Think every community radio station needs a membership director? Think again.

A common discussion thread amongst community radio stations is the best database to manage our work, usually in membership, but increasingly in content management and volunteer coordination. If we had better technology, we could work smarter, not harder.

The intention is spot on, but allow me to “smarten” this idea even further: stations could consolidate the bulk of their membership management through a collective of 7–10 stations that pool their resources to invest in a great database and a really smart membership director to oversee it all.

One Membership Director to Rule Them All!

This model has already been in place in southeastern Alaska. Coast Alaska is a non profit — one membership manager handles the administration for several stations. The smallest station in Coast has a few hundred members; the largest about 3500. Combined, Coast manages about 10,000 active member files. Instead of each little station trying to hold on to a full time, or even part time membership director, they can throw a little money into a pot with the other stations to manage the database and hire one person to focus exclusively on membership.

Technology can never replace effective management of your people power or resources at your station.

There’s a lot of technology out there that may tempt you and your station to dismiss the value of consolidating the admininistration and management of your membership. The competition is fierce and the costs are significantly lower; foundations are making significant investments to create public and community media specific technology to address membership management, content membership, social and community engagement.

But who’s going to maintain it? Who are you going to call when you need support and service? The technology doesn’t fundamentally address the issues that all small media outlets face: high turnover of staff, especially in membership; a lack of skills in digital and database management; and the scale to maintain it for a good return on investment.

There is no silver bullet.

Membership is both administrative and customer service oriented. Communication is key, whether it’s the direct mail reminding someone it’s time to renew, or the email letting them know about a new initiative, thanks to membership support. And the messages are simple: a dedicated team that manages a group of station members could significantly cut down on the personnel costs, plus the amount of time spent on volunteer management at each individual station. Wouldn’t it be advantageous for stations to be able to commit those resources to the service and mission we’re passionate about providing?