Updated: Sep 23, 2021
#1: A Trustworthy and Reliable Vendor
Changing from one membership management system can seem like a big decision, but should be easy when you consider all the benefits and find the right partner. So, as you evaluate potential systems, be sure to review the executive team of your vendor, check references, and make sure they are going to grow as you do. Even be so bold as to inquire about financial stability. You want to be sure the company you choose will be around for the next 10 years.
#2: Software as a Service (SaaS)
The world of membership management software has gone to the web. If you are not using online software, you are falling behind and paying more than you should.
Online software is essentially paid for as a service; you can stop using it anytime you like – which puts the burden on the vendor to always provide you with new releases to keep you from changing solutions. There is no server hardware to buy, your staff can be mobile and your IT guru can actually come out of the dark back room he or she has been locked in and get more involved in helping provide more value than just keeping the servers running.
#3: Strong Financial Integration
No matter what your mission, every organization needs strong financial reporting and management. Be sure your membership management software integrates well with your general ledger system whether it’s QuickBooks, Microsoft Great Plains Dynamics or other system. Most membership management systems do a good job of collecting payments. The best systems, however, provide features of being able to handle both cash and accrual, revenue recognition reporting, and detailed audit trails.
#4: Extensive Website Integration
Choose a partner that has expertise in websites for member-based organizations and be sure their membership management system has an API (a technology that enables the website to talk to the database and vice-versa) that enables your website vendor to integrate. This enables your website to be more robust so changes and updates can flow back and forth seamlessly. Or better yet, find a vendor that has a great membership management system with integrated website management who specializes in creating association websites too. Your website is your single largest marketing and communications tool. Take advantage of a dynamic connection between your database and your website.
#5: PCI Compliance
PCI compliance is related to your ability to process credit card payments. Being out of compliance (many older locally installed/onsite systems can be) is a headache you don’t want to deal with – think fines, and being unable to process credit cards. Be sure your membership management system’s payment gateway is compliant.
#6: Robust Reporting/Business Intelligence
The ability to get data out of a system is good. The ability to understand and interpret what the data means to help you make data driven decisions is even better. Be sure you get the data and the expertise you need from your vendor.
You’ll need reporting and export functions beyond just summary level reports. The ability to segment your members into different groups to see which members are most valuable to your association is critical for creating member recruitment and retention strategies.
Being able to drill down into financial reports and member histories allows your executive team to make better decisions when managing your association. Also, be sure your vendor can track member benefits, referrals and leads received from your website, contact histories and more so your staff can easily demonstrate value to your members.
#7: Industry Expertise (Support)
This ties in with point #6 about data and reports, and frankly this could be the #1 requirement.
Make sure the vendor has staff that knows your business. Many vendors will have low paid “techies” who know software but lack the intellectual curiosity to really help you excel in your use of technology.
A vendor with industry expertise will teach you how to apply your technology to benefit your members, increase retention, improve event revenue and drive member engagement.
You’re not just buying software - you’re investing in a partnership that will help your organization become stronger.
#8: Ease Of Use
All of the above won’t help if your staff and members don’t use the system. Be sure the system is web-based, and you can also access at least core information from other devices such as your phone and tablets.
And, does the membership management software give you tools to be productive in the field, such as collecting credit card payments for new memberships or registering event attendees via a mobile device? Think about the services you’ll need to help your association continue to grow.
#9: Social Media Integration
Today’s membership management database needs fields for your members’ profile pages on LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and more so you can easily engage them on those social networks.
And, you should include links to your members’ social media profiles from your online member/business directory to help your members connect with new customers. Your vendor should include social sharing buttons on your site to help your website visitors share your content (your members’ listings, events, news, etc) with their networks and drive more traffic to your site - and more value to your members.
Additionally, your membership database should have features for automated postings to social networks such as Twitter and Facebook to help your association engage your members and followers.
#10: Ability to Adapt to Your Needs
The saying goes, “if you’ve seen one association, you’ve seen just ONE association” because they all operate differently.
Be sure the membership management system you select has the ability to be configured to the needs of your staff and your members’ specific needs
Ask your vendor if they will do any customizations. There may be an extra fee, but you’ll get what you need and won’t have to settle for something less.