Gina---Your note prompts a few suggestions, as I see what could be an opportunity to raise far more money than you would with the fixed $25 membership amount you are offering to your members.
(1) From the membership benefits you are offering, I do not see the typical fee-based membership at work there---rather, it is one which is philanthropy-driven. Allow me to give my understanding of the difference, and to state that yours is the latter type:
(A) Fee-Based Memberships
In fee-based memberships, a patron of The Metropolis Museum, for example, can “join” that institution and become a member by paying a fee and receive a monthly magazine, free admission, a discount at the museum shop, special event invitations, etc. Another organization, or association of organizations, can charge fees to its members for special services relevant to their mission, such as studies, statistics, training, advocacy, etc.
(B) Philanthropy-Driven Memberships
Recognition-based membership programs are tools used to convert prospects into donors and to increase the size of gift. They are one of the most useful tools fund-raisers have. These are charitable contributions, and what benefits or privileges a donor receives (or chooses to accept) are more tokens of appreciation. However, those items having market value will have the donor account for that amount to the IRS. You might want to see those regulations in the IRS Publication 526 from its website:
(2) You can begin your philanthropy-driven membership program with the basic $25 contribution requirement, but I would not fix it at that amount. To do so, would limit your fund-raising potential. Of the 1,250 members you currently have, there are always those who could give more at specific membership levels---and the “perks” offered at those levels do not need to be costly, as they would be only tokens of appreciation for those who can, and will, give at successively higher levels because they appreciate what you do.
Donors giving at the $25 level (and I would begin now to make this your Annual Fund Campaign), become Friends of the organization. If they give at increasingly higher levels they have the opportunity to be recognized as Contributing Friend, Supporting Friend, or Sustaining Friend. Then there are those who give more that one could ever expect from a friend and enter the rarefied air of Benefactor or even Founder. Perhaps they become members of the President’s Circle.
What matters is the concept, not the name. You can come up with names for levels in keeping with what you do. Be creative. The idea is to tastefully and properly recognize donors for their generosity. Their names should always be printed in the annual report under their respective membership categories. For the highest levels of donors, a wall in the lobby of your organization’s facility can be reserved for all to see who is a Benefactor or Founder.
Regarding tax-deductibility, there is no real market value to be in a chat room or to receive an on-line newsletter. Try to come up with a few other token “benefits” to offer at the other levels I suggest, such as at $100, $250, $500, and $1,000. You have nothing to lose based on what could be actual giving potential, but lots to gain should there in fact be some donors who can give at higher levels---and who would do so if asked.
In any event, I would not fix the amount at any single level, as that number becomes so fixed and habit forming, that it is next to impossible to move it up later.
I believe that there are a few other ideas which might be of use as you read my article on the subject:
--- The Name Is The Game: Memberships And Named Gift Opportunities
Note at the end of the article that I provide links to other items on my website, such as a sample of the benefits offered by an organization, a suggested solicitation letter, and more.