How to choose the best membership management software

Evaluating A CRM


In a world of choices it can be difficult to choose the best membership management software for your organization. That’s because “membership” can have different meanings in various industries. And it can even have different meanings within the same industry.

While there are many CRM* solutions for membership management to choose from, each has its own set of features that makes it unique in the marketplace. When in doubt, you’ll likely want to look for a full service solution, such as Traction Rec, to make sure you have all your bases covered.

Starting with the basics: What is a CRM?

CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management. It’s a technology for managing and recording all your organization’s complex relationships and interactions with individuals, regardless of who they are or how much they interact with you. Traction Rec is the leading CRM solution in the recreational management space and is built on the Salesforce platform, the world’s #1 CRM. It is an all-encompassing program and member management software solution for everyday operations of a recreational center or association.

Membership Management Software 101: FAQs
What is membership management software?

Membership management software is the system used to store, manage, and make sense of an organization’s constituent data. While the word “membership” is used, community centers like YMCAs and JCCs include people beyond their traditional annual paying members in their operational planning. Having a full 360-degree view of constituents—with a single source of truth—is critical to the health and future of an organization’s long-term growth.


“Constituent”: a definition

A constituent is anyone who interacts with your organization. YMCAs refer to this group as a “member community.” Constituents can include annual members, donors, volunteers, program participants and registrants or anyone else engaged with your organization.


Can a single solution do everything?

Yes. And you want it to. Gone are the days of your different teams keeping track of each individual member through separate spreadsheets or systems. Your business teams may want to use different tools, but your CRM should provide a single, centralized view of a member. A CRM solution will keep your operations streamlined and efficient because you'll have all the information you need in one place.

Efficiency check. Ask yourself: How many places would you have to currently make an email address update for an individual? If the answer is two or more places, your current system is hindering you—not helping you.

In today’s automated marketplace, consumers expect a high level of service. If a member requests an email address update, they expect that change to be reflected throughout your system. But if it’s only changed in your database—and they’re still getting marketing emails—they may lose trust in your brand. Even worse, imagine this happening with a major donor's contact info. You wouldn’t want them wondering if their donation was being handled with the same inefficiencies.

And let’s address security here. With data regulations constantly changing, many jurisdictions now require you to be able to hide or completely remove a customer's data if requested. How confident are you that your current system could support that? If you’re not confident that you could fulfill this need—it’s just one of many features you should be looking for when upgrading your membership management software.

What features should my membership management software have?

In short, it should have everything to allow your organization to run smoothly. This includes any of the day-to-day tasks and bigger picture operations:

Membership and program registration

  • Capability for member self-service registration and transactions from any device (mobile accessibility isn’t a nice-to-have, but a need-to-have)
  • Smooth facility management, from member scan-in to program check-in, and authorized access for child pick-up
  • Prospect and donor tracking with onboarding journeys to strengthen your relationship with them

Office management

  • Configurable business rules, such as sophisticated discounting depending on member details
  • System automation for administrative tasks, like waitlist management
  • Robust reporting and dashboards, user-friendly so that even the aquatics director can run their own reports
  • Flexible financial management, so when you need to make exceptions to serve more members, the system supports you

Customer management

  • 360-degree view of your customer in a single database record
  • Efficient reporting based on demographic, persona or transaction history
  • Easy viewing of full member and household lifecycles (finally members and donors in one system!)
    And the list goes on…

Real world scenario: imagine this

Your CEO asks, "How many leads did we have in the last 30 days, and how many of them joined the fitness center, signed up for camp or enrolled in preschool?" What would you say?

Old you (and most people): “I’ll look into that and get you those numbers right away!” Meanwhile… sends off a flurry of emails to various departments. Takes a swig of coffee desperately hoping someone comes back with some semblance of an accurate guess.

New you: “You’ll notice on the dashboard that we had X leads in the last month. Here they are segmented by days, weeks, and activities. With most of these leads signing up on Tuesdays, I’d say our free muffin promotion is working well. Perhaps we could try donuts next month? I’ll email you this report right now.”

And boom goes the dynamite. You’ve just been promoted.

This is an example of prospect management using member management software but really, any of your processes—including program management and others—can be handled in the same way. Having a real time view of all your operations in one place will evolve your organization into a true data-driven agency.

Membership Management Software 201: Next Steps
Understand your business requirements

If you haven't looked at new software for several years, start by thinking about what’s changed in your business. Are your old processes still relevant to your new way of serving members? What’s working, and what do you need to update or change? What has changed in the last couple years that your current software can no longer support? These are some of the questions that will get you on track to finding the right solution.

Need a nudge? Check out more on creating a strategic vision for your organization for some tips. Having a list of these requirements will guide you in choosing the best membership management software for your organization.

Start a software system audit checklist

Once you know what you need to run your organization well, take a look at what you’re currently doing:

  • How many different systems have a record for an individual member at your organization?  How many applications do you have to look at to get one member's complete history and information?
  • Can your members easily access their data from any device? Manage their household information from a desktop, sign up for a fitness class through a mobile app, and request support when needed?
  • Are you seeing more constituents use self-service options to find information, or are you not seeing much activity here?
  • How well does your current software integrate with your other business apps? Is it capable of implementing extensions, integrations, and automations without the need for coding and developers?
  • Does your software have a community of users that connect regularly, can learn from peers or offer an open channel for feedback?
  • Does your provider regularly develop and update your software, adding new functionality and improving user experience? How often?
  • Where do you do your reporting? How often are you exporting to manipulate data? How easily can business users run their own reports? To what extent do users trust the data or the system? If trust is low, why?

If these questions start to overwhelm, that’s ok! This is often a very large technology initiative and you’ll want a team of experts to work alongside you. Which brings us to…

Look for a partner, not just a vendor

One of the most important things to think about is who do you want to work with? The team behind the software is just as important as the software itself. You want to be confident that every individual—from sales to development—stands behind their product with confidence in its features and functionality.

These folks should be collaborative partners in your adoption of a CRM solution, recognizing that your success is mutually beneficial. The easiest way to find out if a company aligns with your organization is to ask about their values and whether they’ve had successful partnerships with similar organizations. Still unsure? Talk to their customers.

A final consideration (for now): your technology should improve regularly and deliver more value to you in year three of your relationship than it did in year one. Look for solutions and partners that have consistent new releases (ideally multiple times per year) and dedicated innovation teams that develop and test new products.

Pro tip: interviewing potential partners

Ask them about their favorite newly-released features. Their answers will give you a sense of how innovative their solution is, and it might also inspire you to make some process updates.

You’ve Got This! (And We’ve Got You)

Once you’ve taken a deep dive into your existing technology, mapped out your business requirements, analyzed your software options, and put your trust in a collaborative partner, it’s time to commit to all the due diligence you’ve invested.

Ultimately, choosing the best membership management software is about envisioning what will make life easier for everyone at your unique organization. Change is hard but you’ve done most of the research already so we know you’ve got this. Let us know if we can help.

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