Membership management is a hard task. Whether you have 100 members or 10,000 members you need to manage their renewals, growth, questions, notifications and a lot more. But what will really grow your association? What will bring you more members?
Not managing them but actually giving them amazing value. This will bring them back year after year and will have them spreading the word to their friends about how they “just must join”.
So if giving value and not only managing is what you need to be doing, what is the first thing that you need to do in order to be able to give them that amazing membership value? You need to get managing your members out of the way! It needs to be automated, simple to do and allow you to spend the least time possible on these administrative tasks.
If you are not using a membership management software or are using one that is not optimal for your organization I can tell you right now that you are spending way too long on manual admin tasks that should be automated, and spending way too much time tracking membership fees and renewals and seeing so-so results.
You probably feel like you aren’t growing because you’re stuck in the mud with all the annoying admin tasks. I have already written here, here and here about how automating will actually create more connection to your members and client.
In short, in order for you to give value you need to get managing out of the way and a great online membership management system is what you need.
Hence the journey of seeking out the best membership management solution for your organization starts. Finding the right solution starts with understanding the your organization is unique and therefore not every membership solution is optimal for you.
You need to find the membership management solution that works for you and that is able to bend according to your process and not the other way around. Below are a few tips that are really going to help you out with your search and help you know what to look for. Happy hunting!
This is the biggest sticking point for organizations looking to automate this very tedious and time consuming manual process. Many admins share that keeping track of who is up for renewal, accepting and logging payments and all the communication involved in that process (reminders, payment emails, etc.) and just all that grunt work is TOO much.
How can you keep track, get the big picture of your membership, make sure you are being paid on time and the correct amount, not missing out on payments all the while maintaining a professional face to your members? If you are doing all that you are most likely super human!
A quality membership management software will solve these problems for you (and then you can use your super human powers for the better good!). Look for a system that can:
- Automatically email members when their renewal date is approaching based on parameters you set. For example, sending out 1 email 1 month before renewal, 2 weeks, and 1 day before.
- Automatically send an email to the member once they complete certain action items that are personalized to them: once they renew, a payment invoice, etc.
- A software that integrates payments so a member just has to log in to the system, see their dues and pay right then and there.
- A system that will save payment information for the future is a bonus since it allows members to easily renew each renewal period with literally a few clicks.
- Super bonus points go to systems that allow people to check off a box saying “auto renew my membership” and it will just do that! That is going to net you the best cash flow, the happiest members and the least time spent on making sure everything is in order and working!
How can membership management software allow my organization to grow?
This sounds a bit far-fetched, I know. How can an admin type software actually help my business GROW?
Simple: When you streamline and automate many tasks you were once doing manually, you open up time and energy to focus on events that will draw new members, allow you to connect with current membership more thoughtfully to keep them renewing, it will allow you to make decisions based on quality analysis and tracking of membership renewals and attendance at events to allow better and more quality membership engagement and better membership recruitment.
A recent report by Capterra found after polling over 400 organizations that a majority of them said membership management software made a “significant impact on their membership’s satisfaction and engagement rates”. These organizations also saw a substantial difference in membership growth and event attendance.
Furthermore, a quality membership management software will include a statistics module that will enable you to understand the overall picture of your members. After all, you are not gathering data for the sake of gathering it. You are doing it in order to learn from it. Once you have the data you will be able to see who are your best members, what are the verticals and areas that you have the biggest potential growth, what events netted you the biggest success and basically give you a birdseye view of your association.
This will give you the insights needed in order to grow it. The saying “data is power” is pretty much wrong, “data you can analyze is power” – not as sexy but that’s the real 21st century truism.
How to start?
Before hitting Google and your social network for help stop a minute and look inside (yes, sounds very Zen of me! Ha!).
First, understand what about your current process is causing you problems or just plain annoying to do. Figure out your PROBLEMS and what SOLUTIONS a potential software company has to offer you. Once you identify what your problems are and what features you think would get you excited (or as excited as one can really be about membership management software), prioritize that list.
Understand what is necessary, what is nice, and what would be awesome but isn’t 100% necessary. This will help you to really compare software choices based on what your true needs are. If one software has EVERYTHING you want, except the thing you need the most, then is it really the best fit?
If you are having trouble making this list, reorient yourself and think about the goals of using a membership management software. Do you want to save time? Do you need a better email communication system? What do you need most? What do you need a software to do in order to achieve your overall goals?
Many organizations in the market for membership management software value a good email communication system above all else. In the Capterra report, mentioned above only 36% of organizations used the donation management feature that many membership software come with, the most popular feature was actually email communication.
The top 2 most desired qualities of a software are the ability to accept donations and mobile app functionality. In my opinion these features are great. Think about if mobile app functionality or really any feature a membership management software is offering up sounds relevant and helpful for both you and your membership (i.e. the people who will be using this software)!
What do I do once I know what I’m looking for?
Find options! Start by googling membership management software and see what comes up. Ask other organizations or on a membership LinkedIn group you might be a part of or anywhere you seek advice for your industry.
Then compare them. Compare the features they offer with what you are looking for. Reach out to them. Send them an email and see what they have to offer YOU. This is a good opportunity to feel companies out. Did they respond quickly to your request? This tells you how they will connect with you if you become a client. Do they offer a free trial? How do their prices compare to their competitors? Do they sound like they know what membership management is?
Making sure you find a software company that understands your industry and can help optimize your process in a way that makes sense for your specific organization is important!
Overall features of a software company to look for.
- Usability – will your users find it straight forward and easy to use?
- Look and feel – does it look nice? Will it be a separate website or can they embed on your website with your colors, logo, etc?
- Flexibility – can you easily make changes, take away or add forms and questions, etc.
- Customer service – what is the company’s customer service like? Do they respond to emails or answer the phones frequently? Do you have to pay for a higher level of tech support?
- Where is data stored? How are updates to the system executed? Is data secure? Are payment processing secure?
- How does their pricing compare to others? Is it a monthly fee? Are there initial set up costs? Are there yearly costs? Hidden fees?
Choosing a membership management software is a big deal. A balance of a great email system, tracking and analytics and an easy to use format are the key to a great system.
Truly think about what is causing you the most headaches with your manual or current process and how a new software can address those frustrations by eliminating them!
There is a software out there to match the exact needs of your organization, so don’t sell yourself short! Find the right one that can make your life easier and get you back to the real work of your organization and not the pesky tasks of maintaining it 🙂