The Membership Management Software Showdown: Who Will Win?

Sep 05, 2017

Membership management ain’t no slice.

It’s time consuming, for one. And far more complicated than it needs to be. Thankfully, the days of spreadsheets and paper filing are (mostly) behind us, which means—at least technically—membership management should be a breeze, right?

Unfortunately, when it comes to finding the right Software-as-a-Service (Saas) membership management system, it can get a little complicated. And confusing.

Simply finding the best system isn’t enough. You need to find the best system for you. A tool that will help you address your association’s unique objectives and provide all of your members—from tech-savvy millennials to professionally established boomers—with value.

So, you’re probably wondering: Well, what is the best system for me?

This is a condensed version of our showdown. For the full results, click here.

See Full Results

At Arke, we get this all the time. Seriously. Unfortunately there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer. When you’re considering which platform to use, here are some essential things to remember.

  1. Does it reduce the time and effort it will take your volunteers and stakeholders to complete operational tasks?
  2. Will it be easy for your members to use?
  3. What additional tools does it provide that will add value to your membership?
  4. Will it increase and clarify inter- and intra-organizational communications?
  5. Is it scalable and affordable?

There are several other considerations to mull over, but these are among the most important we’ve noticed from the associations we work with. Yes, they’re general—but they’re a pretty good place to start.

The Anatomy of Association Membership Systems

Before we press any further, let’s break down what all of these tools have in common. When it comes to functionality, there are a few similarities that are worth exploring. At the very least, if none of the systems here strike your fancy, you’ll know exactly what you should expect from these products.

All systems, no matter which ones you’re looking at, can be broken down into four functionalities: website, people, communication, and money.

Website, simply put, refers to your content management system (CMS), the tool you’ll use to create and manage your association’s digital content. Think: WordPress, just as an example. Pretty much all association management systems (AMSs) have a module devoted exclusively to modifying and adding content to your site.

AMSs offer a certain degree of customization for your web-based assets. ClubExpress, for example, lets you customize everything—from your general web template down to the size and color of the copy you’ll be using. StarChapter, too. NationBuilder gets some flak because it doesn’t offer the same customization options, but that’s not exactly true. With a NationBuilder-certified agency, you can make a one-of-a-kind website, and it’s easy.

All of these services provide web hosting, and they’re mobile friendly. Having a responsive website is absolutely necessary nowadays. Increasingly, your members will be visiting you from their phones so it’s important that you provide them with a fantastic user experience.

People refers to the databases your AMS will give you access to. They’ll include one devoted to your members and another to non-members. Each person’s profile will contain some information about them: their payment and volunteer history, contact details, etc. But not all databases are built equally and some AMSs, take NationBuilder for example, offer extremely granular data.

Your communication tab, or module, depending on the lingo an AMS uses, is your email blasting tool. In every case, this tool will integrate with your people. With it, you can shoot off emails to members and non-members, whether you’re reminding them about dues payments, important events, or simply disseminating a newsletter.

Last, but certainly not least, money. Not all AMSs have a tab devoted exclusively to your money concerns, but they do let you collect funds: dues, event fees, donations, and so on.

Head to Head


Want our in-depth guide to the four big association membership systems? Click here and we’ll send it to you!

Be sure, no matter what option you choose, that it fits your organizational needs to a tee. Thankfully, all of these SaaS tools offer free trial periods and have exceptional customer support. If you’re unsure which to pick but keen to experiment, give them all a try or ask for a free demo.

If you’re not sure where to start, you’re also welcome to give us a shout. Seriously, we’d be happy to help. We’re only one of about 10 NationBuilder-certified agencies in the world, which means: if you think NationBuilder’s your jam, let us know.

We have developers on hand who can customize your website as much (or little) as you’d like, copywriters just itching to write you emails that’ll drive conversions, and community managers whose passion for social media can only be matched by their curiosity to learn more about what makes your members tick.

Anything to add? Feel free to comment. We enjoy lively debate.

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