Grow and Promote Your Organization With Groupon

By: Amanda Prischak

How the popular website can help associations reach new audiences., the popular website that offers daily local deals on everything from shoes to salon visits to bakery sweets, not only benefits small-business owners; it's also beneficial to nonprofits and associations looking to reach new audiences.

One nonprofit that has offered a successful deal on Groupon is the Erie Art Museum in Erie, Pennsylvania. In April 2011, it offered 50 percent off one-year memberships, a deal that netted it a 10 percent increase in membership. Carolyn Eller, director of marketing and development at the Erie Art Museum, says that she was happy with the experience. "I had no idea what to expect and was pleasantly surprised to gain 99 new members in a matter of days," she says.

"Groupon is a great way to revitalize an organization by offering discounted event tickets or memberships," says Julie Mossler, director of communications at Groupon.

The process of becoming Groupon's featured deal of the day is easy: simply fill out the form at and wait until a Groupon representative gets in touch. When she does, you'll tell her your deal and give her the needed information to write a description of your organization. Typically half of each deal's value gets passed on as savings to the consumer while the other half is evenly split between the vendor and Groupon.

If you're considering using Groupon in a similar capacity, follow these tips for maximum effect:

1. Weigh the option of promoting a special event instead of a membership. Though offering discounted memberships is popular, you might want to offer discounted tickets to a special event. If attendees enjoy it, they might join while they're there, or they might be more receptive to joining later if you reach out with a membership offer on Groupon or otherwise at a later date.

2. Consider a cap. You can limit the number of Groupons customers can buy so that you can comfortably accommodate new members or event attendees. Also consider seeking additional staff help and retooling your organization's website to handle an influx.

3. Use Groupon to reach a target audience. Though the over-40 demographic is coming around to Groupon, the site still attracts a largely young demographic. Eller used that fact to boost the museum's hard-to-reach younger audience. "It's easy to sign up families and senior citizens, so I used Groupon to get younger members in the door," she says. The museum sold 26 memberships to people age 35 and younger via the Groupon offer.

4. Engage new members. Mossler says building relationships with new members is an absolute must. "Groupon is a tactic to gain new members, but it's up to organizations to nurture new relationships," she says. For her part, Eller plans on staying in regular contact with new members through quarterly newsletters, monthly e-newsletters, and invitations to special events and discounted classes.

5. Run new deals at the right time. Mossler cautions against running a Groupon offer with a discounted membership right after a similar offer lapsed, because it tends to upset people who just joined or renewed at the full price. A better option is to offer a Groupon to an event or to a retail outlet or restaurant associated with your organization.

With knowledge and an ability to embrace untraditional marketing, you may find that Groupon is an easy and effective way of promoting your organization.

Amanda Prischak is a freelance writer in Erie, Pennsylvania. Email: [email protected]