5 Must-Haves for Your Membership-Based Organization Website
You’re ramping up to build a website for your membership-based organization, and you’re trying to itemize the features you can’t live without. One of the best ways to put this list together is to look at the websites of other groups that are similar to yours—and even much larger organizations—to see both what they do and how they do it. As you assemble your must-have website feature list and audition software providers, keep these five essentials in mind.
Quick member intake
Given how important members are to membership-based organizations, it’s essential that your website support your efforts to attract and enroll additional people, and do so quickly and efficiently, with the right types of customization to support your unique group.
First, look for a member enrollment form to which you can add a variety of types of custom fields to capture additional information beyond the basics of name, address, e-mail address, and telephone number. You’ll want to be able to incorporate various kinds of input fields to acquire equally specific types of information. For example, if a data input field requires a single choice between two or among several options, you need radio buttons. This control constrains user input and only allows one choice. For example, radio buttons work well for the selection of a single membership level among several.
For multiple choice scenarios that can involve making more than a single selection, you need checkbox controls. Unlike radio buttons, checkboxes enable you to activate multiple options. If you need to ask new members to select their preferred methods of contact, for instance, and you don’t want or need to limit the selection to one choice, checkboxes enable members to opt for both e-mail and phone. Of course, you also need long and short text-entry fields, date pickers, and a variety of other controls for all sorts of information possibilities.
You also need to be able sign up members quickly, without resorting to downloaded forms, offline submissions, and other slowdowns. Make sure you’ll be able to turn your member enrollment into a fully online process with all the efficiencies that digital technology can provide.
If the software provider you’re considering doesn’t offer this type of efficiency and customization flexibility, that may be a sign that you’re looking in the wrong place for website support.
Once you recruit a new member, you need to process their membership fees and any other costs of enrollment. If that’s a scenario you’re planning to handle offline, with “mail us a check or money order” as your solution, that’s not going to cut it. In fact, that’s often a point of payment-cart and enrollment abandonment for people who are accustomed to the ease and convenience of secure online payments.
One step beyond “the check’s in the mail” is the payment handoff to an offsite provider. You’re probably familiar with—and equally likely to have used—some of the most-familiar of these services, and for what they do, they can offer a reliable service. But the psychological impact of the transition from your website to a branded provider site, and the handoff back to you, can leave a less than professional impression in the eyes of your prospective membership.
But if you’ve ever researched the costs and complexity of sourcing an online payments provider yourself, you know that this is way more difficult than it looks from outside the process—and involves way more head scratching than it should.
Here’s where your website software provider can make or break the impression you present at payment—and your ability to capture every transaction. If your provider includes secure, integrated online payments in the website software package you choose, now you can offer the seamless unified payment experience that sets you apart in the same class as the “big guys” of membership services.
Professional design resources and an easy page builder system
You want your website to showcase your organization, its uniqueness, its vision, and its desirability. To do that, your website needs to be attractive, well designed, responsive on screens of all sizes, and easy to build.
The do-it-yourself approach to website design and creation makes a lot of assumptions about your knowledge, the amount of time you have to dedicate to this process, and the quality of the results you want to accomplish. Without some knowledge and experience, many of the popular content management systems and page building software offerings can be difficult to use—and the easy ones may offer limited functionality. Without the time to learn what you don’t know and apply what you do, the entire process can turn into a giant source of frustration.
Instead, look for a membership-based website software provider whose offering includes professionally designed page templates that you can customize with your content. These templates should offer the flexibility to accommodate virtually any type of design approach, to avoid a cookie-cutter look that can pop up on some builder packages.
At the same time, you want a page-building system that’s easy to use, with intuitive controls and a great deal of flexibility in what they can accomplish. Can you add graphics directly into text areas? Can you turn off elements that you don’t want to be visible? Can you add contact forms, custom photo galleries, and a variety of informational pages? The best way to find out whether an individual website software offering provides these types of features is to try out the package yourself in a demo. Of course, not all website software providers offer demos or trials, so that’s another feature to add to your must-have list.
Find the right alternative
The software you use can make the difference between an easy-to-design website that presents your message attractively and cohesively, and a jumbled mess that never seems complete. When you’re looking for website software providers, look for one that specializes in membership-based organizations like yours. At Membershine, we’re all about helping groups and non-profits put their message on the web and supporting their efforts with the right online presence.