Too many nonprofits waste countless hours using spreadsheets to manage their members when they could be automating processes instead. With the abundance of membership management software available today, and many of them very affordable even for small associations, we asked Stephen Foley, CEO at Member365 to share with us what to look for when investing in membership management software.

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Hi everyone, Trista McIver here. Program Advisor here at AMC NPO Solutions. I talk with many organizations weekly regarding facilitating their strategic planning and conducting governance training for them as well. A topic that has come up many times is member management. 

Many organizations, have a membership that expires and needs to be renewed periodically, and what they are asking for is a way to manage these members. 

I’ve invited Stephen Foley today from Member365. He’s the co-founder. We’re going to chat with him today and ask him a few questions about what associations should be looking for when analysing membership management software

What’s a common problem you see associations face when it comes to managing members?

The biggest problem that we’re seeing is just the fact that they work in a world of disparate data, so nothing’s really connected. They are using many different softwares, they may have a homegrown database, and they probably live in really nothing that connects all these data sources together so that they can make sense. All of the information they had captured overtime on their members. Typically, it starts there.

That ensues through to just simply no automation. In 2020, it’s really time to look at how you can automate some aspects of your business. Specifically where we see that become a pitfall is using the spreadsheet to run your renewal season. That just means you’re simply manually chasing, manually going after members to renew where that’s a workflow in a business process that can be very easily automated. 

Typically, these two challenges lead to the third one. Essentially, they’re spending so much time in their data that they are not spending enough time managing or, I should say, engaging members, and adding value to membership. Really that’s where the focus and attention should be is making sure your members are receiving value for the fees they’re paying to join your organization, or to join your association.

Also read our article on Board Management Software.

What should associations be looking for when it comes to investing in a member management software?

Before you even reach out to companies like Member365 or competitors, assess your landscape. Take an inventory, what software are you using, and understand what the shortcomings are of the software and be ready to talk about them. 

If you’re planning to move, then we want to make sure that we can address the shortcomings, address those requirements for you. Often, we have a hard time getting that out of a prospect when we take an initial call with them. We really want to get to the bottom of whether the products are a right fit. If it’s not, then we’re happy to admit we’re not the right fit and save everyone’s time and move on because we can’t be the right fit for every association. 

You need to articulate your business requirements. If you know what your hard requirements are, bring those when you come looking. There’s a lot of conversations you can have, there’s a lot of vendors that serve the space. If you just take a loosey-goosey approach, then it’s going to be really hard for you to compare one vendor against the next. 

What specific member engagement tools do you offer, and do those include member needs surveys?

We do have a survey tool and there’s also a voting tool. They’re essentially the same type of feature. Voting makes it anonymous; a survey would not be. We certainly do have that type of tool to engage your members. 

But beyond that, there’s just a wide variety of things built in to Member365 that will help keep engagement alive and it does start with what’s linking back to that process of automating renewals. The way we’ve created our system is to do that heavy lifting for you and engage your members well in advance of deadline that, hey, you can renew today. You don’t have to wait for the cut-off date. By automating this, you’re able to continue to poke members who don’t renew leading up to that real date automatically. 

There’s a level of engagement there that we bring in through automation. And then there’s a number of other things like surveys and voting. Ability to all share, set up committee spaces. Workspaces which are more general themes. Discussion forms, directories. And, of course, we allow you to run events through Member365. For any association that runs a continuing education program or deliver online training material, there’s some modules that can help with the heavy lifting in regard to delivering those types of services and engaging members. 

It’s one thing to add these tools that will allow you to engage, but ultimately you want to know are they paying off. Is the investment paying off? What we’ve done here – what makes us a little different from some of the competitors is by created an engagement score for every contact, in fact, that you save to the Member365 database. What we’re doing is tracking all of their interactions with you: whether they’re opening an email, or registering to come to an event, or simply logging into the member portal. We’re tracking and scoring your members so that you’re able to understand the health of your membership. 

Do we have a highly engaged group of members? Is there a subset that are not engaged? Can we find them? Because finding them allows you to then be very targeted in strategic and any kind of follow up communication. Folks who aren’t engaged are likely a risk of turning and not renewing with you, so it’s smart to be able to identify who they are. Be able to send them different emails or even pick up the phone and call them and get them engaged, get them up to an event. 

What kind of results have your clients had? 

The biggest one, of course, is just the freeing of time. You can imagine if you’re using multiple disparate software pieces. You’re using something to run your events. You’re using something to run your email marketing. You’re probably using a spreadsheet to run your membership and see who your contacts are. You’re going to spend a lot of time in those worlds digging through your data and then trying to bring it together. By moving to a platform that has an all-in-one flavor to it, you’re able to really free a lot of time. 

Specifically, we’ve seen for a renewal process, a move away from a team of, let’s say, two to three staff who would be instructed to start the renewal process, start looking staffs, and sending snail mail and it’s very time consuming. And then you wait for those checks to come in. There’s no facility to pay with the credit card. 

So, by moving this online and automating this, you essentially are left with just acting as the gatekeeper or the custodian. You’re not really managing it anymore. You’re letting the product, you’re letting the software do the management for you. And then you have access to the reporting to see how that renewal process is turning out. So, we’ve seen a huge return on investment from a team of two to three staff, to one person who logs in and checks on the reports. Huge savings. 

The other result we’ve seen is just a move off of the higher end enterprise software were a new breed of software that’s called Software as a Service or SaaS. It’s still relatively new and associations are generally used to buying from enterprise players and paying enterprise fees. 

A lot of the software hasn’t been accessible to the smaller organizations. What we’re seeing are some of the larger mid-sized associations actually moving out of the higher enterprise software where they’re paying six figures every year to maintain that database and coming in at a price point well under – around 5k kind of at our upper end per year. We’ve seen some tremendous savings just in terms of fund cycle towards the software.

Why do your customers choose you over other software?

Price can be a piece of that, and our prospects are delighted to hear we don’t charge onboarding or set up fees. It really depends on the size of organizations, the size of the association.

Based on what we’re told is, they’re choosing us because it’s an all in one platform. So, there’s no need anymore to have all these numerous third-party systems running different aspects of your operations. Now you can do it from that one central dashboard. That one central admin area. 

The other reason why people would choose us over other vendors is we spend a lot of time in building up a very strong contact record management system. We recognize that associations do not deal only with members. They have all different types of relationships from volunteers, to sponsors, to speakers. What we’ve done is we’ve built a way for them to manage all of their relationships in our software and have a fairly robust contact record management system to find the relationships, to find our contacts based on criterias, and segments, and categories, and demographics. Things that they may have collected over time on their relationships.

Learn More About Member365

To learn more about Member365, visit their website and book a demo. They also offer regular webinars and articles that are available on their website.

About Tom (TJ) Abbott

Tom (TJ) Abbott, CSP is the Managing Director of AMC NPO Solutions and an authority on Governance. He has over 25 years experience as CEO, President and board director of several not-for-profit organizations. Tom has also spoken in over 20 countries.