Accelerate Change founder, Peter Murray, spent two years researching the largest civic organizations in the world.
Surprisingly, his research found that all of the largest membership organizations in the United States have grown to scale using the same core organizing model: functional organizing. Functional organizations attract members with benefits and services and then build on this base to advocate for their members.
Forty million seniors receive discounts, insurance, travel, and financial services from AARP, and AARP magazine is the largest circulation magazine in the country
Over 100 million Americans attend church regularly, not only for a spiritual community, but also for services ranging from childcare and summer camps to business classes and Alcoholics Anonymous.
Fifteen million workers belong to unions that provide better wages, benefits, and worker protections for their members.
Planned Parenthood provides reproductive health services and education to five million women each year through 700 health centers across the country.
The largest-scale membership organizations in the world are functional organizations—providing material and social benefits for members, whether that be discounts, fellowship, business services, or collective bargaining.
Once these functional organizations have developed deep, trusted relationships with their members, they can activate them for civic engagement and advocacy. However, the crux of their relationship continues to rely on providing relevant services and benefits for their members.
Through services and benefits, functional organizations also develop robust revenue models. Successful functional organizations turn their member services and benefits into high-growth businesses.
In order to engage tens of millions of Americans in civic life, we need new functional organizing institutions that provide services and benefits that meet the daily needs of Americans.
Read Peter’s full article, The Secret of Scale, published in the Stanford Social Innovation Review in the Fall of 2013.