The way in which you store and access your members information is one of the most crucial aspects of effective membership management. Whether you’re a club or another type of member organisation, the systems and processes you have in place for storing data, handling payments and managing communications are vital to the smooth running of your administration.
Computers and desktop software helped revolutionise the way we handle member information, and helped to organise the way processes are handled. But even this has it’s limitations. Today however, cloud technology has taken this to a new level, with integrated software, payment gateways and automation on many key administrative tasks.
So why are you still managing your members manually?
The Problem With Manually Managing Your Members
First lets look at what I mean by manually managing members. Put simply I am talking about handling everything to do with your members with a paper-based system. Paper application forms, paper invoices, paper statements, letters and drawers full of files containing your members personal (and confidential) information.
Administrative systems like this are rarely efficient and the scope for information to become lost or dare I say, even stolen, is high. Members become frustrated when you lose their renewal forms or payments, when personal information is incorrect and they do not receive important communications about their membership. On top of this comes the amount of time you spend merely ‘administering’ this system – filing, processing, receiving, reconciling, mailing, banking ….it surely has to be a massive drain on time and resources.
3 Alternative Ways To Manage Your Membership
The decision to change your admin processes and systems isn’t one to be taken lightly, even if it is for the greater good. Your choice needs to be easy to use, easy to integrate into your club or organisation and needs to be affordable.
Below we have outlined 3 options for switching away from manual systems and adopting an improved membership management solution.
1. Desktop Software
There are plenty of desktop software choices out there, from fully integrated programs designed specifically for member organisations, to simple database programs which you can use in conjunction with other software.
- Pros: wide choice available for different budgets
- Cons: can be difficult to install and setup; requires time and resources to input member data; may not integrate with existing systems; support may not be available when you need it; functionality can come at a price, information stored locally on one machine, can’t process online payments
- Why You Should Choose It: desktop software can be a great choice for smaller clubs and organisations with a small membership base
2. Online Membership Software
Perhaps the relative newcomer, but nonetheless an option which will suit everyone, big or small. Online software is more intuitive and offers greater functionality and integration than desktop software alone.
- Pros: ready to use as soon as you sign up – no installing complicated software, no difficulties in setting up. Online software enables you to pass responsibility for maintaining member account information back to your members; fees and renewals can be done easily and securely online; 24/7 support when you need it. Many providers, including PaySubsOnline.com offer a host of other features such as email communications and event management. Most providers will offer a free demo or trial so you can test all the features and functions before signing up.
- Cons: Vet providers carefully to ensure they have all the functionality you need (see our guide at the end of this post) and that data is stored securely and not rented, leased or sold to any third parties. Whatever online system you chose, there will always be a cost for processing payments online.
- Why You Should Choose It: Perfect for clubs and organisations of all sizes, most providers will offer a range of plans to suit your budget. Online membership software offers an easy to use, easy to integrate solution, with access for a number of different administrators. Better still, it can be accessed remotely from any device.
3. A Combined System
Sometimes neither of the above are suitable or even practical for you. In this case, combining features from both may offer the best solution.
- Pros: Combine a desktop database with an online payment gateway and email marketing program to create an easy to manage system with easy payment processing options.
- Cons: Could potentially be more expensive than a standalone solution as you will need to pay for the software (including future upgrades) and fees for the online systems. Information will be stored across different programs and platforms, with some only being accessible from one place. Combined systems often lack full integration and as such you could end up creating more work for yourselves.
- Why You Should Choose It: This solution may suit those who are unsure about the security of moving their membership information completely online. It may also appeal to those who already use desktop software and want to improve other aspects of their administration such as member communications.
The Benefits Of Making The Change
It can be tempting to think ‘well if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ But chances are your current administrative processes are broken – if they are inefficient, time consuming and resource draining then it is time to make a change. If your committee needs further convincing or your colleagues are unsure it is worth it, then consider the following:
- You will actually save money (and time) by having a system which allows for greater automation of common admin tasks, such as sending out of renewal letters and reconciling payments.
- Your members will appreciate being able to pay their fees online, securely, rather than appear in person or have to search for their cheque books and head for the post box. Your treasurer too will appreciate not having to queue inline at the bank on a rainy Friday afternoon to pay monies in.
- Your member information will be more secure. You are bound by the Data Protection Act and could face criminal charges if confidential information is mislaid, mismanaged or stolen.
- And finally – improve your efficiency, productivity and communications; attract new members because it is easier to join and keep your finances rolling with automated payments going straight to your bank account – no more waiting a week or more for cheques to clear.
The pros and cons of switching from manual membership management should be clear to see. However, the system you change to will need to be fully evaluated to ensure it meets all your needs. Our free guide below will help you explore all the functionality you’ll need to manage your members online. Download your free copy now.