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Buyer’s Guide for Membership Management Software

Introduction to Membership Management Software

Membership management software has been around for years and its main purpose is to connect people of different professions from different industries, line of activities, interests, and locations. Many companies and corporations, private or public, profit or non-profit, have been using Membership Management Software (MMS) in order to update and store their members’ information with deeper accuracy and a higher level of organization. MMS is also known as Association Management System (AMS). MMS and AMS have the same scope and purpose and that is to assist organizations on getting the functionality they require in providing the services (and products) to their members. AMS; however, can be considered as a much larger system than MMS. It can be said that AMS provides a wider range of tools and a number of specific benefits that aid in tracking those services which they provide to their members.

If your organization is looking to build a membership system or integrate an MMS solution into your existing management information system, the software market is here to help. Many organizations today believe that by having an MMS system, they can use it for tracking their members, handling of newsletters subscriptions, distribution of special gifts during certain occasions, sending of invitations to business-related events and social gatherings, and offering membership discounts on products and services. All of these can be done easily and effectively.

This Buyer’s Guide will further open you up to the various aspects of Membership Management. Our ultimate objective in publishing this guide is to be able to help future software buyers like you in selecting the right MMS solution for your organization. We believe that the following sections of this Buyer’s Guide will greatly help you achieve your organization’s objective of implementing the right software application.

  • What is Membership Management Software (MMS)?
  • History of Membership Management
  • Types of Membership Management Applications
  • What Common Problems does Membership Management Software Solve?
  • Key Membership Management Software Features
  • Selecting the Right Membership Management Tool
  • Benefits of Membership Management Software
  • Pricing
  • Market Trends

What is Membership Management Software?

Many organizations, especially those that are in the non-profit sector, are using MMS to allow people to subscribe into their organization. People can register either through a paid membership scheme or through a voluntary and free membership system which could later on benefit the organization from donations, grants, and paid events. Professional associations, trade unions, political parties, country clubs, and business associations are among the main users of MMS. They are using MMS to organize events, facilitate fund raising activities, track grant applications, proposals and rewards, automate accounting processes, track member progress in educational programs, and provide customer support.

History of Membership Management

At present, the MMS solution can still be considered as a young software technology. There is no eminent period in history where the development of Membership Management software can be closely tied into. Membership management; however, bears a resemblance to the voluntary associations that existed since ancient history. Groups of individuals who voluntarily entered into an agreement with a group or established the group themselves in order to accomplish a purpose are what builds this voluntary association. Likewise, “merchant guilds” in England during the 1800’s and 1900’s were also believed to play a big a role in the building of the society and enhancing economic growth. Today, freedom of association and assembly under the civil law of different countries is what protects everyone in becoming a member of any association.

Types of Membership Management Applications

We previously mentioned that many organizations in various sectors today are already using the MMS solution for different purposes. Out of this inclination, the software industry was able to further identify their interests on various software functionalities. This then leads to the realization of the different types of membership management applications.

From organizing and selling tickets to events up to raising supplementary income from donations, there is a right MMS solution that will fit into the needs of every organization. These types of MMS that organizations can select and implement are as follows:

  • Fundraising and Donor Management
  • Membership Management
  • Event Planning
  • Marketing and Outreach
  • Fund Accounting
  • Non-profit Customer Relationship Management
  • Volunteer Management
  • Grant Management

What Common Problems does Membership Management Software Solve?

MMS operates on a centralized system where an organization can easily input, track, and access member data. This kind of system is what helps an organization in running its membership-related operations more efficiently and profitably. More importantly, common problems and issues that modern MMS can solve are:

  • Difficulty in getting more members in the online community
  • Difficulty in creating and selling various types of memberships and pricing models
  • Difficulty in promoting customer interaction, collaboration, and service satisfaction
  • Diffificulty in tracking members' interests and activity
  • Difficulty in reducing the effort in managing and communicating with all members

Key Membership Management Software Features

Whether you’re a non-profit, a business corporation, or a political party that serves a large number of members and volunteers, the management of all your members is no longer a big challenge. Today, most MMS solutions offer easy-to-use features for members, administration groups, and user groups. Some of these key features include:

Member Features

  • Easy Profile Maintenance
  • Easy Subscriptions Maintenance
  • Systematic View and Update Registrations, Reservations, Purchases, and Memberships

Administrative Features

  • Hassle-free Search of Members Profile
  • Ability to Import Records
  • Ability to Record and Track Event Participation History
  • Historical Member Directory

User Groups Features

  • Create and Manage Groups
  • Assign Group Members
  • Assign Permissions

There are more features that distinguish one solution from another.  It is important for you to familiarize yourself with these technologies and management features by reviewing the subscription plans and/or software packages offered by various solution providers.

Selecting the Right Membership Management Tool

Buyers who are looking for MMS or AMS must ensure that they’ve properly identified their organization’s needs before they buy their system of choice. Regular staff meetings and consultations with software experts giving prior evaluation of various software solutions available in the market are necessary for your investment not to go somewhere else and miss the opportunity of fulfilling your mission. Activities such as documenting membership rules, benefits structure, programs, campaigns for events, and online community needs can help your company in meeting your membership management goals and objectives.

In this section of the Buyer’s Guide, we will present MMS options to you which were researched and analyzed based on the current market trends. We will recommend to you some of the known vendors of software solutions to better guide you on your search and evaluation process. On the next sections, we will then give you more MMS insights such as pricing, benefits, and prevailing software trends.

Options for SMBs

Solutions with lower implementation and maintenance cost can help SMB buyers on their tight budget and resources constraints. The MMS solutions below offer community features, flow-down control, basic event management, social networking management, online transactions, and site management functionality:

  • 123Signup
  • MemberClicks
  • Tendenci
  • Wild Apricot
  • StarChapter
  • Osprey
  • IMPack

Options for Mid-size to Large Organizations

Organizations that are looking for deeper functionality and configuration capability can definitely find a lot of sure-fit solutions in the market. Although many Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems that are implemented by large organizations already have built-in membership management functionality, investing in a stand alone MMS can also give organizations a wide array of benefits. Functions such as accounting, event sign-up management, website content management, conference management, back-end membership relationship management, and website integration are the offer of the following Enterprise-level solutions:

  • i4a AMS
  • JL Systems’ NOAH
  • Avectra’s Net FORUM Team and Pro

Options for Large Associations

Large professional and trade associations have unique requirements compared to SMB’s and large enterprises. They’re looking for complex features such as vendor support partnerships, project management, and association process management. While these systems will require a significant amount of investment to the buying party, they however can expect a more comprehensive and sophisticated management system. Solutions under this option are the following:

  • Computility
  • Gomembers
  • iMIS
  • Association Server
  • TCS Software Prevail
  • Aptify
  • Personify

Benefits of Membership Management Software

From the MMS options that we enumerated above, we can say that every organization of whatever size and specific need can definitely get huge benefits when they invest in this kind of software. The ability to create multiple types of memberships, customize membership profiles, and manage public or private website communities is just the primer in the long list of MMS benefits. Here are more of the key features and benefits that every member in your organization can truly enjoy and experience from using a well-selected MMS system:

  • Ability to build branded websites and manage contact databases
  • Ability to upgrade, downgrade, and renew memberships
  • Ability to automate member communication and content distribution
  • Ability to process funds and payment online
  • Ability to generate reports, manage big events, sell tickets, or other products or services


MMS solution pricing is often based on the type of deployment and level of functionality. In terms of functionality, MMS can fall under the Integrated Suite or Best-of-Breed type. In terms of the deployment model, MMS solution can be Hosted (deployed on the provider’s server network) or On-premises (deployed at the client’s own server network). Many solution providers today offer a combination of these models (ex. an Integrated Suite that is a Hosted type). The key pricing differentiators between solutions are the number of members, number of data records, volume of messages exchanged, level of features, and options for add-on services. Here are the pricing schemes offered by most software providers for different sizes of organizations:

Options for SMB’s

Pricing for hosted solutions is based on the number of members. The typical price in most hosted solutions is $50 per month per 100 members (including 500 non-member contacts). Some vendors are asking for a setup fee. More affordable solutions range from $100 to $200 per month per 300 to 500 members and a setup fee ranging from $500 to $1500.

For on-premises models, pricing includes a software license fee and a setup or activation fee on top of the per member cost. The setup fee ranges from $1,000 to $3000 per month. The software license ranges from $3000 to $5000 depending on the number of members, users, and depth of functionality. The price of $200 to $500 for members ranging from 500 to 2,500 is common on most on-premises solution pricing models.

Options for Mid-size to Large Organizations

Most MMS solutions for mid-size and large organizations and large associations are Enterprise Suites. Clients; however, can choose between hosted and on-premises when it comes to deployment. Included in the pricing model are the cost of the software license, the cost of implementation, and the monthly fee for each user or administrator. The software license alone can cost from $10,000 up to $100,000. The implementation cost, if computed annually, can cost from $25,000 going up to $50,000. The monthly fee averages $100 per user or administrator.

Market Trends

Still, a lot of organizations and associations today are using manual methods in the management of their members. This is according to the recent survey conducted by Software Advice. It was found out that many of these organizations still lack awareness of available MMS solutions. But, on the positive side, more organizations are showing their interests in purchasing member management systems over the next 3 to 5 years.

The reliance of many organizations on Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems in gaining more knowledge about their customers and members is still dominant in the Membership Management industry. However, in parallel to the CRM growth, the MMS industry is also seen to expand over the next 5 years. This is because software experts and management consultants are seeing that many organizations will soon land their investments on MMS solutions with fundraising and donor management functionality.

Subscription-based pricing will remain as the preferred option for many organizations, especially those whose annual revenue is below $1 million. This means that we are about to see better online features that focus on mobility, social media, and data analytics in many hosted MMS solutions in the near future.

Whether you belong to an organization that heavily relies on the power of CRM, or on the legacy value of spreadsheets, it is better that you re-invent the wheel in your membership management system. It’s about time that you re-evaluate your needs on membership benefits and structure. Start getting that best MMS system for your money today.