6 Essential Membership Management Tools for 2021
2020 presented a heap of challenges for membership organizations. Association leaders had to adjust to remote operations and figure out how to keep members engaged without the benefit of in-person interactions.
But we’ve made it to 2021, and it’s a brand new start! This year represents a unique opportunity for associations, chambers of commerce and other membership organizations to take a refreshed approach to membership management. Organizations can combine the lessons learned in the past year with the latest technology that’s revolutionizing the way they connect with members and grow their community.
As a membership organization leader yourself, it’s important to stay in the know of current trends and membership management best practices. That starts with equipping your organization with the latest technologies. Ensure your organization has access to the following tools this year:
- Online member community platform
- Membership database
- Learning management software
- Virtual event software
- Website/content management system
- Marketing platforms
1. Online Member Community Platform
One of the most common reasons people join membership organizations is the networking opportunities they provide. Members can meet other professionals in their field and even use these connections to gain access to new career opportunities.
However, last year, any in-person networking events you planned were likely postponed or canceled altogether. Members could no longer attend post-work “happy hour” events or weekend luncheons and abide by COVID-19 social distancing recommendations.
That’s why facilitating an online membership community for your members to mingle virtually is critical. Virtual communities offer increased convenience and accessibility while allowing members to network from a distance. While in-person events will start making a comeback, virtual interactions are part of the new normal for membership organizations.
Your online membership community is where members can get to know one another and share ideas. Be sure your online community platform includes:
- Discussion forums so members can get to know each other virtually and share relevant resources, such as blog posts or videos, related to your organization’s field.
- Curated interest groups so members with similar interests can access a curated space to share information and chat.
- Gamification to recognize your most active members with digital badges or prizes.
- A resource gallery to make educational content available to members at any time.
These networking and discussion opportunities are highly valuable for your members because they can deepen their knowledge in specific areas while growing their personal and professional connections. To provide these benefits for members, be sure to investigate your options for an online member community platform that offers all features in one system.
2. Membership Database
In 2021, having access to a powerful constituent relationship management system to track member data is not optional. If your organization has seen recent growth and needs a way to manage member data more efficiently, it’s time to investigate your options for data management tools that can handle the following tasks:
- Tracking and updating member information, including employment information, membership history, special interests and other details based on your organization’s needs.
- Automating dues renewals to boost membership and save your staff time.
- Generating revenue through managing non-dues sources, such as sponsorships or event ticketing.
- Creating reports to analyze membership trends and gather insights to improve your member retention strategy.
It’s important to not only store relevant member data, but also continuously refresh and update this information to have an accurate picture of your membership base. AccuData calls this data hygiene — the process of auditing and streamlining your data to increase efficiency and improve outreach efforts.
Search for a membership tool that can simplify the data management process with all these features. Then, you can configure your member database to align with your organization’s goals, whether it’s growing non-dues revenue, expanding your marketing efforts, improving relationships with current members or all of the above.
3. Learning Management Software
Along with networking opportunities, people join membership organizations for educational benefits. Associations are well-known for offering continuing education opportunities that equip members with the certifications or training they need to be more successful in their field.
That’s why another important solution to add to your organization’s toolbox is a comprehensive learning management software system. A quality LMS can handle all of the educational materials and learning experiences that your members need to further their education. Look for a system with these features:
- A content library to store all digital learning materials, such as courses or downloadable resources, in a centralized repository.
- Performance tracking to gauge members’ learning progress and adjust your strategy to better serve your constituents.
- Integration capabilities that help streamline your learning processes by combining the information in your association management system with your LMS materials.
If your members frequently turn to your organization for resources or training, an LMS is an effective tool to keep all learning content organized and available to members at any time. Plus, you can boost revenue by offering different access levels and charging fees to access certain materials or resources. This can be a great way to supplement any funding hits you may have taken during the pandemic.
4. Virtual Event Software
Your organization likely got very familiar with operating virtually over the past year, and you may have even hosted a few successful online events.
While it’s true that the vaccine rollout means that we’ll see a return to many in-person activities, many organizations are also investigating options for improving their virtual events or creating hybrid experiences.
If you’ve previously held your events on a simple live streaming platform, virtual event software might be the tool you need to take these experiences to the next level. This type of software enables associations to:
- Simplify the registration and scheduling process for event attendees with automated registration and integrations with livestreaming platforms.
- Save money and time by avoiding venue-related costs and the time commitment needed to set up an in-person event.
- Boost revenue with a virtual exhibit hall that features sponsors and increases their visibility.
With virtual event software, you can easily host fully virtual or hybrid conferences, speaker series, webinars and networking events. Since virtual operations are here to stay, investing in a dedicated online event tool should be on your priority list in 2021. You’ll be able to give your members a better experience, encouraging them to maintain their membership with your organization.
5. Website/Content Management System
Expanding your organization’s reach this year to bring new members on board starts with revamping your website. Your website is one of your most valuable marketing assets because it provides prospective and current members with the tools they need to engage with your organization and access the valuable materials you provide.
Therefore, it’s critical to search for a comprehensive CMS to manage your membership website updates. You’ll want to search for a CMS that will allow you to implement these features:
- Intuitive navigation that prioritizes user experience so visitors know exactly where to go to get the information they need.
- Accurate and continuously updated information so you can ensure all forms are functioning properly and you can quickly eliminate any outdated information or broken links.
- Mobile-friendly design so your content is accessible to anyone, no matter the device they use.
- Clear, compelling calls to action to let visitors know what you want them to do, whether it’s signing up for an email newsletter or event or registering for upcoming courses.
You need a tool that enables you to quickly implement these changes to design a site that’s effective at converting casual visitors to long-term members of your organization. A powerful content management system can handle these aspects without forcing your organization to enlist the help of an IT specialist or web developer.
6. Marketing Platforms
Lastly, you’ll need a strategy to get the word out about everything your organization has to offer. Effective marketing is essential in 2021 because whenever people access the internet or social media, they’re immediately met with a barrage of advertisements and messages from all types of businesses and organizations. Your organization needs to stand out above the clutter with a strong message that inspires prospective members to get involved.
So, make member engagement a priority this year with marketing tools that expand your reach. For instance, consider acquiring the following tools:
- Social media: If you haven’t yet created social media pages for your organization on Facebook, Instagram and/or, Twitter, this is the year to get involved! Organic social media posting is an effective way to grow your audience for free. Or, you can investigate your options for paid social media ads to specifically target audience members and deliver your message right into their social feeds.
- Email marketing platform: According to this statistics page, email has the highest ROI of any marketing channel. It’s a very cost-effective platform since most email marketing providers allow you to start on a free plan. Plus, people typically check their email every day, and if they’re already interested in your organization enough to subscribe, they’ll likely continue engaging with your email content. Email platforms like HubSpot and MailChimp are popular with all kinds of organizations, but many membership management platforms will also include them as part of their toolkit.
You don’t have to be a digital media expert to get started with these marketing platforms since they’re all quite user-friendly. Start browsing through other organizations’ social media pages or sign up for a few newsletters to get a better idea of how to get started with your own marketing campaign this year.
Overall, these membership management tools can help set your organization up for success coming out of the pandemic this year.
If this list seems overwhelming to you, don’t panic — there are plenty of association management software solutions available that combine all these functions into one system. With these systems, you can bring all your membership engagement activities together and seamlessly integrate each solution for a stronger overall strategy.
If you’re ready to overhaul your association management system to find a solution that offers these essential tools, be sure to thoroughly review each option and determine which one offers the highest level of functionality at the best price. Good luck!
Tatiana Morand is the SMB website & SEO manager for MemberClicks, a suite of connected membership solutions for associations and chambers of commerce. When she’s not creating content to help organizations with their engagement and growth, you can find her exploring Toronto’s best cafes or working on her fantasy novel.