2.6 Membership Management Systems

It is extremely important for a VOPE to make sure that it has actively involved and informed members.  The first aspect to be addressed is the membership policy statement.  Once this is clear the actual running of a membership administration system can be planned and implemented.  This post will provide some insight into the administration aspects of the VOPE member management system.

ImageDescription

Many existing VOPE’s make allowances for more than one type of member and differentiate the membership fees (if applicable) and benefits according to the member type.   Once the decisions about the types of members, their fees and benefits are made and documented in a membership policy statement (link here to member policy section), the other aspects for membership management that may need attention include:

  • Plan and setup up a member application / registration system and implement this,
  • Develop day-to -day membership operational procedures (standard operating policies) for maintaining and updating the membership data.

The remainder of this post will focus on the membership management system.

Informal networks might only require that members be added to an email distribution list, and the only administration that would be necessary is checking occasionally that all the bouncing email addresses are cleaned up. Service providers like Yahoo and Google and Facebook, amongst others, do provide automated listserv or group management options, where people can join or leave when they want to, without much intervention from an individual administrator.

More formalised VOPEs require members to provide some basic information about themselves and to pay a membership fee in order to become a member. It is possible to run a membership administration system with little more than paper based forms, an excel spreadsheet and a membership dues receipt book – but this has the drawback of requiring many hours of meticulous work from a person and the potential for errors to slip in, is huge. A better alternative would be to implement an automated system which runs off an online database and can automatically do more of the mundane tasks like issuing invoices, sending out reminders, etc. You will still require a person to manage the system, but the level of effort would be much lower, and it is likely that prospective members won’t be lost if they can’t get hold of the right person at the right time. Once a member has completed the application form, it would be necessary to consolidate the information into a central repository, in order to make sure that it is on hand if questions about membership is asked. Again –online systems make the collation into a central database very easy.

Other benefits of having an online membership application and administration system is that the information that members typically need – e.g. how to become a member, the cost of becoming a member, the benefits of membership can also be shared at the same time. If your VOPE has a web page, consider adding a module that has an online registration form. Remember to allow for different membership types in the application form and provide fee payment instructions and details. If you set up your form with some logic, it will prompt potential members to correct missing or incorrect information fields before submitting.

For membership administration databases, a VOPE generally has three options available:

  • Use paper or emailed forms to collect information, and have someone capture it in a separate spreadsheet (e.g. MSExcel) or database (E.g. MSAccess). This is often used as a starting point but ongoing management of the member information can become very cumbersome.
  • General purpose membership management databases and software systems.  This might be something as simple as the free Google Forms service,  or it may be a more customized membership administration service applicable to any organization with membership that are available at various costs. (See examples in the tools section).
  • A custom developed membership system for your specific VOPE integrated with your own website, and possibly a payment system. (An example of one such system is provided)

Bear in mind that if you go for a free or low cost service you are likely to have to spend more time in managing the membership system – so the total cost of operating the system is not necessarily apparent right from the start. In some cases it does make sense to pay for a more expensive system, and invest the time to get it set up for your purposes, because in the longer term it will save you time and money associated with administering the system, whilst also making sure that you don’t lose out potential members.  Especially if your organization is going to rely on volunteers to do the work of the VOPE, you would want to have a membership management system that is automated as much as possible.

A full specification membership system would allow you to:

  • Add a new member (some information to store – personal info, membership type, membership fees, join date), or multiple members from the same organization,
  • Store information on membership fees received and transaction dates
  • Update details of a current member (e.g. change email address)
  • Notify member of active / not active membership status
  • Deactivate member when membership expires or upon request of member
  • Provide automated receipts and invoices
  • Provide membership reports – for review by the person responsible for membership

Irrespective of the system you choose, bear in mind that you still would need a process for managing the information.  Standard operating procedures for maintaining the membership database should be developed clearly stipulating tasks, processes, roles and responsibilities.  If you are using part time or volunteer staff to manage your system, it is imperative that the steps for managing the system is clearly documented, since turnover in staff is likely.

Resources

ImageTools and Toolkits

Here is a list of tools and toolkits applicable to membership management:

* The Association Hub (as quoted from their website) provides “subject specific toolkits across a variety of topics designed to improve your association success and sustainability. The Association Hub – Toolkits: Member Research and Feedbackhttp://associationhub.com/membership-research-feedback-short.html

* Here is a toolkit with advice and links to potential tools you can use to store the membership data. The Idealware Website (www.idealware.org) provides information for Nonprofits to make software decisions. Idealware: A Few Good Tools: Low Cost Constituent Databases. http://www.idealware.org/articles/fgt_low_cost_dbs.php

ImageSoftware

Here is a friendly description about how to set up google forms for your VOPE’s data collection purposes.

* How to Make Forms, Surveys, and Quizzes in Google Docs By MarziahKarch. Accessed online 21 February 2014 from:http://google.about.com/od/toolsfortheoffice/ss/forms_googledoc.htm?p=1

* Tendenci is an open source software that provides your Association with a website capable of managing for example your memberships. tendenci.com – Membership Management Softwarehttp://tendenci.com/tendenci-membership-management/

ImageExamples

Here are some examples of Webpages and online application forms

* The Community of Evaluators (CoE) is a platform that facilitates knowledge exchange between parties interested in evaluation in the South Asian region.  They have webpages with information on benefits of the different member types and links to an enrolment process. COE: Individual membership. Click here to enrol as an Individual Member. Accessed online on 21 February 2014 from: http://communityofevaluators.org/benefits

* SAMEA created a webpage with membership information as well as a link on the page that directs potential members to an online registration form. They have opted to develop their own membership management system using a private contractor. SAMEA MEMBERSHIP CATEGORIESJOIN us now and benefit from the huge discounts you get on SAMEA workshop and seminar fees and the SAMEA Conference fees Accessed online on 21 February 2014 from: http://www.samea.org.za/samea-6.phtml or link to the application development contractor http://www.dits-sa.com/index.php?module=pagesetter&func=viewpub&tid=4&pid=7

 

FRENCH EXAMPLES

Example

Voici quelques exemples de pages Web et les formulaires de demande en ligne:

ReBUSE_Carte de membre 

Devenir membre de la Société québécoise SQEP

Ce site est sur ​​les exigences juridiques de la gestion des membres. En outre, il propose un modèle de l’engagement des membres:

Comment enregistrer les adhésions dans votre association loi 1901

 

Invitation to give Feedback

Have you used any of the resources recommended in this post? Tell others what you thought about it by leaving a comment below.

Acknowledgements, Licensing, Attributions

Full details about the acknowledgements, licensing and attributions of this content here.

Disclaimer

Note that depending on the size, development phase and purpose of your VOPE, the material presented in this post may need to be contextualised for your specific purposes. Also take note of the full toolkit disclaimer here.

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