member-only benefits (note: this doesn’t necessarily — and often shouldn’t — mean physical “swag.”)
  • Be good stewards of membership dollars and be transparent about what membership dollars fund.
  • Genuinely and routinely thank loyalists and longtime supporters, in whatever ways make sense for your organization (personalized appeals, snail mail, email, on-site shout-outs, member-only gatherings, etc.)

9. Bring your community together:

  • News-driven: Topic deep-dives, public forums, live debates, conversations with public figures, conversations with journalists and others.
  • Social: Trivia nights, happy hours, comedy events, purely fun activities.
  • Fundraising: Ticketed events, black-tie galas, silent auctions, etc.

10. Listen and truly take action:




Consultant/advisor working at the intersection of journalism and sustainability. Previous: Product, strategy at NYT; publisher at Texas Tribune. @HeyTimGriggs

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Recommended from Medium

Can the Right Point of Sale Help Your Café?

Is your website CMS is at its breaking point? Here are some typical symptoms.

How to Effectively Use Adobe Analytics for Data-Driven Decisions

#9: Learning From The Tech Biz To Get A Record Deal

“5 Things We Can Each Do To Make Social Media And The Internet A Kinder And More Tolerant Place”…

A Definitive Guide to the B2B Sales Process

8 Best Cold Emailing Tools for 2022

How To Be The Best Podcast Host

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Tim Griggs

Tim Griggs

Consultant/advisor working at the intersection of journalism and sustainability. Previous: Product, strategy at NYT; publisher at Texas Tribune. @HeyTimGriggs

More from Medium

Gap Year (13): Goodbye Ecuador!

“We should shovel shit once in a while”

Cooking With Paris (Hilton)

Writing exercise #3