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4 Key things to consider while choosing a CRM system for Membership Organisations

Claude SaulnierA blog post by Claude Saulnier - Wandsoft CEO

3rd July 2014.

In this post I am commenting on the challenges and questions to ask when trying to choose a CRM system for a Membership Organisation.

What are membership organisations?

There are a number of organisations that qualify as Membership Organisations such as:

  • Professional associations
  • Trade associations
  • Voluntary associations
  • Political parties
  • Lobby groups
  • Clubs
  • Members-only websites
  • Charities (to a certain extent)

All have in common a "raison d'ĂȘtre" (a common purpose) and have to deal with the issue of subscriptions.

Challenges of Subscriptions

All membership organisations are challenged to ensure they serve their communities. Membership organisations need to ensure that their broad "Customer Relationship Management" deals with prospect, existing and past members.

Existing members

Ensuring members' retention is not just processing the renewal fees.

Interaction
The membership organisation needs to add value to the membership.
Interaction can come through Members' Only web portals, that would open the gate to Industry specific documents, Accounts' and activity history, so members can appreciate all they are getting for their money.
It is important for the Membership Organisation to measure and gauge the level of interaction.

Contact

Communication
By segmenting the interests of the Members, their subscription information, or their attendance to events, newsletters will have a greater impact on a targeted audience.

Do not underestimate the look &feel. A clean newsletter or a clean invoice will have a positive impact on your organisation.

Events
Let your members know you have an event. Prepare a campaign to ensure the target audience is made aware of the event. Send a newsletter, and offer the ability for the members to book on-line. Staff will also be more motivated as the focus won't be on constantly updating a spreadsheet. Offer the ability for members to reschedule instead of refunding them

Renewals
It must be easy for the membership organisation to know who is up for renewal. Staff should be able -at a glance- to review the activity of the member, so they can gauge the potential renewal rate.

In addition, your Members-Only portal can help and ease the renewal process. Credit card processing companies such as Realex Payments allow the secure storage of credit cards, which in return helps the renewal process significantly.

Potential members

Communication
It starts by ensuring your public website is up to date, and that it is easy to engage with your organisation. Your visitors need to understand what you are offering. The site needs to be built properly so it is visible to search engines and accessible to differently abled visitors.

Automation
Any enquiry should automatically be registered in your Organisation's database, so the sales person can save time and focus on their job (review the request, the history, and set reminders).

Once again, joining on-line will reduce the amount of work that needs to be processed in the office. Working with a company such as Realex Payments for credit card payments, once again, would allow your organisation to store the card on first registration.

Previous Members

Often forgotten after they have left, Membership Organisations lack trying to re-engage. There are cases where it is worthless, but often, simple communication could be a way to re-engage and maybe get the members back. It could be through Newsletters or Events.

On the other hand, if the former member does not want to be contacted ever again, an integrated system will mean that "unsubscribe" or "archive" is done once and for all (newsletter, website access, etc).

Administrative tasks

Staffing is often an issue in our context. I mean that the organisation may not have much staff available to fulfil the operational duties.

Membership organisations have to deal with the issues of monitoring finances, budget and reporting.

Forecast

Bank reconciliation is proven to be time consuming, and when the system eases the process, then the Membership Organisation will benefit.

Key indicators will give management a clear help to run the organisation.

The communication aspect must not be neglected, and a simple invoice or statement that looks good and is consistent with the organisation spirit will help.

Conclusion

If I had to choose, I would go for a system that

  • helps my organisation;
  • is simple to learn (otherwise your organisation will not use it);
  • provides the required data in real-time to staff at all levels (less effort);
  • reuses data (integrated system that does not rely on interfaces to share/exchange data: less work);
  • affordable (so the costs are justified);
  • is fully integrated with my website (less work);
  • works on any computer (Windows, Mac, tablets), and that I can access anywhere. This means it is future proof.

CRM is not just an address book! CRM is not just monitoring the sales pipeline. CRM is a global approach. CRM is relatively simple to implement, as long as you address the issues properly, and you phase the implementation.

The majority of CRM software (funnily enough, I can think of 3 that start with the letter S, and one by D) cannot deal with the issue in one integrated package. This means that if choose any of them, it is likely that you will not get a global approach, nor a central place to manage the membership organisation without bespoke development and the cost associated.

The Wandsoft CRM platform allows solving the issues raised in this post in an integrated, off-the-shelf package, that can be configured with your own organisations' subtlety. We have a proven track record dealing with Membership Organisations in most of the categories highlighted in this article.

Feel free to call us on +353 1 905 9010 to arrange a FREE consultation to discuss your Membership Organisation's challenges and see if Wandsoft can help you Simplifying Membership Management.

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