Best Practices for Membership-Based Organization Websites
The essence of membership-based organizations is what attracts members to them. That essence combines the reasons they exist, the things they do, and the ways they engage their members: The who, what, why, and when of organizational involvement. For many of today’s membership-based organizations, the “how” comes in the form of a well-designed and equally well-maintained website, complete with a full and inspiring statement of purpose and an effective set of goals that prospective members will find compelling.
Share your unique story
Obviously, every membership-based organization is different, and they range widely in purpose, non-profit status, location, and whether they typically enroll local members or look for prospects well beyond their actual headquarters location. Regardless of where your group fits along this spectrum of identity, a well-designed website based on full featured membership-based organization software can help you meet your unique goals efficiently.
To share your story, set up website pages that present the history of your group, interesting facts about your approach to what you do, and a compelling statement of your mission and vision. Depending on the profile of your organization, you may be able to use conversationally phrased anecdotes about how you got started and what makes you tick to help convince prospective members to join you. Remember that even lofty ideals make better sense when you couch them in approachable language.
Simplify administrative life
Administrative tasks are a fact of life in every membership-based organization, but no one wants those tasks to be more difficult or time consuming than they have to be. Efficiency is the goal, and to that end, a well set up website can go a long way toward helping make administrative life easier.
For example, if your website software provider makes this possible, you can upload your organization’s background documents and other foundational materials to a document repository on your website. When you make these digital files available for download on demand, you save yourself the trouble of disseminating materials one file at a time, and responding to e-mail messages that request specific documents. Depending on the type of group you administer, this step alone may save you an enormous amount of time that you otherwise must waste on paperwork.
To ensure that these files don’t fall into the wrong hands, look for membership-based website software that enables you to designate which files are accessible to the public and which are available only to specific people. You’ll want to be able to create tags that designate each specific type of status that a member can hold, and use these tags to limit the visibility of your documents.
Make your group easy to join
Nothing says “last century” faster than a group that still forces prospective members to download a form, print it out, fill it in, and mail it back, along with a check or money order for any membership fees. The right membership-based website software removes all this drudgery from your schedule, and supplies a customizable signup form that your members complete to join your group.
Want to know whether your prospective members have specific types of experience? Create a signup question and correlate the responses. Interested in how long they’ve been involved with a specific sport, cause, or other function? Build your question and ask. Customize your form even further with a combination of required and optional questions that get to the heart of member identity.
You’ll also want to ensure that your membership-based website software includes secure online payments, so if your memberships include dues, you can collect them at the time a member signs up—and automate the invoicing of recurring fees. No more payment arrangements that send your members offsite to enter transaction details—or, worse yet, that force you to collect checks through the mail.
As each new member signs up, look for an e-mail alert from your website that lets you know who has joined. Furthermore, look for a member data download feature so you can access a spreadsheet-compatible file that includes all the responses you’ve received to your membership signup form. You can use all this information to get to know your members better, respond appropriately to them, and plan how to integrate them more closely into organization affairs.
Offer value to your members
Members decide to join your group based on what you offer them, whether it’s the opportunity to support a cause or the chance to be involved in playing a sport, learning new skills, or any other form of activity, be it intellectual, artistic, spiritual, or physical. Once you sign them up, it’s your turn to offer value to them. Just as membership-based groups run the gamut from sports leagues to car clubs and cause-based groups to fan organizations, the value you present to your members will vary depending on who you are and what’s appropriate for your focus.
This is another part of membership-based organization value in which your ability to upload digital assets to your website can play a role. If part of the value offer consists of downloadable materials that you make available, now you can simplify the process of disseminating them.
If one of the ways you share knowledge is through meetings and events, look for membership-based website software that makes it easy to plan, register for, and even present these happenings online. The right software can make it easy to enter all the details of your event—including ticket prices, early bird discounts, activity-based ticketing, and more—and let members sign up directly on your website. If you charge a fee for a seminar seat or a ticket to an in-person event, set up ticket sales directly online through your event registration itself. Next, look for secure online payments so you can process any event fees as your members register.
In short, whatever the focus of your group, wherever you’re located, and regardless of whether your membership is local or national, the right website software can ease your administrative tasks at the same time that it helps unify your group, welcome new members, and assist in member retention.