Reimagining Council Membership: What We've Learned So Far

Monday, April 1, 2019 - 11:30 am
Natalie Ross

Last month, we announced our work to Reimagine Council Membership and asked for feedback as we review Council membership and dues.

More than 400 individuals – representing grantmaking organizations of different types, sizes, geographies, and member status – responded to our survey and shared ideas on how we can improve Council membership, programs, and value for institutions and for the field.

Total Survey Responses

By Member Status - Current Members = 186, Resigned Members = 172, Unknown/Never/Ineligible = 43

Total Survey Respondents by Organization Type: Community Foundations = 215, Corporate = 19, Private Foundations = 137, All Other Types = 30

Total Survey Responses by Grantmaking Amount: Less than $500,000 = 36, $500,001 to $1 million = 35, $1 million to $5 million = 130, $5 million to $10 million = 54, $10 million to $25 million = 48, More than $25 million = 73

As the Council continues to gather feedback from focus groups and one-on-one interviews, we wanted to share key findings from our survey regarding resignation from the Council, recommendations for future members and member benefits. These findings are already shaping our work and informing decisions surrounding membership and dues, and weremain committed to ensuring our decision making process is transparent and informed by input from current and former Council members.

Why Did Members Resign?

Within our survey, more than 42 percent of responses came from resigned Council members. While our focus through this process is to ensure our membership systems and dues is inclusive and in line with the field, we also want to explore why former members left the Council so we can better support and engage members moving forward.

The two most common reasons for resigning membership included: (a) Council dues were too high, and (b) former member didn’t clearly understand the value of their membership.

This was true across membership type and size – further underscoring the need to address our current dues model and carefully examine and communicate our value proposition to members.

Reasons by Organization Type that People said they resigned. Community Foundations: Membership Dues too High = 87%, Not Enough Value from Membership = 55%, Services Discontinued = 25%, Access Service from Others = 39%, Lost Relationships with Staff = 10%, Other = 7%. Corporates: Membership Dues too High = 33%, Not Enough Value from Membership = 100%, Services Discontinued = 0%, Access Service from Others = 33%, Lost Relationships with Staff = 33%, Other = 0%. Private Foundations: Membership Dues too High = 91%, Not Enough Value from Membership = 74%, Services Discontinued = 22%, Access Service from Others = 33%, Lost Relationships with Staff = 8%, Other = 7%. All Others: Membership Dues too High = 80%, Not Enough Value from Membership = 50%, Services Discontinued = 10%, Access Service from Others = 30%, Lost Relationships with Staff = 50%, Other = 0%.

Would You Recommend Council Membership to Others?

Survey responses showed that 85 percent of current members and 40 percent of resigned members would recommend Council membership.

These rates differ by size and type, and show we have important work to do in rebuilding the value of Council membership and strengthening our relationships with both current and resigned members. This data will serve as an important baseline for judging progress moving forward and hold us accountable to improving the Council for our members and the field.

By Membership Status

Current Members: 85% yes 15% no

Resigned members: Yes = 40% No = 60%

Unknown/Never Members/Ineligible: Yes = 33% No = 67%

By Organization Type


Community Foundations: Yes 65% No 35%

Corporates: yes = 82% No 18%


Private Foundations: Yes = 51% No = 49%

All Other Types: Yes = 72% No = 28%


By Annual Grantmaking Amount

Less than $500,000: Yes = 79% No = 21%

$500,000 to $1 million: Yes = 48% No 52%

$1 million to $5 million: Yes = 56% No = 44%

$5 million to $10 million: Yes = 62% No = 38%

$10 million to $25 million: Yes = 50% No = 50%

More than $25 million: Yes = 73% No = 27%

What Member Benefits Are Valuable?

Among the benefits of Council membership, respondents ranked the services most valuable to them.

35 percent of responses ranked Legal Services & Resources as the most valuable Council benefit and 52 percent of all comments mentioned the value of non-legal knowledge resources, such as staff knowledge, reports, and research.

This reinforces the Council’s role as a knowledge source and provider for information, education, and research for the field.

Among community foundations, the most important benefits included Legal Services & Resources, Training & Learning Opportunities, and Policy & Advocacy. Private foundations valued Training & Learning Opportunities, Research and Legal Services the most.

These findings reflect what the Council’s board heard during conversations with the field last summer, highlighting the importance of the Council’s legal program, convening ability and policy leadership for the field.

Our Next Steps

We are grateful to everyone who responded to the survey and continue to welcome your input throughout the process. This survey is just the first step in reimagining our membership, as we continue to conduct focus groups and one-on-one interviews with Council staff throughout March and April. We look forward to reviewing the data used to determine dues amounts and potential changes to our membership systems, as well as further discussion on the value proposition and programs the Council should offer in the future.

If you missed the opportunity to lend your voice to this important effort, or simply have more to say, please email us at

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Reimagining the Council