How to raise funds by charging membership dues

Written by Sybil Nkeiruka Nmezi, Generation Initiative for Women and Youth Network (GIWYN), Nigeria

Please describe the fundraising situation that your organisation faced:

Generation Initiative for Women and Youth Network (GIWYN) started in 2003 out of the desire to protect the interests of women and youths in crisis. At its inception the fundraising situation was critical. To unite the voices of these women and secure their SRHR without discrimination, GIWYN realised there was need for money in carrying out activities and to cover costs such as printing, transport to meetings, pens, notebooks, and refreshments. However, there were no financial resources readily available.

Why did you decide to raise funds via membership dues and how did you go about doing this?

At that time the only option available was to introduce membership dues to raise money. From the dues received, two notebooks were bought, one for recording the minutes of meetings and the other for recording who was a member. The money was also used to print membership cards, which were given to members so we could record and track membership dues. Since the members were from diverse backgrounds and status – some were working, others jobless or students; some were married, some single with children etc- people paid according to their status. They paid from 20 to 40 Naira per month (GBP £0.035 – £0.070). Those who could not afford to pay any amount were granted free membership.

The dues were collected fortnightly during meetings. Some members could afford to pay off their dues in one go in the meetings while others paid in instalments. Those who paid their membership dues late were also accepted without penalty. The membership dues carried on until 2016 when we received the AmplifyChange Strengthening grant

What did you achieve?

Membership dues initially helped to strengthen our organisational base by helping us to carrying out strategic events. These included campaigns and consultations with youths. Our first youth consultative event was attended by 79 young people.

The dues also covered 35% of the cost of producing our newsletter. The newsletter contained the analysis of the federation health insurance system and articles about various SRHR issues. We produced it in 2010 and 2012 and since then have produced an annual report

The membership dues also enabled GIWYN to integrate meaningfully with the community. The whole community were all invited to our events and so benefited from our activities. Some of our members were also members of other groups in the community, such as the women’s group at the town hall and the church. As a result, people felt that the organisation was part of the community and belonged to them.

Having membership dues also encouraged people to renew their membership because members claimed ownership of the programmes and events, those were ‘their’ programmes and events. This earned the organisation a good reputation in the community and others became interested in joining.

What did you learn from this experience?

By having membership dues, GIWYN was able to raise its visibility in the community. Members felt they had a strong stake in the organisation’s success and were very committed to it. All of this earned us a good reputation in the community and our visibility went up. We also experienced an increased number of new members and those who renewed their membership dues. Those with free membership, however, felt less important because they felt by not paying a membership fee they were not as committed or putting as much energy into the organisation as those that did. To overcome this, the organisation shared responsibilities and benefits equally and without discrimination between the paying and free members. Those that did not pay a membership due had also invested their time and strength to help the organisation grow.

What are your tips for someone facing the same or similar issues?

On setting up membership dues, go straight to the point of what the dues will be used for. Clearly set your messages and the deadline for dues to be paid.

Be as specific as possible on setting the amount that members need to pay and consider the diverse nature of people’s background and status.

Would you like to tell us more about this challenge your organisation faced?

Membership dues provided immediate and unrestricted funds to support our work. The dues must be committed to the organisation’s purpose and properly accounted for. Accountability, trustworthiness, honesty to every person who has invested time, money, and strength into the organisation’s work. Even members who cannot pay dues have invested their time and strength and should benefit.

Introducing the membership dues cards helped track the dues paid and account for the money.

Sybil Nkeiruka Nmezi, Generation Initiative for Women and Youth Network (GIWYN), Nigeria

Sybil Nmezi is a courageous and steadfast advocate and activist for gender equality in Nigeria. She is the executive director of Generation Initiative for Women and Youth Network (GIWYN). For the past eighteen years, she has been raising funds for the organisation to implement practical community interventions in defence of women’s human rights and focusing on increased access to broad sexual reproductive health and reproductive rights (SRHR) for women and girls. These activities include workshops, training of trainers, campaigns, information hotline activities and advocacy.

Generation Initiative for Women and Youth Network (GIWYN) – Generation Initiative for Women and Youth Network (GIWYN)