• Nonprofit Learning Lab

The Top 5 Member Management Tools for Associations

Updated: Apr 12

This is a guest blog post by Farhad Khan from Grype.

This blog comes with a helpful tool to help you get started: 10 User Acceptance Strategies for Your New Membership Site Project & Worksheet.


Managing an association is no small feat! With so many moving parts, variables and details to keep track of, being organized with the right tools is the only way to stay on top. Having your tech consolidated into a few key tools will allow you to manage your ongoing activities and current members, while also having a big-picture perspective to make informed strategic decisions.


Here are the 5 tools your association needs to stay on course to growth!


Back-End Member Management Tool

To stay organized, your association needs a robust back-end tool to manage your contacts, members, events, interactions and day-to-day activities. For this, you can use an AMS or a CRM. Read our CRM Blog to understand if it is the right fit for your association. We recommend using CiviCRM. You can find more information in our CiviCRM Blog. It’s super powerful and flexible. You can customize and create as much detail as you need. It can create many customized reports for making sound decisions based on data. You can set up different access tiers and people.


This tool helps your internal team stay organized, but your members and prospects don’t interact with it, nor should they. For your clients and partners, you need what we call front-facing tools.



Front-End Public Facing Website

Your public-facing website is your association’s storefront. This is your association putting up a shingle for the world to discover.


Your website has one purpose: to bring you clients, bring you members and bring you revenue. Your website, when set up correctly, is a marketing machine.


The content and voice of your website should be geared to connect with your prospective members and donors. While you may have web traffic from all types of people on your website, take the time to identify what are the most important segments for your association’s growth and speak to those audiences.

Use our handy Know Your Membership Guide and Worksheet to create a detailed avatar of your users so that you can properly connect with them and successfully market to them.



Members-Only Gated Content: Your Membership Site

For member-based associations, having a members-only space online is key to creating that privileged and elevated experience for your members.

Having members-only content is essential for the value proposition of your membership. Many associations as a part of their mission educate the public and make most (if not all) of their content and resources publicly available. When all your best resources are publicly available, this undercuts the value of your membership and disincentivizes renewals.


Your membership site does not have to be the same site as your public-facing site, and we typically recommend that it be a separate site with a separate url altogether. Your public-facing website should have a link or button that directs members to their member area, and that link takes them to the login page of your membership site.


The goal of your membership site is not the same as your public-facing website. The public-facing website is geared toward your prospective members and donors. We consider your website as part of your marketing team.


Your membership site, on the other hand, is part of your membership management and customer service team. The goal here is to connect your members with their member benefits. It’s great if they can renew independently, but more than renew we have to give them a proper user journey between renewals where they see value in that membership.


To understand the difference between your public-facing website and your membership site, read our blog A Tale of Two Entities: The Benefit of Keeping Your Member Portal and Website Separate.



Engagement Tracking: Google Analytics

Understanding the needs and wants of your membership is key to engaging members and creating new content that interests them.


Conducting surveys, hosting focus groups and talking with your members are important ways to get to know your members — but we are weary! Members want all kinds of things. They want it all! They say they want it, but when we give them what they want, we often find they don’t use the tools and resources they said were important to them. This is because people, in general, have many wants and often do not know what they need. They are often not fully aware of what motivates them, and if they are, they may not feel comfortable sharing that with others for any number of reasons. For these reasons, listen to your members' wishlists with a grain of salt. Compile their membership site feature wishlists and content requests, but let your data be your guide. Look at your Google Analytics, your event attendance and your member resources usage to see what your members are interested in. If you see that they like to watch videos, create more videos. If you see they like hands-on tools like guides, templates, checklists, create more of those. See which topics are most used and create more in those areas. Before spending time and resources in creating any additional content or membership site features, follow your analytics and see how your members operate.

Get our Website Wishlist Priorities Chart to help you prioritize your feature wishlist for your website and membership site.



Create Member Relationships

More than any tech or tool you will create, nothing can replace the importance of having a relationship with your members. Many associations come to us and say they have so many members it’s not possible to have relationships with all their members. To this argument, I think of famous entertainers who have huge followings in the tens of millions who all feel connected to the entertainer. Somehow the famous idol generates content that their audience likes and makes them feel seen. In the same way, we need to create space to have relationships with our members. We need to chase them a little, make them feel cared for, and be there for them when they want our time. Creating regular touch-points throughout their member journey and creating formal avenues for them to connect with association staff goes a long way. Holding focus groups, feedback sessions, optional surveys after events or a member benefits interaction are all ways members know you are available to listen to them. When a member engages a lot or when member engagement drops — noticing and acknowledging change to their behaviour also goes a long way in the relationship. Segmenting your users by levels of engagement is a great way to make your communication messaging more personal.


To help create more customized relationships with members, use an email marketing tool such as Drip, MailChimp or Constant Contact.



Keep a Member-Centric Focus

Whatever you do, have your association team agree that your collective goal is to honour and serve your membership. When everyone on your team — from the CEO to the finance department — puts the members and your stakeholders first to create a member-centric focus, the members will feel the difference.


Get our Member-Centric User Experience Checklist to make sure your messaging and website are focused on your members.



The Latest Member Benefits Delivery Tool: Member Lounge

Creating a customized membership site is not a quick process. It requires time and resources from your association staff to monitor the project and make many decisions along the way. For any association that wants to quickly set up a membership site with member benefits that are straightforward and ready to go, we recommend Member Lounge, a benefits delivery tool that can be set up as an add-on to your current website and CRM.


Learn more about Member Lounge!



Improve Your Member Experience

To learn more great tips to improve your website and membership site, register for our upcoming webinars and live podcast interviews with the experts!

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