I'm sometimes asked why we no longer ask people to make a minimum donation to become members of Equality North Carolina. The simple answer is that we don't want to turn anyone away from our vital cause. We consider each and every one of our supporters to be valued members of our great statewide LGBT equality community. We don't think someone should get to be called a member just because he or she is a donor.
First of all, there's the very practical problem of determining that minimum donation amount. The standard amount is usually $35 or sometimes $50, but we have lots of folks who can only give $25 or even $10--should they be denied membership because they can't give more?
And what about all the folks who can only volunteer? Isn't their time also money? Certainly our interns and other volunteers help us stretch our budget, and there's no denying the power of our online activists when they generate tens of thousands of emails and phone calls to legislators. It's because of them that our voice is heard in the halls of the North Carolina General Assembly.
As soon as you set a dollar amount for membership, you're automatically denying a voice to people who can't make the minimum donation, or to people who can only volunteer time. Plus you're getting into territory where endless hairs can be split. If only our donors could be called members, then we'd have 1,000 members. If both our donors and volunteers are members, then we have 12,000 members. And if all these folks bring us new friends because we respect everyone equally regardless of ability to pay, then our membership is probably more like 50,000.
We are a community rather than a membership organization. In a community, everyone is a member because everyone brings something valuable to the table. Some of us are fortunate enough to be able to make donations and receive donor benefits as opposed to member benefits, but this doesn't make us better. On the contrary, I'd argue that part of the reason we give is to help make it possible for all voices to be heard in our glorious movement. I know it's one of the reasons I give.