July 26th, 2018

Top Requirements for a Powerful Membership Website

Author: Laura Lynch
Laura Lynch
Director of Marketing

Membership organizations thrive on community. Your website can help.

If there’s one thing the Internet has done exceptionally well, it’s that it’s helped groups of like-minded people connect and work together toward a larger purpose. Whether that community is spread across a large geographical area and rarely meets in person, or a small, regional group that uses the Internet to organize local events, the Internet is the most powerful tool for joining and coordinating people.

Membership organizations in particular have a lot to gain from these capabilities. A group that can organize itself through an accessible, user-friendly website can not only strengthen the community, but raise profits and increase services. Any good membership website should include a number of features for its clients in order to help them provide more for their members. If you’re wondering what those features should include, here’s where to start.

1. Flexible Content Management System.

Of course, a good CMS should be the most basic requirement of almost any site, but it can be easy to overlook if you’re focused on other features. Your CMS is how you establish your brand and spread your message. As a membership organization, your content is your best tool to keep in touch with your members. Whether you want to share community news, write about current events, or simply share knowledge, a versatile CMS with multiple content types will help you reach a broader group of people.

2. Member registration portal and user accounts.

What makes a membership website different from other websites? A member registration portal. Your members need a way to sign in to your website, which means your website also needs user accounts for those members. Once your members can sign in to your site, they can view special members-only content, make purchases, and access other services.

3. Tiered access and member groups.

You may want to offer different membership levels to different groups. For instance, a basic member may be able to sign up for events, whereas a gold member can book rooms or receive a discount on purchases. Tiered access helps you differentiate between users and send more targeted communications based on their membership status.

Want to announce a special fundraising dinner for all gold members? Done. Or how about beginner events for people who have just joined your group? Tiered access can help you speak to members based on their history with your organization, which can help newer members feel welcome, and long-term members feel valued.

4. Events calendar.

Hosting a regular talk series at a local venue? Gearing up for your annual fund-raiser? Putting on a black-tie event, or organizing a charity concert? No matter your event, having a central calendar on your site can contribute to the overall success of your event by raising awareness and boosting ticket sales. An events calendar also helps market your organization’s activity. The more active your calendar, the more your members have to look forward to.

5. Basic e-commerce capabilities.

Many membership organizations raise funds not just through membership dues or subscription fees, but through ticket sales at events or simple merchandise. Because of this, a good membership website should also have e-commerce features  such as an online store with product customization options, or a ticket booker that allows members to specify complex specializations such as food preference, number of guests, or seating preference.

6. Easy donations and dues payment.

When people want to give funds to your organization, you want to make that transaction as frictionless as possible. When payment systems are needlessly complex, members hesitate to sign up, fall behind on their dues, or make fewer donations. A streamlined payment system not only makes that experience easier for your users, it can raise donations enough to pay for the cost of your entire website project.

7. Room booking system.

Does your organization own an events space? Is it possible for members to book a room? What about special sporting facilities or craft workshop space? For many organizations, booking this space requires a cumbersome back-and-forth via email, or a call to a staff member during office hours. But an online booking system means members can see the full availability of a space and book instantly. This not only provides an important resource to your members, it also helps them take part in the activities that make your organization a thriving community to join.

A website designed for members builds the whole organization.

Your website’s features aren’t just “nice-to-have’s.” They’re essential tools you need to engage your community. An events calendar or room booking system make your services easier to manage and more accessible to your members. Even a payment gateway or merchandise store are there to benefit your community as much as your organization. After all, your members wouldn’t want to sign up if they didn’t find value in your group, and it serves no one to make that process any more difficult than it needs to be.

Most of all, investing in a powerful membership website is an investment in your community. It brings your members closer together, even when they live hundreds of miles apart. And with a better system at your disposal, you can send a stronger message to your community and bring in new members.

The Internet is growing ever more central to how communities interact—and not just when they’re online. It also helps group meet in person, organize community events, and make better use of physical spaces. A functional membership website can do all this for your organization, all while drawing in more funds and donations. If you would like help creating a membership website for your business, contact us today.

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