Choosing Membership Management Software: The Mistakes Associations Make

Choosing Membership Management Software: The Mistakes Associations Make

« Association Management | Written by Miranda Pruitt | | (0) Comments
Membership management software requires not only a financial commitment but also significant time and resources. Your staff members will be taking time out to learn the ins and outs of your new system, and it also takes time to go through the data migration and integration process. There are a lot of things to consider when software shopping, and a lot of ways you can get it wrong.

Here are some of the most common mistakes we see people make when selecting a membership management platform …

They Don’t Plan for Growth.

Don’t plan for where you are now, plan for where you want to be. If you’re a new-ish association or chapter, you likely have a pretty simple membership structure. Assuming that your goal is to expand, and not to shrink, you need a system that will grow with you.

Picture your organization three to five years down the road. By that time, you’ve diversified your membership levels to attract more members. You’ve put in place some new benefits and programs to generate additional revenue streams. Your membership is growing by the day. When you get to that point, I guarantee you’ll regret settling for an inflexible piece of membership management software that lacks the features you need.

There are several online membership management packages out there that will work within your budget and also support your growth.

They Don’t Consider the Possibilities.

Your membership management software doesn’t have to stand alone – and it shouldn’t. The purpose of investing in software is to cut down on your administrative workload, so you’ll want to make sure that whatever system you choose can integrate with your existing software – either directly or by downloading and uploading csv files.

Make a list of your existing programs, ask your software rep about the possibility of linking them with the membership management system, and see if you can’t get things a little more streamlined.

They Don’t Audit Their Current Processes.

Do you really know what you need? Have you talked to your staff members and had a brainstorming session around the processes that they feel could be made easier. Have you talked to current members about what they need? Get these questions answered first, shop for your software later.

When you demo different types of software, you should have a list of the features you’re looking for – with the most important prioritized on top.

They Don’t Include Users When Selecting Their Association Management Software.

Years back, an association I worked with was looking at putting a system in place and their finance manager decided to skip consultation with staff members and make all of the decisions herself. The staff didn’t know anything about the new system until it was actually implemented. The finance manager ticked all the boxes that were important from her perspective, but after spending thousands of dollars, discovered it made tasks and processes harder for the staff. In the end, all the spiffy new system actually achieved was to make tasks more time-consuming.

The lesson is obvious. The most important testers of your software are the people who are actually going to be using it. Invite them to your demos, ask them what most frustrates them about their processes, and observe how they currently execute their tasks so that you understand their needs.

They Choose a Membership Management Software with the Wrong Price Structure for Them.

Every software company structures their prices differently. Some charge monthly subscriptions, others charge by usage, and some add charges for upgrading features or processing credit cards.

After auditing your processes and talking to your staff, you should have a list of requirements. Being clear on what you’re looking for and asking a lot of questions up front can help you avoid paying hidden costs.

Many companies offer subscriptions that increase in price when you reach a certain number of members. For example, you may start out paying $100 monthly because you have under 500 members, but as soon as you increase to 501 members your subscription jumps to $200. This means you’re essentially paying an extra $100 per month for just one extra member. If you’re growing at lightning speed, this price structure could work. But in the real world, it makes sense to choose a package that lets you pay for only the members you have.

Here’s an idea: compare the total of all costs for each software provider based on the number of members you have now. Then do the same thing based on the number of members you hope to have in three years. Divide the total costs by the number of members, and that should give you a good feel for which solution is most beneficial for your organization.