New York Library Association. - The eBulletin

How Powerful is Your Friends’ Membership?

February 2015 FLS Update

Lisa C. Wemett, President, Friends of Libraries Section

With the continuous advertising message of “What card is in your wallet?” and nearly daily bombardment of credit card offers in your mailbox, how do you make a decision about what card to carry or what organization to join?  Even if your Friends group has abandoned the practice of distributing actual membership cards to folks who join your organization, have you given consideration to what your members truly receive for their donation other than a sense of satisfaction and that feeling of warmth, having supported their local library?

The Friends of Libraries Section is on a mission to expand our membership numbers.  We have discussions on “what do we offer?” for both personal and organizational members in our ranks.  Our newsletter and networking are the most tangible benefits to our members.  But it is sometimes a “hard” sell to have a local library’s Friends group join a statewide organization unless there is a champion for FLS in the group’s midst.

In general, so much of the membership literature of Friends of the Library groups hones in on “what the Friends do for the library” and sometimes “what we do for the community.”  Furniture purchases, technology, movie licenses, and programs for all ages top the lists.  Far fewer brochures outline benefits for members of the Friends.  Does your membership form or Web site answer “Why should I join?”

A review of “Friends’ Benefits” for library supporters who join their local Friends of the Library group highlighted the following incentives and perks for becoming a Friend:

  1. free admission and early bird buying privileges at book sales (“Friends only” night)
  2. a monthly (or quarterly) newsletter and notices of upcoming events
  3. a book donated to the collection in the member’s name for a $25 contribution
  4. a discount on purchases in the Friends bookstore
  5. the opportunity to purchase materials through the library at discounted prices
  6. meet fellow community residents with the same mission to help the library, support literacy, and insure information access for the community
  7. participate in social and cultural events
  8. opportunities to volunteer for fund-raisers, landscape the library’s grounds, serve in a leadership capacity, lead book discussions, or deliver materials to homebound patrons
  9. membership contribution is tax-deductible
  10. member’s name published in the Friends annual report
  11. eligibility to apply for membership in a local credit union
  12. qualifying for group rate membership in the local recreation department’s aquatic center
  13. borrowing benefits (e.g., an extra title loaned from the best sellers collection, reduced fees for materials loaned from other libraries)
  14. a free book once a year at the Friends’ book sale or store
  15. discounts at local businesses by showing a Friends membership card

We know that membership has both tangible and intangible benefits.  Hopefully this list will trigger some discussion at your next Friends meeting.  You know how much you personally receive from your association with the Friends.  But why not discuss “what’s in it for them?” and work some of these benefits into your membership program?  Many of these benefits have little economic impact on your organization, but may have a large impact on your membership.  Maybe you’ll see an uptick in numbers when you offer some additional incentives and maybe you’ll have an easier “sell” to encourage community residents to join you in your very important work.  Good luck!