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Happy members & customers are a valuable asset to any club or organisation

According to Hubspot, customers rely on word-of-mouth between two and ten times more than paid advertising, and 74% of people say recommendations from individuals they know influence their purchasing decisions.

This means having a well-designed member referral programme is one of the most powerful ways to attract new members to your club or organisation.

So, how can you create a membership referral programme for your club that actually works?

Read on for actionable tips and tricks, as well as lots of ideas that you can implement immediately that are proven to work.

What is a member referral programme?

The purpose of a member referral programme is to encourage existing members to refer others to your club / organisation. Often in exchange for an incentive, members share their positive experiences with friends, family, and colleagues in the hope they become members themselves.

In most cases, this results in membership inquiries that are a good match for your club / organisation. There is also an increased chance that the person will convert into a paying customer due to the recommendation coming from someone they trust and have an existing relationship with, rather than just from the club / organisation itself.

Interested in having a steady stream of new members joining your club or organisation? Then a membership referral programme could be the answer.

How to create a successful member referral programme

Before you dive into creating your referral programme, it’s important to make sure you have solid foundations in place.

After all, once it’s up and running, you need to make sure it works mutually for all parties – otherwise, it’s just not going to drive the results you want to see.

Create some goals

The process of defining your goals is often more challenging than it seems. However, it’s incredibly useful. Make sure you know what you want to achieve with your member referral programme. Are your goals growth or revenue driven? Or both?

The next steps will fall into place naturally once your goals have been established.

Simplicity is key

Keep things simple when creating your referral programme, even if you’re tempted to throw all kinds of ideas at it. Communicate clearly and simply.

The process needs to be quick and easy to do – otherwise, it could be off-putting. Have fun with taglines and email copy, but don’t forget to highlight any eligibility requirements you have.

Easy-to-read bullet points work best and help to break down sometimes confusing instructions.

Example referral programme criteria:


Ready to earn yourself £50?

All it takes is three easy steps:

  1. Tell your fellow science-loving friends about … membership benefits
  2. Share your story of success and encourage them to join the community
  3. In order to make sure you get credit, ask the new member to enter ‘referred by’ and your name within the referral field on the application


Get the timing right

Although there’s nothing stopping you from asking members to refer a friend at any time; there are certainly times that see more success.

So when is the best time to ask for a referral? If you don’t ask, you don’t get. We recommend asking straight after a member has left a positive review or has had a good interaction with your club / organisation.

If they seem particularly happy with the organisation, it would be worth asking them to share the love and ask others to join the community.

However, before you ask any member to refer, you need to carefully gauge whether or not they are happy. After all, you don’t want it to backfire. If you are unsure whether a person is happy or not, then it’s probably wise to avoid asking them until you have spoken to them.

Consider the incentives

You’ll likely have seen many member referral programmes over the years. Chances are these gave away cash incentives or retail gift cards.

Although these are tried and tested incentives, they aren’t always of value to your members.

Whether you opt for free gift cards or goodie bags, make sure it ties into your organisation and what your members associate you with.

If you are an animal-related charity or organisation, for example, it would be expected that the referral incentive is related to that niche. The same goes for a governing body – the incentive needs to be relevant to the audience for maximum effect.

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) is one of the largest membership organisations operating in the UK. Its membership referral programme is simple. The society offers members a £5 reward, which can be exchanged for plants or other garden accessories if that member refers a friend.

You can see from the promotion below that the copy is clear and easy to follow. The incentive is relevant and will resonate with the society’s audience.

member referral programme

Make sure you shout about it

After spending time and effort putting together your member referral programme, it would be a shame for it not to be seen. But unless you are shouting about it, people are unlikely to find it of their own accord.

We recommend creating a landing page on your website where you can explain in detail the offer and criteria. Also, make sure you share it via your social media channels and newsletter.

Within your communication plan, you could create a ‘referral drive’ where during your quieter months, you and your team push referrals heavily on social media and in emails.

Consider sharing information about your referral programme on the following channels as well:

  • Blogs
  • Email signatures
  • SMS messages

Review as you go

As with most things, referral programmes rarely work perfectly the first time around. It’s useful to review your referral programme as you go along for maximum return, and stop you spending time on things that aren’t working.

Here’s what you should review:

  • Are you receiving the number of referrals you want / expect?
  • Which channels are the referrals coming from? These could be social media, word-of-mouth, email
  • Do your incentives appeal to your members? This could be asked in a survey or a poll on social media
  • Are the referred members suitable?
  • How long do referred members stay with you?

Once you have the data, you can start to master your member referral programme. The creativity will hopefully start to flow and you can craft some targeted emails and social media posts to further increase any opportunities.

Make sure you say thank you

Thanking members who have helped raise awareness of your club / organisation is an important step in any referral programme. Alongside the incentives, you should also send them a personalised thank you message.

Also, don’t forget to say thank you and welcome to the new member joining your community.

Act on referrals quickly

Rather than letting your new members’ referrals pile up, we recommend acting on them quickly. This helps you to maximise any opportunities and secure those new members whilst the iron is hot.

The quicker your club / organisation can make a great first impression, the faster the individual will hopefully convert into a member.

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Ideas for your member referral programme

Member incentives and referral programmes are certainly not a one size fits all. Therefore, it’s sometimes useful to try out a few different tactics to determine which works best for your organisation.

Here are a few ideas to help you get started:

  • Contests and giveaways
  • Refer X amount of people and get a free Y
  • Member loyalty tiers
  • Seasonal referral promotions
  • Exclusive events
  • Discounts
  • Mystery gifts
  • Hampers and goodie bags
  • Gift cards
  • Reduced membership fee
  • Free kit or merchandise
  • Free classes for a week if you bring along a friend

How can LoveAdmin help your organisation grow?

LoveAdmin makes signing up new members a breeze. Provide your members with a better experience so they are likely to want to refer your club / organisation to others.

With built-in communication tools, you can actively communicate any incentives with current members. To save you time, create and schedule email templates that can be used time and time again.

LoveAdmin membership management software can also help you to:

  • Review the success of membership referral programmes via our business intelligence dashboards. View profitability, new sign-ups, and retention to help keep membership healthy
  • Run enquiries through the system
  • Securely store all of your members’ personal data
  • Manage your finances with automatic membership payments
  • Promote and sell tickets for any members’ events
  • Automatically manage membership renewals
  • Create discounts that can be applied at the point of payment

Discover our membership management software for yourself. Get a FREE demo today.

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