April 26, 2017

5 Membership Software Features You Absolutely Need

For associations and nonprofit organizations with membership programs in place, membership management software is crucial for streamlining member-related tasks and staying on top of constituent data.

If you’re not familiar with membership software, think of it as the one-stop shop for managing all aspects of the membership experience. Membership management software comes equipped with a host of valuable tools, but there are some standout features that are absolutely essential for managing members and maximizing engagement.

In this article, we’ll look at 5 software features that can take your membership program to the next level:

  1. Comprehensive member profiles.
  2. Community-focused constituent portal.
  3. Custom membership forms.
  4. Flexible membership fee management.
  5. Communication automation.

When you’ve got the right tools on hand, you can create a membership program that’s fulfilling and exciting for members (for years and years to come).

1. Comprehensive Member Profiles

The main function of any membership management software should be to provide your organization with the necessary tools to organize and track member information. How does your software do that? Primarily by setting you up with in-depth member profiles.

When all your members’ data is visible in one place, you’ll easily be able to reference any information you need at any given moment. Depending on your software’s capabilities and the data you have available, you might keep any of the following information on file:

  • Biographical data
  • Contact information
  • Preferred communications methods
  • Relationships and households
  • Professional affiliations
  • Participation history
  • Dues payments and donation records

With powerful software, you should also be able to add custom fields, tasks, and notes to keep your staff on track and organized with every action they perform.

Why is it essential?

Without a way to compile and manage member information, it would be incredibly hard to effectively reach or engage with your members. After all, it’s your job to create a membership program that’s valuable to members and addresses their needs.

When you have a clear picture of who your members are, you’ll be in a better position to plan and manage engagements that will appeal to them. Member profiles can give you access to valuable intel about your members, from the most basic data (e.g., their preferred name) to highly specific information, such as event attendance records, giving affinity, and engagement interests.

Think of it this way: If you don’t know who your members are, how can you design a membership program that meets their needs and expectations? (Hint: you probably can’t!)

2. Community-Based Constituent Portal

While it might seem like membership management software is all about making the membership experience more manageable for the organization, I’d be remiss if I left out the other most important piece of the membership program puzzle: the members, of course!

Your membership management software should set you up with an easy-to-use member login portal right on your website, where your members can access exclusive content and stay connected to your organization.

Not only should your member portal allow your members to self-manage many membership tasks (like updating their profiles, signing up for volunteer opportunities, or registering for events), but it should also serve as a gateway for online community-building within your organization. For example, consider including your member directory or hosting discussions in an exclusive forum. You could also provide organizational updates, educational content, and relevant news articles so that your members are always up to date with what’s going on in your community.

Why is it essential?

Members are the backbone of your membership program, so they should be at the forefront of your membership management software.

When you set up an intuitive, user-friendly member portal, you’ll be able to connect your members to your organization and one another. Not only that, but you’ll be able to more conveniently give them access to the many benefits of your membership program, including an extensive supporter network and exclusive content.

Think of it this way: Thanks to membership management software’s member portal features, your members will be able access the value of your membership program in just a few clicks.

3. Custom Membership Forms

The first interaction your members have with your membership program is, in many cases, completing a membership application. And since this is the digital age, there’s a strong chance that your membership application will be located online, on your organization’s website.

In order to create membership application forms (as well as virtually any other kind of membership-related webform), you can take advantage of your membership management software’s form-building capabilities.

You can use the forms your software generates for anything you might need—renewal forms, volunteer sign-ups, and event registration, just to start. And you can also customize them by adding unlimited fields and branding the forms to match your organization.

Why is it essential?

Sure, you might be able to find an alternative option for creating custom webforms, but there’s a clear benefit to working with membership software that has form-building capabilities.

Since these forms are already connected to your membership software, all information you collect will flow directly into your member database. That means you won’t have to worry about manually entering any data or making sure that the right information ends up in the correct member profile.

If your membership program offers a plethora of engagement opportunities outside of initial subscription and renewal, you’ll probably be relying on online forms quite a bit to collect information from members. You don’t want to let that data slip away.

Think of it this way: One of the primary functions of membership forms is to collect member data. By using webforms that are generated by your membership software, you’ll be able to automatically file that information in your database for future use.

4. Flexible Membership Fee Management

The distinguishing factor of membership programs is that they require recurring donations in the form of membership fees or dues. In order to stay on top of these payments, you’ll need the help of membership management software.

While many of the features discussed here make managing membership easier, being able to process and manage dues payments is a software feature that actually makes your membership program possibleAs such, all membership software will come with some level of payment processing and fee management features. Your software can enable you to process online transactions, manually enter offline payments, and track members’ payment statuses to ensure they’re paid in full.

Why is it essential?

Since membership fees are a building block of membership programs, you can’t expect to effectively manage your membership program without a way to process and track these payments. That said, the best membership management platforms will also empower you to customize the membership experience as it relates to member fees.

For example, your software should make it possible to:

  • Create different fees per membership type.
  • Offer discounts and complimentary memberships.
  • Accept additional donations or merchandise payments.
  • Set up an auto-renew option to process dues on a recurring basis.

It’s important that your membership program reflects your organization and your members at every level. To that end, you should be able to adjust your fees according to your needs (as well as your members’).

Think of it this way: With plenty of fee management options, your membership software should make it easy to customize dues as you see fit. By being flexible, you’ll make it easy for members to stay involved as long as they want.

5. Communication Automation

In order to engage and retain your members long-term, you’ll need to stay connected with them.

However, if your program encompasses a large number of members or includes a fundraising or volunteer component as well, it can be difficult to stay on top of all your communication efforts.

That’s where your membership management software comes in. Your software should come equipped with various marketing and communications tools that enable you to launch mass email campaigns, target specific subsets of members, and perhaps most importantly, set up automated and triggered email content.

Your software can enable you to schedule any of your member communications to send automatically. Keeping up with your communications has never been easier!

Why is it essential?

Let’s face it: if you had to individually send every thank-you note, renewal reminder, event invitation, and every other kind of email communication, your staff would be up to their eyes in correspondence.

Without software that can manage these tasks for you, it would be pretty impossible to stay on top of all the messages your membership program needs to get out. When these efforts are managed within your membership software, you’re not only able to alleviate a lot of the manual involvement, but you’re also able to better track your communication and engagement efforts down the line.

Your communication history should be visible within your member database, so you can keep an eye on how your members are engaging with the content you’ve sent their way. Email open and click-through rates, renewal status, and social media engagement (among other metrics) can all be viewed within your software.

Think of it this way: Communication is a huge aspect of member engagement. Without software that can help you automate your communication-related tasks and track member responsiveness, you won’t be able to effectively manage these efforts in a sustainable way.


Your membership management software can be a game-changer for your membership program—if you know how to make the most of its amazing feature set, that is. With the right tools on your side, your membership program will be unstoppable.

Jeff Gordy
Jeff Gordy is the President & CEO of Z2 Systems, Inc. Z2 Systems created NEON CRM in 2004 to provide fundraising & membership based organizations with all the tools they need to grow and succeed in the ever changing technology landscape. We have added hundreds of updates each year to create a powerful solution that is on the leading edge of technology. Jeff is a graduate of the University of Illinois and has over 10 years of experience working with non-profit & membership based organizations.
Interest Categories: Data, Operations
Tags: CMS, members, membership