Membership Management Software

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1 12 Tips for Selecting the Best Membership Management Software for your organization

2 Table of Contents Section Page Getting Started 3 12 Tips for Selecting Membership Management Software 4 Don t Forget About Your Website 16 Definitions 17 Ask All the Right Questions 21 About WebLink 23 Selecting the Best Membership Management Software for Your Organization Page 2 WebLink International

3 Getting Started You know your organization needs a better way to manage your members and your business. But, how can you find the best membership management software for your organization? The best membership management software is the one you use to drive value for your members, increase revenue for your association and strengthen the community of businesses you serve. The Bottom Line: Start with the end in mind; focus on the end goals of what your organization needs to accomplish. Each system you review will offer different ways to accomplish tasks. Don t get hung up on the how something is done; stay focused on the what needs to get accomplished. Selecting the Best Membership Management Software for Your Organization Page 3 WebLink International

4 #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. Check to make sure they already work with associations of your type and size and aren t over reaching to accommodate your needs. Selecting the Best Membership Management Software for Your Organization Page 4 WebLink International

5 #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. If you are not familiar with the advantages of SaaS just search for SaaS Advantages and you ll find plenty of resources to convince your boss to change. Selecting the Best Membership Management Software for Your Organization Page 5 WebLink International

6 #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. Insisting on these features now will save you headaches down the road when your CPA (or the IRS) rearranges your accounting requirements. Selecting the Best Membership Management Software for Your Organization Page 6 WebLink International

7 #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. Selecting the Best Membership Management Software for Your Organization Page 7 WebLink International

8 #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. For more information, visit: Selecting the Best Membership Management Software for Your Organization Page 8 WebLink International

9 #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. Selecting the Best Membership Management Software for Your Organization Page 9 WebLink International

10 #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. Selecting the Best Membership Management Software for Your Organization Page 10 WebLink International

11 #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. Selecting the Best Membership Management Software for Your Organization Page 11 WebLink International

12 #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. Selecting the Best Membership Management Software for Your Organization Page 12 WebLink International

13 #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. Selecting the Best Membership Management Software for Your Organization Page 13 WebLink International

14 #11: Impact on Organizational Culture Think about how your current system impacts your staff and your members on a daily basis. Can your staff get the information they need so they can spend time engaging your members? Can your system help you document, track and communicate value to your members? Can your members access the information they need to help their business grow? Change to a new system is hard for most organizations, but can bring great opportunity. You ll need several champions of change to help your staff stayed focus on the benefits of a new system. Consider how you ll need to employ change management to drive success for your organization s change to a new system. Selecting the Best Membership Management Software for Your Organization Page 14 WebLink International

15 #12: The Intangibles What other features would be valuable for your organization that can save you time or help you create more value for your members? Features such as system integrations, extensive grouping options and integrated website content management can improve your association s engagement with members. Can you easily relate individuals to multiple companies or other individuals to give you true customer relationship management? Remember, it s not just software, it will be THE system that drives the success of your organization. Selecting the Best Membership Management Software for Your Organization Page 15 WebLink International

16 Don t Forget About Your Website A great membership management system is a key part of your organization s ability to serve your members, but don t forget about your website! Your website is your single largest and most effective communications tool - with both members and prospects. Think about it your s, newsletters and events can t begin to compare to the reach, flexibility, and consistency that your website can. Your website is available 24/7, is visible to people everywhere, and creates incredible opportunities to deliver value to your members. Whether a business joins for networking, sponsorships, learning opporunities, credibility or legislative efforts, the #1 reason businesses join your organization is to get a return on their investment and gain more business. And, having a well-designed website that ranks high on search engines and displays properly on computers, tablets and smartphones is critical to drive more business - and value - for your members. All this adds up to more referrals from your organization and more exposure - and more value - for your members. The value members receive from exposure on your website often justifies their membership renewal each year. Is your website doing all it can to promote your members? Selecting the Best Membership Management Software for Your Organization Page 16 WebLink International

17 Definitions Association Management Software (AMS) A computer software solution that provides associations, chambers of commerce, clubs and other membership organizations with the functionality they require to keep track of and provide services to their members. Backend This is the part of your association management software where your staff or volunteers manage your member data and run reports. You can think of this as the administrative area of your software. Related to: Frontend Change Management An approach to transitioning individuals, teams, and organizations to a desired future state. Change can be difficult for any organization. Those who are successful use a structured approach for ensuring that changes are smoothly and successfully implemented to achieve lasting benefits. Configured Settings or options that allow the users or software vendor to personalize features for your organization. Generally, the same options would be available to other customers as well, giving them similar flexibility. In a Software as a Service setting, new configuration options are usually made available to all customers and are backwards compatible with older features. Related to: Customized Content Management System (CMS) A software system used to manage the content of your website. Generally, content management systems can help you add content to your website without extensive coding or HTML knowledge. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) A term that is sometimes confused with AMS. CRM software focuses on sales activities such as prospecting, selling, closing and retaining customers. CRMs generally do not have the specific modules for managing a membership database. Some AMS do include CRM functions to help associations manage their sales process and managing their existing members as well. Selecting the Best Membership Management Software for Your Organization Page 17 WebLink International

18 Definitions (continued) Customized A product or feature with specialized functions that may not be available for other customers. Customized features may require an extra fee and they may not receive updates or new features at the same rate as configured features. Related to: Configured Dashboards A quick summary reporting page that gives an easy to read arrangement of data such as association goals versus actual results, member sales, retention rates or event attendance. Engagement A term used to describe how your organization interacts with your members and how they interact with you. Methods can include phone, , mail, in-person, social media interactions, texting, online communities and more. Frontend This is the area that your members interact with your data and maintain their own profiles. The member actions happen here. At WebLink, all of our website components, such as a member directory, event calendars, news, member login portals and more, are a frontend to our system. All of our components are directly tied to the backend of your system. Any data updated in your membership database is instantly changed on the website as well. Related to: Backend General Ledger Software A term for computer software designed to help businesses track, manage and understand their revenue and expenses. Examples include Quickbooks and Microsoft s Great Plains Dynamics. Some AMS systems include features for managing the association s revenue, but not the expenses. Other systems include integrations with general ledger software to streamline all accounting operations. Selecting the Best Membership Management Software for Your Organization Page 18 WebLink International

19 Definitions (continued) Integrated This means that two systems not orginally designed as one are able to work together to share data. Levels of integration vary between products, but generally the integration saves your time and reduces errors by elminating the need to enter data in multiple places. Membership Management Software (MMS) Can generally be used interchangeably with AMS, although some MMS providers do not offer billing, events and other account management features found in Association Management Software. Mobile Commerce A term for tools your organization can use to generate revenue from mobile devices, such as selling memberships or event registrations from tablets or smartphones. PCI The Payment Card Industry (PCI) Security Standards Council is an open global forum that is responsible for the development, management, education, and awareness of payment security parameters. The PCI Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is a set of requirements designed to ensure that ALL companies that process, store or transmit credit card information maintain a secure environment. Responsive Website Design (RWD) Responsive Web Design is a website design approach aimed at developing a website that provides an optimal viewing experience easy reading and navigation with minimum resizing, panning, and scrolling across a wide range of devices (from desktop computer monitors to mobile phones) while using a single source of code for each page. Modules Portions of a solution that can be added on and purchased seperately. Some AMS providers create modules to allow customers to pick and choose the features they find most valuable. Selecting the Best Membership Management Software for Your Organization Page 19 WebLink International

20 Definitions (continued) ROI Return On Investment; what results did you receive for the money (and time) you spent. ROI helps you see the benefit in your proposed expense. Time savings, reduction of errors and improved efficiency should be included when calcluting ROI. In addtion, be sure to include opportunities you will miss out on if you do not change to a new system. Social Networking Features Some AMS systems provide ways for you to track your members social media profiles. Others include ways for you to directly post to social media outlets and interact with your members from within the AMS. Software as a Service (SaaS) Software applications that are hosted for you on the internet (as opposed to on a computer in your office). They are accessible through any Internet connection so you can work anywhere. Data backups, server maintenance and security are included. Customers usually receive regular updates to the software as part of their agreement. Selecting the Best Membership Management Software for Your Organization Page 20 WebLink International

21 Ask All the Right Questions A key to finding the best membership management system for your organization is asking the same questions to each vendor you evaluate. Features Yes No Is the system provided as Software as a Service (Saas)? o o Can you manage members, prospects and non-members in the same system? o o Can you create memberships for both individuals and businesses? o o Is there an invoicing and accounting system included? o o Can you create invoices for both dues and non-dues items? o o Can the system integrate with General Ledger software such as Quickbooks? o o Can you create multiple invoices or recurring billing items for members? o o Does the system handle both cash and accrual methods of accounting? o o Can the system track deferred revenue? o o Can you create custom fields? o o Can you track continuing education units? o o Can you one, all or specific groups of members directly from the system? o o Can you personalize with details about the members? o o Can members pay invoices and renew membership online? o o Can you store social media profile data about your members? o o Can you document contacts you ve had with members and create reminders for follow up? o o Is event management included? o o Can members register for events and update their own profiles? o o Can you create multiple calendars of events for your website? o o Are there standard reports provided? o o Can you create your own reports? o o Selecting the Best Membership Management Software for Your Organization Page 21 WebLink International

22 Ask All the Right Questions (continued) Features Yes No Can data easily be exported for use in other programs such as Excel? o o Can the system directly integrate into your website? o o Is website design, development and hosting available? o o Are the website designs optimized for viewing on mobile devices? o o Is a content management system included to easily manage your website? o o Is an online membership directory included? o o Does the system track member referrals and exposure on your website? o o Can you add phone or walk-in referrals to your members profiles? o o Is there mobile access for your staff to use the system when out of the office? o o Is credit card processing included? o o Is the system PCI compliant? o o Does the system include audit trails to track which users made changes to profiles? o o Can you create automatic recurring billing for credit cards? o o Is a job board or career listings available? o o Can you create an ecommerce store on your website? o o Are project management features included? o o Does the system integrate with social networks for posting? o o Are non-dues revenue programs available? o o Are online training videos provided? o o Is on site training available? o o Selecting the Best Membership Management Software for Your Organization Page 22 WebLink International

23 About WebLink International Leading the Way with Technology WebLink began in 1996 when initial services included interactive business directories, real-time event calendars, and website services to help member-based organizations establish and build their brands online. Today, WebLink has evolved to provide a complete, integrated technology package and we now serve more than 1,500 organizations. We are proud to deliver member and organizational management solutions with unprecedented features for a superior value. The Difference Experience Brings WebLink s experience with member-based organizations is unparalleled in the industry. Many of our staff members formerly worked at a member-based organization. Our employees have worked in member services, events, marketing, government affairs, communications, IT and executive roles at their previous associations - they ve worn all the hats and know how to help you get the most out of WebLink s products and services. Putting You First Our team is empowered to do whatever is necessary to help you achieve success and everyone at WebLink views their role as customer support for without you we would not exist. At WebLink, a customer centric approach means you the customer are at the center of every decision we make. We are not merely a member management software vendor, but rather an invested partner in your success. Ready To Learn More? Visit our website at weblinkinternational.com. Call us at Selecting the Best Membership Management Software for Your Organization Page 23 WebLink International

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