Why your organization might need a membership management solution

Sometimes it isn’t clear that you need membership management software, especially if your number of members is low and they are easy enough to track with a spreadsheet. Maybe you are just launching your club, group, nonprofit or other membership organization and you feel like you should hold off on choosing membership software? I would argue that your life will be easier once you let go of the spreadsheet method of member management. Let’s look at some ways online membership softare can help you be more productive and better serve your customers.
  1. What has your spreadsheet done for you lately? While your member spreadsheet may work well for holding members’ contact information and renewal dates, unless you are doing a lot of data entry, it is not:
    • Tracking payments for other items like event registration.
    • Noting who last edited member records.
    • Listing individual outreach made to the member by email.
    • Generating welcome emails, automatic renewal notices and past due emails.
    • Allowing your members to pay or view their invoices online.
    • Seamlessly keeping your email marketing platform current with member email addresses.
    • And much more.
  2. Members expect to manage their data and pay online Today’s members are used to logging in and seeing their recent Amazon purchases, editing their credit card information to keep their Netflix payment method current, adding new job information to LinkedIn and changing their relationship status on Facebook. So your members have an expectation of online account management where they can see their current expiration date, renew their membership with online payment by credit card, edit their contact information and see past transactions.
Position your organization as easy to interact with, professional and tech savvy by offering a membership website where members can do these things. Some membership management software offers a free account or trial membership for those with lower numbers of members, so there is little reason not to try it out.
  • Staff or volunteer turnover can create gaps in manual processes
Turnover happens and when it does, it can wreak havoc on membership processes, especially anything that is handled manually. The handoff between membership managers is not always smooth and new volunteers may not be as detail-oriented as prior volunteers. Critical communications like renewal notices that are sent manually by a volunteer might not get sent; reducing the likelihood that member dues will be collected. Spreadsheet updates like advancing the member’s due date after the organization receives a payment might not happen if the treasurer receives a check and doesn’t let the membership chair know. And then the member might incorrectly continue to receive past due notices from the membership chair. These kind of mistakes can kill and emerging organization by cutting off dues revenue and can lead members to have justifiably negative opinions about the organization. Imagine this nightmare — what if there are multiple copies of the member spreadsheet floating around? Who knows which one is accurate and most up-to-date?
  • Online membership records enable other member benefits One thing most organizations struggle with is proving the value of membership. For example, many groups such as chambers of commerce and associations will have member events that non-members can also attend. Perhaps the difference in member versus non-member ticket pricing at these events isn’t enough to convert some prospects into members. Offer other attractive benefits are unlocked having your member database online:
    • Participation in or access to an online member directory.
    • Access to member only site content like industry reports, survey results and other insider information.
    • Ability to register for member only events.
    • Access to member only forms that offer registration for coveted volunteer or networking opportunities.
  • Expect success and use reports to watch membership activity and act accordingly Maybe your membership is growing slowly right now and setting up a membership system feels like a lot of effort. I would argue that the data you are missing out on by using a spreadsheet to maintain data could hold the key to increasing your membership numbers. Membership software can offer a lot of insights into your members’ behavior and ways of thinking. And the sooner you start using software, the more data you will have to analyze.Membership software offers reports and can be used as a member CRM to track interactions with members. ASAE learned that members who renewed had 50% more community involvement than those who didn’t. Here are some examples of things you might learn through CRM tags and reporting:
    • Look at usage of discount codes for events or membership. If use was strong and lead to more membership signups or renewals than usual, you might consider a new marketing push with more codes.
    • Note the makeup of event attendance. If there are a fair number of non-members, those folks could be easily approached with membership offers.
    • Examine certain times of the year when your new member registrations are highest. Consider what drives that trend and what can be done to drive those numbers higher?
    • Use CRM tags to track interactions with members. Were members who had certain tags applied (such as a tag indicating a phone interaction) more likely to be current versus past due?
    • See who attended a given event last year; send an email to those same people about this year’s event (noting their prior attendance to personalize the message).
Any horror stories about using spreadsheets for membership management? We’d love to hear about them! Let us know in the comments.