About The Author

David Grabitske

David Grabitske is the manager of outreach services at the Minnesota Historical Society in St. Paul, Minnesota.

If your organization offers life memberships, how do you manage the program so that those members remain involved and continue to benefit the organization?

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6 Responses to Life Memberships

  1. David:
    Based on the MHO surveys, do you have a sense of how many organizations actively solicit Life Memberships?


  2. All that the surveys have tracked is the number of memberships rather than the kind of membership. So, no, MHS does not have the membership number broken out by type for each organization. It seems that most have Life Membership as an option, and only a few reserve the distinction for someone who has given extraordinary service to the institution.


  3. tamara edevold says:

    twenty years ago our society did offer life memberships. we rewrote our by laws so that we do not offer it anymore. we prorated the lifetimes out for five years, then asked that they renew. no one had a problem. now it essentially reads that to receive benefits one must actively seek membership annually. (or can pay for two years in advance.) it was easily explained that costs go up and memberships must rise accordingly and everyone agreed. we do give lifetime memberships to persons of note, but they do not get a vote on society matters or any other benefits, but do receive the newsletter.


  4. Kelly Olson says:

    Mower County Historical Society has offered lifetime memberships in the past, but has not for many years. We still have about 50 lifetime and pioneer memberships. Most of these make an annual contribution equal to or greater than membership dues, but it is not requested or required. Our best volunteers also come from this group and a gift of time is oftem more valuable than cash.


  5. A friend of mine constantly reminds me the old adage about board members used to be that a good one needs to bring “Wealth, Wisdom, or a Willingness to Work.” He then quips that now it’s “Give Money, Get Money, or Get off the Board.” I suppose the same adages could be applied to our members. Stricter business models might have some presume that members need to be financially productive for the nonprofits to which they belong. How might parameters be established to ensure both the organization and the individual materially benefit from the membership, especially life memberships?


  6. Mary Warner says:

    Despite the messages we get from Wall Street, money is not the be all, end all of life. Our boards should not be stacked exclusively with people from the upper 5% of the income bracket, nor piled high with bankers and lawyers (although we certainly shouldn’t exclude them, either). What we need on our board is people who have a passion for our mission because it is that genuine passion that brings both members and money to our organization.

    We appreciate those who give us the gift of time as much as those who give us monetary contributions. In essence, by giving us their time, they have contributed monetarily in that we don’t have to pay someone to do the work they’ve done for us. But the real benefit is that by sharing their time with us, volunteers have shown their passion for local history and the good word they spread out into the community is priceless.

    This isn’t a one-sided transaction, wherein everyone must give to our organization simply because we’re a nonprofit. We, in turn, must give back in relation to our mission. We carry this further by treating everyone we interact with as valuable human beings, no matter what their financial circumstances appear to be. We have no idea whether the farmer in overalls or the businessman in the suit is going to donate to our collections or leave a sizable bequest. That’s as it should be. It keeps us humble and makes us grateful for each and every contribution, monetary or otherwise.


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