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Maintaining transparency in your communication is the key to building closer relationships with your community – and it’s essential if you want them to become paying members.

Offering as much information as possible will go a long way to helping your community feel comfortable with the idea of a membership program and hopefully, in time, vocal advocates themselves.

Here’s how our most successful publishers communicate with their communities about Steady.

How to explain your new membership program to your community

If you want to recruit members, first you need to tell them why you need their support and what you will be able to do with the money. It’s time to make your pitch on your Steady page and/or wherever you promote your membership program.

We find a three-step explanation works best:

1. Remind your community of your impact

Has your work had some tangible impact on your community? Does it fill a much-needed gap in your audience’s lives? Here’s where you sing about your success! Remind them why they love you and then they’ll be more likely to show their support.

Here's an example from the Steady page of Politics Web in South Africa:

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2. Explain why you need their help

Most reasonable people understand that working for free for an infinite period of time is unsustainable. If your audience wants you to keep doing the work they love you for, it’s time to put their money where their mouths are.

Exactly how you phrase this will depend on the tone of your publication. But it’s ok to be frank: if they want to keep listening to your podcast, or reading your articles, you need to be able to keep the lights on. Keep it positive and inclusive and you’ll make a compelling case for your membership program.

From Politics Web:

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3. Show off the benefits

If there is something concrete you are hoping to do with the money you receive from members, make sure to mention it. Will you be able to buy better audio recording equipment, hire a graphic designer, or produce a larger volume of stories? Show how the money will help to improve what you already offer your community.

And if you are offering any benefits to members as a thank you for their support, make sure to show them off.

Again, Politics Web offers a great example:

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How to remind folks you’re on Steady

Maintaining an air of approachability and transparency around your membership program is key to its long-term success. Here are some of the way successful Steady publishers get it done:

Regular mentions

In our experience, publishers are much more likely to keep recruiting new members when they make regular reminders. That might be a quick mention at the beginning and end of each episode of your podcast, a small plug at the bottom of each of your blogposts, or a mention in your YouTube videos – all with a direct link to your Steady page, of course.

Actively discuss your membership program with your community

The whole point of building a membership program is to bring yourself and your work closer to your community. So make memberships something that’s up for discussion. Talk about how it’s going on social media, what you have been able to do with the money, or how close you are to reaching a funding goal [link]. And always be open for questions and feedback – your community is invested in your project, so there’s a good chance they’re keen to help make it even better.

For help with some of the trickier questions, see below.

Say thank you

Making a regular shout-out to your generous members helps them feel like valued members of your community. It’s also a great way to encourage not-yet-members to sign up and join the gang!

FAQs and how to deal with them

“Can’t I just give you money directly?”

Your community members might find it hard to justify paying you through Steady at first glance, or even ask why we take a 10% commission once you start earning money.

It can help to explain the work it would entail at your end if you were to process membership payments yourself. You would need to do bookkeeping for every little bit of money you receive each month and that would mean producing invoices for every one of those payments. You would need to purchase each of the website integrations we offer, and if credit cards declined or payments bounced, you would spend your precious time chasing them up instead of focusing on what you’re really meant to be doing: making content.

Steady saves you valuable time and we also offer our technology to anyone who wants it, without any setup fees. Being on Steady means being part of advancing the independent media scene as a whole.

Can I make a one-off donation instead?

Large funding boosts can be helpful when launching a new project. But once you run out of funds, you’re suddenly right back where you started, searching for money again.

The beauty of memberships is that they promise publishers regular, recurring, reliable income, allowing you to confidently plan ahead based on a more sustainable income.

Your members are paying to ensure the longevity of your project. If someone is particularly keen on paying you a larger amount, perhaps you could direct them to an annual plan.

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