Any good recipe starts with fundamentals, and that includes your recipe for success at membership management.

At the core of every membership managers work – regardless of the size, focus, or structure of their organization – is a central set of shared needs. Every membership manager handles applications, renewals, communications, and is responsible for keeping members engaged.

Its critical that the software you rely on not only lets you perform these functions, but makes them more efficient. Membership managers often don’t recognize how much easier their life can be, and how much more effective they can be at work, by replacing inefficient tools with ones optimized to help them do their job.

That’s why its essential to evaluate your systems. Whether you use an association or membership management software; or even just Excel and Outlook, you should expect your tools to offer each of the following features in a way that makes life at work easy.

1. Membership Automation

How long do you estimate it takes for you to process the average application? From the minute a potential member demonstrates interest in signing up, to the moment they’re officially on-boarded, there are a lot more steps than you might imagine.

You’ve got to create, and send, them their application form. You’ve got to receive it, and transfer form fields to your CRM. From there, you’ve got to process payments, and reconcile them with accounting. If you’ve got a member portal, there’s back-end work required to provide your new member access. The list goes on.

And this is just an application, and an ideal one at that. Renewals are similarly time consuming. Often you’ve also got to engage in back-and-forth with your new member to get and confirm important information. That means waiting on responses, which can not only add days to a pending renewal or application, but threaten it’s successful completion as your emails fall to the bottom of a new or renewing members inbox.

Because they save so much time and drive successful applications and renewals, strong automation features are a basic necessity in the modern age of membership managers. Compared to the value they provide, the cost of these tools is a triviality for most member-driven organizations.

2. Forms

Membership managers create and handle a lot of forms. Applications, renewals, events, survey’s, votes, etc. all require them – making a solid form builder a basic tool that ought to be in the toolbox of any and every membership manager.

Not all form builders are made the same, and it’s worth questioning whether yours is optimal for your needs. For membership management, form builders generally come in one of two types. Each is optimal to meet different needs, and it’s worth questioning whether the one you’re using is best for you.

The first type of form builder is the standalone variety. These are platforms specifically designed for form building, and only form building. Because of this, the features and functionality they offer are generally tremendous. Every type of form data you can possibly want to collect, these systems will let you collect. As an added bonus, many are free to use!

However, their primary drawback is that they can create friction when it comes to integrate the data they collect into your membership processes. Your form might be beautiful and a wonderful user experience, but if the data your builder outputs is a pain to integrate into your CRM, the time and energy you put in to struggle through that friction is a real cost!

If you’re interested in checking stand-alone form builders ought, some of the best include:

The second type of form builder is the integrated variety. These are form builders offered by full membership management software suites like Member365. While not strictly ‘free’, they’re functionality is included in your subscription to whatever membership management software you’re using.

The primary benefit of these form builders (and it’s a big one) is that because they’re built-in to the same software you use as a CRM, the data they capture is integrated automatically into all your membership processes. Uploading form data to your CRM is ‘frictionless’, making applications, renewals, event registrations, etc a breeze – but also keeping contact data fresher and more accurate. Any changes members make to their profiles is automatically integrated throughout every tool you use to manage your members!

3. Payments, Invoices and Accounting

Processing a payment may not feel like it takes much time, but membership managers process a lot of payments, and it can be easy to forget the back-end work required to account for them, and stay on top of associated invoices.

Membership managers almost always rely on third party accounting software to manage their books. Accounting is simply too high-risk to put in the hands of businesses that aren’t specifically focused on financial management – but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t expect your membership management software to help out!

Payment gateway integration, invoice tracking, and the ability to export financial data in a format that is easily integrated into your accounting software are three core criteria that every membership management platform’s financial tools ought to be delivering on.

The ability to link invoices and payments to contacts; draw reports on open invoices, failed transactions, successful payments, etc; and build email lists based on that information reduces what might have been weeks of work to mere seconds – and provide a whole new range of opportunities to drive the success of your organization.

4. Email Automation

When email automation is integrated into the software platform you use to manage your members, a whole universe of possibilities opens for managing your members.

Got a lot of open invoices? Click a button to instantly build an email list to get in touch with them. Your software will find all the contacts with open invoices. Write an email letting them know about their open invoice, include a button leading to your payment processor, send it off, and watch as those invoices close!

Go one step further by telling Member365 to automatically add and remove contacts when invoices open and close – and to send your reminder on a consistent schedule. Write the email once, and enjoy it forever!

Tired of having to chase hundreds of members during renewal season? Set up an automated renewal campaign to notify members automatically as they approach renewal. Offer promotional discounts for early renewal to drive open and click-through rates in advance of renewal season.

The revenue you lose offering savings is trivial compared to the time and energy you’ll save not having to chase those members! Set your reminder campaign up in advance of this years renewal season, and take a substantial chunk out of the work you’ll have to put in making renewal season a successful one!

Your System Should Work for You, Not the Other Way Around

When you have tools designed for your work, work is easy. When you don’t, work is more work than it has to be.

Whatever systems and tools you use to manage your members, they should work for you. Often, the opposite is true. Inefficient tools and less-than-optimal processes mean you’re working to accommodate your software, and that your software isn’t working to accommodate you.

No matter how good you think your software is, you should always be questioning whether it could be doing it better. The field of membership management software is always innovating. Keep your organization on the leading edge of that innovation, and enjoy all the benefits that result!