Run Your Org Like Clockwork: Nonprofit Membership Platforms

Kerry McCreadie

July 27, 2022

About the Author

Kerry McCreadie

What matters most to membership organizations? As the Senior Content Marketing Manager for Personify’s Wild Apricot and MemberClicks products, this is the question always on Kerry’s mind. Their goal is to help nonprofits, associations, and clubs discover the solutions that solve their most frustrating pain points—while growing and retaining their member base. The CEO and Founder of their own nonprofit organization, Kerry is passionate about nonprofit and charitable work—especially in the arts.

Membership programs are a superb way to build community, enrich your members, and provide a steady platform for growth in your field. But running these programs can be logistically complicated, and you can easily sink hours into (seemingly endless) administration.

To build a great organization, you’ll need to focus on the key elements of successful membership programs. These include having a clearly defined purpose, creating a marketing plan, and—yes, you guessed it—using the right nonprofit membership platform and tools.

The right membership platform and tools will ensure your membership program:

  • Can scale without overburdening you with admin work
  • Provides members what they need, when they need it
  • Communicates consistently and easily with members
  • Easily manages payments and renewals

Read on to learn:

What is a nonprofit membership platform?

A nonprofit membership platform is also known as membership management software or association management software. It is an all-in-one platform that provides all the features you need to effectively manage your membership functions from one central place online. 

These functions include:

  • Collecting membership dues
  • Running your website
  • Planning and executing events
  • Communicating with existing members
  • Collecting, storing, and updating member information
  • Reporting
  • Processing payments
  • Managing subscriptions

Sometimes they can also let you accept and manage donations—and run monthly giving programs.

What are the benefits of a nonprofit membership platform?

Running a membership program is a big task. You have to track payments, run reports, send event reminders, update member information, and much more. 

A membership platform helps by:

  • Acting as an internal tool to keep all your tasks organized. It also allows you to complete these tasks more efficiently through automation. Better organization and efficiency save you time, which is especially useful if you have limited resources.
  • Acting as a member-facing platform to build engagement among different member types. For instance, you can use it to better communicate with existing members and let members connect with each other via a member directory.

How do you choose your membership platform?

Many different membership platforms are available for different types of organizations and membership programs of all sizes. When looking for the right software, consider what you need and see how it stacks up against what different platforms provide. 

Considerations include:

  • How many members you have
  • The number of events you run per year
  • What services you plan to provide members
  • Features you specifically need

What key features should you look for in a nonprofit membership platform?

The features important to your nonprofit will be very different from those important to another organization. That being said, there are a few key features you may want to consider:

  • A simplified membership application process that lets members apply through a customizable application form that’s web-based and mobile-friendly.
  • Automated membership renewals to automatically remind members when membership fees are due.
  • A central member database to track and store all member information, so you can tailor communications and better engage with members.
  • A membership directory so members can connect with others through a searchable directory.
  • Members-only website pages that house exclusive content.
  • A membership website builder that provides drag-and-drop functionality to create a site from scratch and the option to embed widgets onto an existing site.
  • Integration options such as the ability to integrate with your CRM to store and track important member information.

What other nonprofit membership tools do you need? 

In addition to your membership platform, you’ll likely need other tools to promote and run your program, engage members, and more. 

Below is a comprehensive list of these tools. Just keep in mind that you may already have some of these tools in your tech stack, or they may be covered by features your membership software of choice already provides.

Additional nonprofit membership tools

  1. Email and text tools to communicate with members and automate certain communications. Use email and text to inform members of your membership program and its benefits, and engage members during membership drives to get their support. Email marketing tools include MailChimp, Constant Contact, ConvertKit, and AWeber. (That said, a great membership software solution should already include an email tool.)
  1. Design tools to help you create beautiful graphics for social media, direct mailers, and other marketing materials. Simple drag-and-drop tools like Canva or Venngage can be helpful if you don’t have an in-house designer or formal design background.
  1. Forums, online communities, or Facebook groups, to encourage community. These are great places to ask questions, share ideas, and help other members.
  1. Event planning tools or virtual event software to promote, organize, and host your next virtual, in-person, or hybrid event
  1. Social media management tools to promote your program online and reach new audiences. Consider using tools like Buffer, Hootsuite, and Sprout Social to manage the day-to-day, automate basic social media tasks and, ultimately, save you time.
  1. Customer relationship management (CRM) software to track how members engage with your nonprofit. Most membership software doesn’t have its own CRM, so it’s crucial to look for software with integration options.

How do you connect your entire tech stack?

With your main platform and tools in place, you’ll need a plan to connect all this tech together, so it works seamlessly as part of your overall membership management strategy.

After all, membership programs can be excellent investments in your nonprofit’s growth, but only if you can run them in a way that’s efficient for staff and engaging for members.

Start by integrating your systems whenever possible. This will be invaluable in streamlining tasks and gives you more visibility across operations. As you saw, integrating a CRM with membership software can help you understand member engagement and store member information.

Next, clearly document how and when to use each tool and educate your team who’ll be managing the program, so they understand how to use them.

Finally, don’t be afraid to seek professional help or support from your vendors whenever necessary. 

Use tech to run your membership program like clockwork

Membership programs can help you grow revenue and build stronger connections with members, but running them can be challenging. 

Fortunately, the right nonprofit membership platform helps you organize tasks and build engagement with members. Additional membership tools, in turn, will cover the other features your platform may not provide.

Once your tech is in place, connect it all together as part of your overall membership strategy so that you’re running your program as efficiently as possible.