Make sure you choose a membership management system with all the features you absolutely need!

7 Essentials for Your Membership Management System

As your association grows, your requirements for your membership software grow, too — so much so that you’ve outgrown your current membership management solution!

So after congratulating yourselves on another successful year, it’s time to buckle down and find your next membership management system.

In this post, we’ll walk through the top seven essential features you should look for when purchasing membership software:

  1. Robust member profiles
  2. Automatic member renewals
  3. Events management
  4. Payment processing
  5. Analytics and reporting
  6. Online self-service member portals.
  7. Full database customization.

Before we get started: it’s important to remember that the perfect membership management system looks different for every association out there. Features your association couldn’t do without wouldn’t even cross the minds of another association’s executive team.

Learn more about membership management software with our free checklist.

More important than any of these features alone is the flexibility of your membership management system platform. If you choose a membership software solution that affords your team access to excellent support and training, a marketplace of supplementary apps and plugins, and drag-and-drop, coding-free customization, then you’ll be able to take advantage of the features your association needs without overspending on a completely custom-built platform.

Once you’re familiar with the kinds of features to look for, make sure to conduct a comprehensive membership software comparison to start narrowing down your choice. Let’s jump in:

Comprehensive member profiles are essential to any membership management service.

#1 Essential for Your Membership Management System: Robust Member Profiles

No matter what kind of membership program you operate, you wouldn’t be looking for a membership management system if you didn’t need comprehensive member profiles.

While all membership software should store basic information such as contact details, more sophisticated solutions will automatically populate more specific information from other features you integrate into your membership CRM:

  • Event attendance: When your members attend an event, your membership CRM should record the type of ticket they bought as well as any add-ons they opted into.
  • Connections: Your membership CRM should reflect relationships between members, like membership in the same chapter or employment at the same workplace.
  • Membership level: Your membership CRM should apply badges, special permissions, or discounts for online purchases to profiles at different membership levels.

The best membership software will also allow members to modify their own profiles. Encouraging members to keep their profiles up to date doesn’t just ensure that your data is current — it also fosters engagement in the greater member community. Users will explore a member directory if it’s robust, and they’ll want other members to see accurate information on their own profile.

Check out what member profiles look like on Fonteva’s membership management system, built natively in Salesforce:

The best membership management services automatically update member profiles with new information.

You’ve found the right system for your association if…

It gives your team the ability to learn and analyze all the essential information that you need to know about your members.

Find membership software that automatically sends renewal reminders.

#2 Essential Feature: Automatic Member Renewals

Retention is a constant topic of conversation for associations. Membership software that can automate the renewal process will drastically increase your members’ chances of renewing.

Look for membership software that can identify individuals whose membership is up for renewal, then send them automated renewal reminders. These reminders should be:

  • Timely, giving your members plenty of time to pay their dues before their membership expires.
  • Recurring, often enough to keep renewal on your members’ minds without annoying them.
  • Personalized, with your members’ name and a link directly to a renewal form.

Membership software should also be able to send automatic welcome messages to new members and expiration notices for members who don’t renew in time.

Having membership software that can send lapsed members an expiration notice or renewal letter can help increase your membership retention rates.

Think about it: a lapsed member that is sent a reminder email with information on the benefits of the program and the impact it has on the organization is more likely to have a reason to stay a member. Whereas, members that don’t receive any reminder will forget about your membership program (or at the very least, take longer to rejoin).

If you want to know more ways to make your membership renewal letters more alluring, check out this guide full of tips and examples.

Your membership management system should help your team keep track of your renewal cycle.

Your membership management system is right for your association if…

It supports your association’s member retention strategy through automatic renewal tools.

Manage events with your membership management software.

#3 Essential Membership Management System Feature: Events Management

You might not think that events management is essential for a membership CRM, but think again! The benefits of integrating your member database and your event planning software are practically endless:

  • Eliminate manual data transfer from a third-party platform, saving time and accuracy.
  • Avoid implementation and transaction costs from a second software solution.
  • Upsell memberships at registration, then apply member benefits to the same purchase.
  • Empower local chapters to plan their own events.

And those are just the benefits to your planning team. Think about how helpful an integrated events feature is for your members.

Members get automatic discounts, priority registration, and special permissions when they register, and their attendance records are automatically stored in their member profiles. They can check the member directory for others who registered for the same events both before and after.

Not all association management software solutions offer these features! Make sure you research alternatives to popular solutions before committing.

With Fonteva, your association can manage ticketing, speakers, sponsors, and basic event information all within your membership CRM:

Membership-based organizations hosting events should integrate event management features into their membership CRM.

You’ve found the right system for your association if…

It empowers your association to build connections with your members and increase member engagement through event planning and management capabilities.

Make it easy for members to process dues with your membership management service.

#4 Essential Feature: Payment Processing

It takes time and a good bit of research to find a payment processing solution that works for your association. The most popular choice isn’t always the best for you!

So once you find the best payment processor for your association, you need to ensure that your membership CRM will integrate seamlessly with it, tracking and managing:

  • Membership purchases.
  • Member dues, including recurring payments.
  • Registration and ticket purchases.
  • Refunds and deferred invoices.
  • Prices for online purchases.

Your membership software solution should be able to produce reports based on this data, providing your administrative team with a birds-eye view of your accounting.

Integrating payment processing with Fonteva also provides a seamless experience for your members. When shopping from your online store, they get automatic discounts and other benefits without a special code just by shopping with their member profile:

Make sure your membership management service supports your chosen payment processor.

Your membership management system is right for your association if…

Your new software solution helps your association increase its non-dues revenue through easy payment processing.

Learn more about membership management software with our free checklist.

Stay on track with your membership program using your membership database software.

#5 Essential Feature for Membership Management Systems: Analytics and Reporting

Speaking of reports, there’s nothing more valuable to an association’s long-term goal than comprehensive analytics. There’s no way to know how to move forward if you don’t know what’s worked well — and what hasn’t worked so well — in the past.

The best membership CRM will make it easy to create custom reports for different departments, special committees, and projects with:

  • Reporting on standard as well as custom fields.
  • Simple customization interfaces, no coding required.
  • Easy export to common file types.

When every member of the team can customize their own reports while drawing from the same central, always up-to-date database, every aspect of your strategy will benefit. Keeping track of everything from fundraising metrics to non-dues revenue and more can only help your organization grow. Plus, you don’t have to learn how to use a complicated reporting software. Just stick to the interface you already use with other Fonteva modules:

Custom dashboards and reports make it easy for every member of your team to pull the data relevant to their own projects.

You’ve found the right solution for your association if…

You can create custom dashboards to get the most effective bird’s-eye view of your data, and empower each department to create dashboards that suit their own needs.

Online self-service member portals are an essential membership management system feature.

#6 Essential Feature: Online Self-Service Member Portals

When you choose a membership management system, you know that the focus of the software solution has to be on your members. That’s why one of the most crucial features of your membership management solution is the option to offer online self-service member portals. 

Beyond the member profiles that we mentioned before, you need to be able to empower your members to really own their engagement with different options such as:

  • Full control over their membership tiers and status.
  • Easy online event registration and check-in.
  • Online networking and communication strategies.
  • Continuing education, certification, and accreditation options.

Members will want to continue or expand their engagement with your association when you offer them a smart membership CRM that improve their interactions with your organization and help them further their careers. Check out this example of a self-service member portal, powered by Fonteva:

Empower your members to engage with your organization through membership management systems.

Your membership management system is right for your association if…

Your members feel confident in their abilities to manage their memberships, as well as take advantage of all the benefits that your association can offer.

The ability to customize your database is an essential membership management system feature.

#7 Essential Membership Management System Feature: Database Customization

You know that to use your database to the best of your abilities, it has to be able to work for your organization. Your members rely on your association’s ability to meet their needs, so you need a software solution that fits yours!

When looking for a membership software, make sure you choose one that allows you to customize your database. Depending on your association, this comes in the form of:

  • Customizable member fields, so you get all of the information that you need and none that you don’t.
  • Member segmentation options, so you can analyze your members and target your communications.
  • Customizable views, so that your staffers can always see the most relevant information for their daily tasks.

Your organization is going to continue to grow and change, so don’t settle for a membership management system that can’t change with you. Look at this customized database, built for an event:

Strengthen your data strategy through a smart membership management system that supports customizable databases.

You’ve found the right software for your association if…

Your team is able to mold the database to best fit the needs of your association. The best membership management software solutions should be able to scale up as your association does.


With these essential features on your radar, you’re sure to find the best membership CRM for your association!

To learn more about membership software, check out some great resources below:

  • Membership CRM | Tips to Engage Members. Your membership CRM isn’t just a place to house your members’ information — it’s also a tool of member engagement! Read all about engaging your members with your membership software here.
  • Top Abila Alternatives. When searching for association management software, don’t just choose the first solution you find! Research these top alternatives to one of the most popular solutions on the market, Abila, before making your final decision.
  • Best Membership and Association Management Software. Begin your purchasing process with Double the Donation’s guide to the best membership and association management software.

Learn more about choosing membership software.

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