For any member organisation, the idea of saving time on administrative tasks, simplifying payment collection and making member communications easy, has to be appealing. Chances are you have already discussed switching to membership database software. Yet choosing which one is right for you can be a challenge.
Knowing how to filter through your options can make the process much easier. While each provider offers features and benefits that make them unique, it is important to select the one that best suits your organisation’s needs. Therefore, the first step of successfully filtering your options is to know exactly what it is that you need.
Evaluating Your Membership Software Needs
Each membership software package comes with various features and capabilities. When choosing software to manage your membership, most providers will offer:
- Membership database for storing member details
- Online membership forms to make joining your organisation easy
- Payment gateways so members can pay their fees online
- Renewal notifications and payment options
- Email and marketing communication tools
- A number of other utility and marketing tools (which we will discuss later)
You may have already decided to completely overhaul your current systems and start afresh with online membership software. Or you may feel that some existing systems are adequate and you need only to move some areas of your administration to improve efficiency.
Whatever the case, the first step in determining your needs is to test where you currently stand and highlight the areas that need improvement. It is important at this stage to consult with those who actually work the processes and systems you currently have – they are the one’s with first hand knowledge and can highlight those areas which need the most improvement.
Begin by listing all the admin areas you currently work through within the organisation, such as membership applications, collecting fees and renewals, sending reminders and member wide communications. Then note how you currently do them, what tools/software you use and if known, how much time it takes to complete a task. Highlight all that need improvement, both now and for the future goals of your organisation. Now you have a list of what you really need to efficiently manage your membership.
Finally, consider other areas of your organisation where there is room for improvement. Remember those other utilities and features I mentioned? Well, many providers also offer tools for fundraising, sending marketing emails which are targeted to specific member groups, event management tools and other outreach tools to help market your organisation to potential members.
Evaluating Potential Membership Database Software Providers
Not all online membership software is created equal. Features and tools can vary, not to mention pricing plans. So, it is imperative that you do your research and compare different providers to make sure you are getting the right solution for your needs. This software will be a critical investment into the ongoing management and growth of your organisation. Don’t pick a provider simply because of a recommendation or a slick sales pitch.
Having inadequate or unreliable service providers could cause a major stumble in future growth. Having to change providers can be worse. So your next step is a crucial one.
- Put together a list of providers: you may already have begun a list, but your aim should be to gather at least 5-10 providers. Do a Google search for membership management software and see if anything interesting is returned. Or search through a software directory such as Capterra.com.
- Drill your list down: look at what each provider offers and remove those that do not offer the needs you have identified. It is also worth considering at this point whether the software is too basic for your needs or, too complex and contains a large number of tools/features that you don’t need but would end up paying for anyway.
Beyond basic functionality, there are then a number of questions you need to ask to evaluate the software further. Check out our recent post 7 Key Questions to Ask When Evaluating Membership Database Software to help you drill down your list of providers further.
Choosing the Right Solution to Manage Your Membership
Now that you have filtered out those software providers who do not meet your needs, it is down to deciding which one has the features and benefits that are right for your organisation. And the only way to truly determine which one is right is to try it out.
Some providers will offer a free trial, others just an online demo. PaySubsOnline.com offer both these options so you can see our software in action first and then try it out for yourself at no cost. We feel this is the best way for you to fully evaluate what we offer and see just how it will benefit you. Don’t be duped by just a canned demo. You will have no way of testing the software’s functionality and suitability with your administrative team – something which is vital to ensure you select the right provider.
Your final stop on your evaluation journey will be the cost. Although I say final, it is likely cost was one of your first considerations and sits high up on your needs list. Pricing can vary from provider to provider and much depends on what they are offering. Most will use a plan pricing structure which will vary according to the number of members you have. Others may structure their plans according to certain features, with the highest priced plan offering the most.
There maybe other charges too, such as setup costs, payment processing fees, ongoing technical support. It is important to talk with the provider, ask about everything that is included in the plan and any other charges you may incur. Some providers may be open to creating custom plans based on your specific needs and requirements. This could be a good option to explore if you like a certain provider but their pricing plans are not quite within your budget.
Selecting the right membership database software for your organisation will be a lengthy process. And rightly so. Your final choice will help you improve your member management, automate much of your administration and save time and money. Not to mention the improvements to efficiency and productivity within your admin team. Take it from us, we get that membership management can throw up all sorts of headaches. To see how we can remedy them get in touch today, download our free buyers guide or ‘Take the Tour’.