Traditional fundraising can be a great way to raise money for your nonprofit. However, offering a paid-membership can see your donation rates climb even higher. Unfortunately membership programs scare away many nonprofits.
Why? If managed manually, there are a lot of records to try to stay organized.
Or you can get the right Membership Software and streamline things. Here’s how.
What is Membership Software & Why Do You Need It?
In order to have a membership program, you need to have a way to store, organize, and maintain all of your members’ information. Membership software does this, and more. Some other membership software basic features include:
- Communicating with other members
- Ability to sell event tickets or other merchandise
- Targeted advertising placement
- Activity tracking of members
- Ability to quickly publish content
Again, while these features aren’t included in all membership software, they’re some of the more common ones.
Why Your Association or Nonprofit Needs Membership Software
There was a time when you could get by without membership software, but in this day and age it is essential to success. Offering memberships is a great way to gain additional donations and drive awareness. But, in order to properly organize and communicate with your members you need membership software.
While there is an associated cost, many are open-source and available for free. Furthermore, the cost can be offset by the perks that membership brings. A few of the many perks you can offer your membership are:
- Members often feel more ownership than a donor, and thus invest more
- Members can help you run events and more
- Donations from members are often larger than non-members
- Members can act as free advertising, telling those around them about your nonprofit
As previously mentioned, membership software is essential to successfully running a membership program. When you think of the benefits memberships can bring, the cost of membership software is a moot point.
9 Key Software Features to Consider & Their Benefits
Now that you know why you need membership software, it’s time to learn about what features you may need to factor into your decision and how each of those benefit you. Keep in mind that your desired features may vary depending on your association’s use. When in doubt, ask yourself what you hope to accomplish with your software, and if that will be possible with or without said feature.
Feature 1: In-Depth Member Profile System
The primary reason you’re getting membership software is likely to manage your members and their info. Without an in-depth member profile system, you can quickly run into snags.
Make sure your membership software features a feature-rich profile system, including:
- Demographic info
- Contact information
- Payment information
- Payment and activity history
If the software you’re looking at has the above features and more, that’s a bonus. For example, any kind of social network integration capabilities with your members is always a plus.
Feature 2: Financial & Funding Management
Additional donations and funding are likely two of the big reasons you’re looking into offering memberships. Making sure your membership software boasts proper financial management features will be key as your membership base and donations grow.
Even if you’re only offering one level of membership to begin with, there’s always the chance you will eventually offer multiple membership levels. Make sure your membership software can handle various account levels and membership fees. This level of automation can make bookkeeping a simple task rather than an organizational nightmare.
Feature 3: Inventory or Point-of-Sale Functionality
This feature is more of a niche feature. That being said, if you plan on offering any kind of physical goods in exchange for membership, look for software that allows for inventory tracking. This can eliminate the need for a stockperson and lessen your paperwork.
Feature 4: Community-Building Portal
Membership software isn’t just for you, it’s also for your members.
Great membership software should have a built-in feature that allows it to be used as a login portal for your web users. This functionality then opens the door to further community-building, like offering discussions, surveys, contests, etc. Think of a community portal as the gateway to building a social network within your membership base.
Feature 5: Email Correspondence Automation
Whether you have a thriving email list or have yet to start building one, offering memberships is a great way to expand your list. Once you have a list, having built-in correspondence automation can make reaching out to your members a breeze.
For example, if your software supports email automation, you can write up an email about your latest fundraising event and have it automatically sent to your subscribers. This can make you efficient at staying in touch and keeping you in control.
While not all membership software supports email marketing automation, many support integration with other programs, allow you to quickly build and send to email lists based off your membership info. This is still a huge perk and should not be overlooked.
Feature 6: Flexible Sign-up Forms
Being able to change your member sign-up forms quickly is a huge benefit. This can be especially handy if you decide to change some of the required fields or language present on the form.
Furthermore, being able to save and use multiple types of forms is a huge perk. For example, you can have different forms for differing levels of membership. You could even offer a free membership or log-in by using a different form, giving people limited access to your online community.
Feature 7: Allows for an Email Opt-in
When your supporters decide to become members, giving them the option to receive or not receive various emails from you is both a kind gesture and a great way to stay in contact.
It’s entirely possible those that support you still don’t want to receive too many emails, so making sure your software allows you to control the volume of email sent is a great perk.
Feature 8: Mobile Friendly is a Must!
Having mobile friendly membership software is a beneficial feature, both for you and your members.
There’s always the chance you’ll need to manage members or access info while on the go, and having membership software that functions properly on your smartphone is crucial. On the member-side of things, having a community portal etc. that looks great on your users’ phones is a must since they expect convenience, and it’s a great way to keep them loyal.
Mobile web access surpassed desktop usage in 2016 for the first time, so you don’t want to fall behind on the mobile side of things.
Feature 9: Event Registration Streamlined
While social media, email, and other distribution tactics can be great ways to promote events, having built-in event registration on your membership software is a great way to ensure you’re converting as many registrations as possible. This can also look more professional for your nonprofit, as you can promote and accept event sign-ups through your site, rather than redirect users to your nonprofit’s Facebook page.
Additionally, by having native event registration functionality, you can use your email sends to promote events, providing direct registration links--all made possible by your event registration functionality.
Warning: 5 Critical Signs You Must Upgrade
Maybe you already have membership software but are wondering if it still best suits your needs.
“All good things must come to an end.”
The saying doesn’t just apply to love and good meals, it also applies to membership software. What was once the perfect piece of software can become outdated, through developer abandonment or improved competitor software. Because of this, it’s important to know when it’s time to put your beloved software out to pasture in favor of a newer one.
Sign 1: Slow (Or No) Updates
Even the best software needs an update from time to time. If the developer of your membership software isn’t providing frequent updates, your software can quickly become incompatible with your hardware. Not only this, it can also become incompatible with your members’ hardware, leaving them frustrated and in the dark. This can result in a loss of members and cost your nonprofit--financially and in reputation.
Sign 2: Terrible Customer Support
This point ties into the first sign you need to upgrade. Maybe, the company once had stellar customer service support. But...
If the developers of your software provide poor - or no - support, it might be time to start shopping around. The best, most feature-rich software in the world won’t get you far if it has poor support backing it.
Similarly, support that slowly trickles off and worsens over time can be an indicator that the company isn’t doing well. This is another huge red flag and should have you asking questions of the company, at least, or shopping for new membership software, at worst, the moment you start to notice a decline.
Sign 3: Membership Capacity is Capped Out
This one is pretty obvious when it happens; if you’ve hit the limit of your software and can’t add anymore members, it’s time to find software that can accommodate your needs. If you know you’ll eventually have a large membership base, or at least plan on it, you can avoid this predicament by finding software with no membership cap when you first start your program.
Sign 4: Simple Tasks Take Too Long
Membership software, like all software, has come a long way in the past several years. Many membership software platforms should quickly take care of simple tasks.
If you question whether your membership software is taking too long to do simple tasks, you should first check your hardware and make sure things are running properly. If everything checks out, there’s a big chance your membership software is simply outdated or isn’t as efficient as it should be. In either case, it’s nice to start looking for a replacement.
Sign 5: No Cloud Functionality
While cloud computing and storage are more recent advances, most companies have been quick to adapt. And for good reason: cloud functionality is fast becoming essential to our on-the-go lifestyles.
Most membership software should have reliable cloud functionality at this point. Membership software without cloud functionality can result in you being unable to access records and the like while away from your physical offices. Similarly, your users won’t be able to access what they need either.
If your membership software lacks cloud functionality, contact the development team and find out if there’s an ETA on it being added. If it’s not being added, it’s probably time to move on.
The Top 17 Membership Software Platforms
Now that you know what to look for in a membership software platform, it’s time to look at the top membership software platforms. Keep in mind this isn’t a one-size-fits-all game, and that certain platforms might be better-suited for one association or nonprofit over another.
Get your must-have features checklist and dive in!
This free open-source membership platform is a great place to start your search. With a focus on subscription-based membership programs, MembersGear can be a perfect fit for those of you wanting to do a monthly or recurring membership program. The only downside is that it’s open-source, meaning you or someone on your team will need to be tech-savvy to handle any major hiccups.
AMO is a great choice for those wanting something that’s sleek, easy to use, and backed by great support. Mobile-friendly and feature-packed with tons of tools, AMO is essentially your one-stop-shop of membership software. The biggest downside for nonprofits is that it can be rather costly, with the basic membership starting at $95/month for 500 contacts.
Admidio is free and open-source, with a focus on the essentials: maintaining up-to-date info, Excel integration, online posting and advertising. Being open-source, Admidio does bring with it the same quirks as other open-source platforms. It’s also less feature-rich than other offerings, but it is free.
Member365 is jam-packed with features, allows for nearly-endless contacts, and even includes a personal success coach. Member365 also features a single dashboard for managing everything, making it easy to use, especially for the non-tech savvy. But, being so feature-rich and supportive, it does come with a hefty price tag.
GrowthZone lets you manage your contacts, billing, event registrations, committee grouping, and more. It also helps you in managing your sales funnel, something that can come in handy if you plan on offering any kind of paid services or merchandise down the road. It does come with a price tag, however.
Tendenci is another open-source option, but is much more feature-complete than others. With Tendenci you can handle payments, list management, emails, and more. It also starts with a free option, with paid tiers available as well. As is the case with all open-source software, having someone tech-savvy on hand to install it is a must. That, or you can pay Tendenci to host it for you.
Neon is a paid membership management platform that’s focused on helping nonprofits. With much of the Neon team coming from nonprofit backgrounds, they understand the nonprofit world and have made their mission to create a platform perfect for nonprofits. Neon features a login portal, member directory, communications systems, analytics, and more. While it’s paid, they claim you can end up saving money and time in the end by using their product.
Zenbership is an open-source offering that features your standard membership management assets, as well as event management, email list management, and more. While it’s free to use, their software requires use of Linux-based servers and can be difficult to install. If you don’t have someone on hand who can do this, they offer to host it for you- for a price.
9. Timberlake AMS
Naylor’s Timberlake AMS is technically an association management software, but like GrowthZone, allows for membership management as well. Timberlake also features concierge services, website design, and finance/accounting services. This makes them a great choice for those looking to take care of membership management and more. This service is a paid option.
BigTent is a free community-based membership platform. BigTent offers the basics, such as membership applications, database, payment processing, calendars and events, and dues. This is a great option for those wanting to foster a community, as the entire platform is based around community engagement. While BigTent is free, it does charge you a fee for each payment processed on their platform.
Exware is a paid membership and association management platform that features membership management functionality, email communications, social networking, and more. What sets Exware apart is their claim that the platform can be fully customized to fit any organization’s needs. Exware features numerous modules that can be added to the service as well, allowing you to add or remove functionality as you see fit.
GroupSpaces is a free-to-start membership platform that focuses on having fun with your group. GroupSpaces features a membership database, payment request system, custom forms, email lists, and more. Their service is free for the first 50 members, but begins to cost a monthly fee once you reach the cutoff. This makes it a great option for those looking to try out membership management, but not commit financially yet.
MemberLeap is a robust membership management platform that focuses on events. While MemberLeap features the usual membership features, it also has in-depth event management features such as: mobile app integration allowing you to check in with users, online registration and payment for events, exhibit booth editor, and more. MemberLeap has various cost tiers, depending on whether you want it integrated with your existing site or built into a new one.
14. Wild Apricot
Unlike previous offerings on this list, Wild Apricot is a web-based membership management platform that doesn’t require any installation. Wild Apricot goes beyond the standard membership management features and comes with a custom website builder as well as mobile app for on-the-go access. Wild Apricot is free to use until you hit 50 members, at which point it has a monthly fee.
15. TCS Software
Like Wild Apricot, TCS Software is a web-based platform that doesn’t require any installation. TCS Software is a one-stop-shop approach, offering membership management, event management, ecommerce and web design services. TCS Software comes with a cost, but boasts about their great support and no wait times. This makes them a great choice for those looking to not stress about the technical side of things.
MemberPlanet is a free-to-start web-based membership platform that focuses on helping organizations stay in touch with their groups and stay on top of events. MemberPlanet allows you to send mass text messages to all or part of your groups, give members mobile access, collect donations, and more. MemberPlanet’s mobile focus is great for those of you on the go, or looking for a more minimal approach to member management.
ClubExpress is a paid membership management platform that does it all. ClubExpress allows you to collect payments, organize events, send mass communications, build and maintain a website, support for up to three tiers of group categorization and more. They also claim to have “unparalleled security,” making this a great choice for those of you looking to accept and store credit card info from your members.
Growing Membership Base and Beyond: How Ally360 Can Help
Once you have your membership software picked out, you likely need to tackle the goal of growing your membership base. While this can naturally occur through word-of-mouth as people join your cause, using social media and other outlets can do wonders for your membership count. To get started on social media, read our in-depth guide on social media use for nonprofits.
If you want to take your membership promotion to the next level, contact Ally360 to learn more about our professional marketing services. Whether you want promote via print, or go the video and interactive route, Ally360 can help you remain true to your organization, all the while getting results.
The post The Exhaustive Guide to Selecting Membership Software Best Suited for You appeared first on Ally 360 Blog.