Let’s make a guess about you. Either you’re:

  • A membership manager who’s using membership management software to manage more-or-less all your day-to-day tasks.
  • Using spreadsheets to store your membership’s contact data, and then exporting that data to the multiple platforms you use to manage emails, payments, surveys, events, etc.

If you’re a member of the first group, this article is full information you already know.

If you’re a member of the second, this article is full of information you should know.

This article is going to present a few arguments for phasing out spreadsheet-based data management in favour of purpose-build membership management software (MMS).

If you’re not ready to make any major changes, that’s okay – but it’s still worth understanding the options available to improve productivity and efficiency at work. After all, your job is to manage members, not just their data. Having the right tools to ease the burden of data-management allows you to focus your time and energy where it matters.

The Power of Modern Analytics

Have you ever gotten the sense of a pattern while looking at a spreadsheet that you thought might indicate an opportunity for your organization?

This is a common experience for anyone who works with data sets, but one that can be frustrating when you lack the tools to explore, confirm, and make sense of patterns. Gut instinct can trigger the search for understanding, but isn’t enough to develop real knowledge. Taking massive amounts of data and translating it into meaningful, actionable conclusions simply isn’t what humans are best at.

This is the first – and arguably most important – feature of Membership Management Software. Turning your data over to a platform that can output answers to your questions across massive data sets empowers you to understand a lot more about your membership base with a fraction of the effort.

Ask questions, get answers, and act

Who’s engaged, and who’s not? Asking this question can help you segment your membership and target members at risk of churn come renewal season.

Who’s going to your events, and who isn’t? What parts of your events are doing best at engaging your members, and which are falling short? Depending on the tools you have to explore them, answering these questions can take moments, or they can take weeks. With knowledge comes power, and the insights you glean through member data let you act on opportunities that otherwise would be unknown to you.

The wealth of analytical tools available through membership management software vastly outweighs what one human, or a few, can learn from poring through a spreadsheet for hours – and the insight you get out of these tools lets you better direct your engagement efforts.

Modern analytics are a treasure trove when it comes to managing a membership-based organization, and we’d like to see you able to swim through that sea of treasure with no fear of drowning.

Local Storage = Liability

Let’s talk about another glaring problem with local storage: storing all of your data in single files means that not only must those files be kept safe at all costs, but you’re also limited in where you can access that data from. As well, any updates to those files must be reflected in all of your backup copies – assuming, of course, that your organization has back-ups.

There’s a big risk involved in storing all of your membership and contact data locally: without constant attention and rigor, the safety of your data is not guaranteed. Accidents happen, and files get lost: hardware can get stolen, dropped, or soaked in coffee, and these accidents don’t care how soon you need that data.

Offloading this responsibility to a central, cloud-based storage system keeps things safer by letting you forego the rigor of local back-up or storage policies, and it means that everyone has the ability to view and change the same body of information.

That last bit is especially important – why? Because acting on old, outdated information is problematic, even if it’s not as disastrous as losing the information outright. If contact information is updated in one local copy but not the back-up, then an accident that forces you to use the back-up will quietly throw a spanner in the works.

What will happen? Emails and physical mail can be lost, missed, or get bounced, with all kinds of consequences: members don’t learn about your events, don’t keep up to date, and just might end up wondering why they stick with an organization they never hear from.

Plus, sender reputation is an important metric to cultivate – it helps you prevent your emails from getting filtered as spam, but you’re sure to lose yours if you send mail to addresses that are no longer in use. Every bounced email hurts you, so don’t take that risk: don’t leave your updates up to a slow process of editing spreadsheets and then hoping someone remembers to edit the backup.

Keep Time on Your Side

The primary argument we hear in favour of hanging on to old methods is that they’re familiar, and they work. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, they say – but to be completely honest, this attitude is not going to cut it for satisfying the needs of any modern organization. Time is at a premium in any organization, and we can’t afford to be cavalier about spending it.
That is to say – even if it’s true that spreadsheets are familiar, they’re also a slow way to do things. Get caught in a rut with familiar tools and you risk the rest of the industry leaving you behind – so it’s worth more than you can imagine to open your mind up to the advantages offered by modern technology.
You may have caught our recent article on improving your renewal reminder process, which laid out an optimized workflow for what happens when a member renews. If you’re using membership management software, like Member365, then renewal should automatically trigger payment processing and updates to contact information.
If these things aren’t happening automatically – why aren’t they? That’s a question you should ask yourself, because the ability to spare yourself all of this work is out there – and you should be benefitting from it!

Bring Your Data into the Future

Every step you take to eliminate slow, repetitive, and inefficient processes from your workflow and replace them with automatic processes is an investment in saving yourself time later – whether that’s the time you saved on the tasks you knew you’d have to do, like updating contact information, or the time you saved on unforeseen tasks like coping with an coffee spill.

Consider making your data accident-proof and future-proof by making the switch to a platform that lets you store data while automating all the processes that touch that data. Modern membership management software holds the promise of saving you a lot of headache and heartache, so you owe it to yourself to take a long look at what it has to offer.