Nonprofits and Memberships

Nonprofits and Memberships

A nonprofit corporation must decide whether to have members, and if it does, if there will be different classes of members, such as voting and nonvoting.

Allowing people to become members of a nonprofit organization may seem like a good way to get support, but because formal members of nonprofits are granted legal rights to control it, many organizations decide against formal membership, at least in the beginning. In most states, formal members have a right to vote on major decisions and to choose directors or officers. One way to keep control with a membership corporation is to provide that the officers and directors are elected from a slate chosen by a nominating committee. This committee can be composed of the founding members and those they approve.

However, the easiest way to keep control of a nonprofit corporation is to set it up as a non membership organization. 

As an incentive to support an organization, you can give people an informal membership or list them as benefactors, contributors, associates, or with a similar title. This gives them the feeling of being part of the organization without giving them the power to control its affairs.