Also see: Membership software systems.
Membership Software Intro - Contents
Be aware that often the suppliers are also the authors of the software, and are reliant on a remarkably small number of employees or consultants to come up with the goods. They may have good intent, but you need to be sure they can deliver on your requirements. Will they be around for a few years yet? Ask to see the software doing what is essential to you, with some serious data loaded; get a reference and follow it up; don’t rely on promises but get it in writing with timescales and compensation for any failures which are down to them. Will they update key facilities quickly when regulations change (e.g. charity tax reclaims)?
Do they have a User Group – how independent is it, and can you speak to somebody from it? Is the company really only familiar/interested in a particular type of membership organisation eg trade associations? Some may only have a peripheral interest in the membership side – they may have only one (or even no) client using it for the software for this purpose. Don’t be impressed by how many systems have been installed, but try to discover how many are actually in use, and fully implemented. Above all, be clear from the start what you are looking for – what is crucial and what is wishlist, and don’t overlook the former due to fantastic but marginally useful extra facilities.
There is a multiplicity of offerings out there, and it is not always easy to tell why some cost a lot more than others to implement. Overall cost of implementation and ongoing support is very important to assess in advance – there can be a load of ‘extras’ which end up being essential to get the results you want. There is also always something that ends up being impossible to do, or requires major changes to the way you work. Consider whether you would be better using your limited time elsewhere, and buying in membership management. Things are getting better slowly, as software houses get to grips with how organisations operate in practice.
Customer Relationship Management software (CRM) developed for commercial business is improving and getting cheaper. If your requirements are straightforward, these may be worth a look.
Address/data capture and entry
This needs a fresh trawl of what is available – but should be easy for you to find too!