FRIENDS OF GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK

Contact: George Ivey, Director of Development at (828) 452-0720
Members: 3,000
Database: 20,000 members. Organization uses Razor's Edge -- a fundraising management software system that stores donor information, and provides analysis and reporting capabilities.

Organization has raised over $8 million

Membership benefits are the same for those that contribute $25 a year or more. Benefits include three newsletters a year and the annual report.

Those that contribute over $50 are listed in the annual report as a donor.

They provide few benefits with membership because they want to attract a donor base that gives more based on their attachment to the park rather than the benefits they can get through their contribution. Donors that give based on their attachment to the park are more likely to be sustainable donors.

Levels of Support

$25 - Friend
$50 - Wildflower Friend
$100 - Creekside Friend
$250 - Evergreen Friend Type of Gift
$500 - Cascade Friend
$1,000 - Mountain Top Friend
$__________ - Other

Types of Memberships
Business/Organization

  • $25 or more - receive periodic updates and invitations to special events.
  • $100 or more - will also be listed on the Friends of the Smokies website and receive an annual window decal that reads "We support Friends of Great Smoky Mountains National Park."
  • $500 or more - will be recognized and thanked during the annual Friends Across the Mountains broadcast and in advertisements in area newspapers.

Individual/Family
    All members receive periodic updates, invitations to special events, and a Friends of the Smokies decal.

Annual Membership Renewal
Additional Donation

Membership funds used for:

  • Reconstruct Trails and Facilities
  • Rehabilitate Wilderness Areas, Furnish New Exhibits and Facilities
  • Repair Wilderness Areas, Furnish New Exhibits and Facilities
  • Implement Educational Programs
  • Study and Protect Native Wildlife
  • Increase Access for the Physically Challenged
  • Preserve historic structures

Renewal rate was slightly less than 80% for both family and business memberships between 2003 and 2004.

Most new members are recruited through their annual telethon. It's a one hour program on the ABC affiliate. Brochures are also posted in the park and membership information is posted in the park news paper.

Membership renewal is cultivated through events and thank you letters. For those that donate $250 or more, they receive a personal thank you from the Director. The organization also sends out year end appeals to the membership mailing list.

Tips

    It's a question of quality vs. quantity when designing a membership campaign. Do you focus on getting a large number of members or do you focus your attention on attracting high end donors? Regardless, be prepared to lose money initially on campaigns for new members. But the campaign investment is a necessity for growing your membership.
    People respond well if you put personal information in letters, such as when and what they last gave. Personalizing correspondence increases responses and donations. The friends group sends out renewal requests one year after the last date.

The friends group recently launched a new membership packet that provides discounts on tourism-related businesses such as attractions and hotels. Packets are provided to all members regardless of how much they donated.

The organization initially approached local businesses about participating in the program. Since businesses understood the impact that the Smoky Mountain National Park had on local tourism, the program was easy to sell. Participants include three hotel associations and their members, a restaurant, the Museum of Appalachia, Ripley attractions, a tourist train and Dollywood.

Other than offering discounts, businesses are not promoting the membership program. A few hotels in the area offer guests the opportunity to donate a dollar or more to their bill, which is then passed on to the friends group. The program works well and adds several thousand dollars a year to their budget.