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Your Complete Guide to Membership Database Software

10 min read
May 24, 2023
Neon One Staff
A woman's hand uses a mouse to navigate membership database software on her laptop.

The first thing to understand about membership database software is that the name itself is pretty misleading. It’s actually a combination of two different functions: The database itself that holds information on your members and the platform that allows you to do things with that information. To choose the right membership database software for your association, you first need to look at what it should do for your members. Specifically, you should consider how it will help you engage, renew, and reinstate them.

The Benefits of Membership Management Software 

Membership management software supports your members throughout their time with your organization. It’s especially beneficial at three critical points: Engagement, renewal, and reinstatement.

Member Engagement 

Engaging your members is all about communication. It’s most effective when you focus on showing your members the benefits of being part of your organization. That may include things like networking events, professional development opportunities, seminars, workshops, and social gatherings.

But member engagement can also be a lot simpler—it doesn’t have to be a big flashy event. Think of something small but impactful, like a personalized welcome call for new members. While 79% of organizations report sending a welcome email to new constituents, less than one-third use welcome calls. That’s a major missed opportunity! Associations with new member renewal rates above 60% report regularly using welcome phone calls to start their new members off on the right foot. 

The reason many associations don’t do welcome calls is logistics. It’s easy to set a welcome email or kit to go out to a new member automatically, but calling them is a task that’s easy to forget. 

That’s where membership management software comes in. With the right platform, an organization could trigger a personalized email to go out as soon as a new member signs up, then set an automatic task for the appropriate representative to call that member and welcome them. 

Member Renewal

Did you know that up to 16% of lapsed members of professional organizations simply forgot to renew their membership? 

Emails are responsible for an estimated 82% of membership renewals. The associations that do the best with those renewals don’t just send a single email—they send a series of personalized messages to remind the member of their upcoming renewal while also reinforcing the benefits of membership with the association.

For example, an association might schedule a series of renewal emails to start one month prior to their membership lapsing. That first email will be personalized, refer to the member by name, and remind them of the specific benefits of their continued membership. If the member responds and renews from that email, the rest of the series cancels.

However, if the member doesn’t renew, another email might go out two weeks later with a bit more of an urgent tone. It will let the member know that the membership is set to expire and give a clear link to renewal. If the member still doesn’t respond, the organization may wait until the membership lapses to send a third message letting them know of any grace periods. 

A series like that could help your organization tackle a pretty common reason for membership lapses. Good membership software will allow you to keep track of those anniversary dates and address them while the member is still likely to renew. It will also help you to follow up with lapsed constituents for possible reinstatement later.

Member Reinstatement 

Member reinstatement is an underappreciated way of boosting your membership numbers. Unlike a new recruit, you already have some history and knowledge of the lapsed members that can help you bring them back to the organization. Some of the top reasons for members who left their association include:

  • Forgetting to renew
  • Limited membership value
  • Lack of overall engagement
  • Cost

Three of the top reasons that members leave organizations can be addressed by using membership database software. With that software, you can remind them to renew, regularly prove your organization’s value, and engage your members.

With a good CRM, you could pull up a member’s timeline to show the actions that were taken right before their nonrenewal. You may be able to identify lapses in communication or engagement issues that you can correct to bring that member back.

Of course, if you’re going to use membership database software to address member engagement, renewal, and reinstatement, you’ll need the right kind. Not all platforms are created equally! There are some must-have features that you will need to make the most of this tool.

What Should Membership Software Include?

The best membership software platforms don’t just give you a place to store your data: They also help you use it to support all those administrative steps involved in member engagement, renewal, and reinstatement. For that, you should use a program with the following features: 

  • Contact management: Associations usually have a lot more than just members in their contact list. There’s also data about members’ history, affinities, and communications, plus information about relationships with businesses and other organizations! The software you choose should allow you to manage the contact details of all your constituents and the businesses that your organization works with. It should also allow you to connect those relationships.
  • Event management: Events are often a big part of what draws members to your organization. Webinars, conferences, professional development opportunities, and all those other networking events require registration, payment processing, and attendance tracking. Some software will allow you to integrate your event management platform or offer native tools to support this critical part of member management.
  • Email personalization tools: Members expect communication from their associations to be personalized to them. At the same time, there are a lot of contacts your organization has to manage—and each one will receive their own messaging. Customizing your communication will require the support of personalization options, member segmentation tools, and automated features.
  • Reporting and analytics: You should be able to review information about membership trends, event attendance, email campaigns, and other actions using your platform’s detailed reporting and analytics. The software should offer some standard templates that all associations need as well as the option to customize reports based on organization-specific requirements.
  • Payment processing: The software should allow you to process payments securely, including membership fees, event fees, and donations.
  • Integrations: The average nonprofit uses about five platforms to manage its day-to-day activities. The most effective membership database software will allow you to connect all those platforms so you can get a comprehensive look at your organization’s performance.

Overall, membership database software should be easy to use, customizable, and provide the necessary tools to manage membership data effectively.

8 Top Membership Software Options and Their Features

There are many membership software options available on the market. The best combine database software with a constituent relationship management platform that makes it easy to use the information you collect. Here are some of the most popular options:

1. Neon CRM for Associations

Neon CRM for Associations is a cloud-based nonprofit software designed to help organizations manage and streamline membership activities. It offers features like automated communications, member timelines and tracking, event, grants and volunteer management, and more. 

Event management

Email marketing

Extensive integrations and native options 

Optional website builder

Payment processing

Reporting and analytics
Customizable features and dashboards

Robust reporting and analytics 

Email personalization
Automated workflows

Unlimited users, forms, templates, and records

Revenue-based billing
Can be expensive for larger organizations

Steep learning curve for some features

Who is Neon CRM for Associations Best For?

Neon CRM is a great tool for small, midsize, and rapidly growing organizations.

2. Wild Apricot

This cloud-based solution offers a range of products that organizations can use to manage member data.

Event management

Website builder

Payment processing

Email marketing

Reporting and analytics
Easy-to-use website builder

Robust membership management features

Good for event management

Customizable membership forms and invoices

Free trial
Limited customization options for website design

Limited integrations with other software

Limited reporting and analytics features

Who is Wild Apricot Best For?

Wild Apricot is best suited for small and midsize membership-based organizations.

3. YourMembership

This platform bills itself as an all-in-one solution for managing all membership activities from events to eLearning and career growth opportunities. 

Event management

Email marketing

Online community

Learning management

Job board

Payment processing
Robust membership management features

Good for associations and chambers of commerce

Integrated online community for members

Built-in learning management system

Customizable registration forms
Expensive pricing options

Steep learning curve for some features

Limited customization options for website design

Limited design options for emails and forms

Who is YourMembership Best For?

YourMembership is best suited for professional associations, trade associations, and other membership-based organizations that require a comprehensive membership management solution.

4. MemberClicks

This is another cloud-based solution that bills itself as an all-in-one option. It also offers a range of companion software to help expand member management capabilities.

Event management

Email marketing

Payment processing

Mobile-friendly design
Easy-to-use interface

Affordable pricing options

Customizable features

Integration with popular payment gateways
Limited reporting options

Lacks advanced features like campaign tracking and A/B testing

Integration with third-party tools can be limited

Who is MemberClicks Best For?

MemberClicks is best suited for membership-based organizations of all sizes, including associations, clubs, and nonprofit organizations.

5. CiviCRM

This is a free open-source solution for associations that helps with contact management, outreach, and event management.

Contact management

Event management

Grant management

Free to use open source software
Customizable features

Comprehensive documentation and support community

Integration with popular CMSs like WordPress and Drupal
Steep learning curve

Requires technical knowledge to set up and maintain

Limited support options for non-technical users

Some features require add-on software for use

Who is CiviCRM Best For?

CiviCRM is best suited for nonprofit organizations with strong in-house technical teams. 

6. Zenbership

Zenbership is another free open-source solution with a specific focus on eCommerce and subscription management.

Event management

Invoicing and billing

Automated email marketing

Social media integration

Free to use open source software
Free basic features 

Intuitive user interface

Customizable branding and design
Limited reporting options

Requires technical knowledge to set up and maintain

Lacks advanced features like A/B testing and campaign tracking

Some features require add-on software for use

Who is Zenbership Best For?

Zenbership is best suited for small and midsize membership-based organizations with technical teams who understand open-source software.

7. GrowthZone

This association software is another comprehensive solution that also incorporates sales funnel-based features.

Contact management 

Event management

Email marketing

Online directories

Invoicing and billing
Easy-to-use interface

Robust reporting options

Integration with popular payment gateways
Higher pricing options compared to other platforms

Limited customization options for branding and design

Some features require add-on software for use

Who is GrowthZone Best For?

GrowthZone is best suited for associations and other membership-based organizations that require a comprehensive solution for managing their membership, events, and marketing.

8. EveryAction

EveryAction is a web-based platform that’s specifically focused on managing constituents for nonprofit organizations, political campaigns, and other advocacy groups.

Contact management

Email and SMS campaigns

Advocacy campaigns

Event management

Reporting and analytics
Comprehensive member management


Customizable dashboards and reporting

Political and advocacy focus
Learning curve

Limited customization


Limited events support 

Who is EveryAction Best For?

EveryAction is best suited for nonprofit organizations, political campaigns, and advocacy groups of all sizes looking for an all-in-one solution to manage members and events.

Using Neon CRM for Associations to Manage Your Members 

Good membership database software doesn’t stop at storing your data. Instead, it allows you to use that data to manage your member engagement, renewals, and reinstatements. A solution with strong integrations as well as automatable and customizable features will help your organization build the relationships that it needs to thrive.

Neon CRM for Associations is a membership database software that combines comprehensive data management with tools to help deepen your relationships. To learn more, reach out to us for a demo.

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