In this day and age, if you run a club of any sort then the chances are that you’ll think about computerising your club membership database. After all, that’s what computers are designed for – keeping track of things like that.
Once you’ve taken the step of deciding that you need some kind of club membership system, it’s then a case of narrowing down the different parts of the software that are “must have”, “nice to have” and “couldn’t care less about”.
Every club will need to keep track of things like names and addresses of their members and that’s pretty much a given part of any system, whether it’s a simple Excel spreadsheet or a database of some sort.
Next up on the list is probably is when your members joined your club and when they are due to renew their membership. Most clubs operate a monthly or annual fee. If your membership doesn’t run on an calendar year (or similar) basis then you will need to check how well your chosen software handles variable membership renewal dates.
At the least, you’d expect it to be able to generate a report that tells you who you need to contact to get next year’s membership fees. Some of the more complicated programs will link in with accounts software to help you keep note of this but obviously you’d need to make sure that your chosen program linked in with your accounts program. It’s at times like this that some people give up and go back to their old hand written book!
Another thing you should consider with your club membership software is how easy it is to use. You probably won’t be using the software on an everyday basis, so you shouldn’t need to relearn the interface every time you run the program.
The closer the interface is to a regular Windows program, the better.
Some membership systems now offer the opportunity to run your membership database system online instead of on a local computer. This holds appeal for some clubs – especially when, say, the secretary, treasurer and chairman all need access to the information but don’t want to swap data around between themselves. This is a good idea but it does mean that you need to be aware of the extra security and data protection that such a system would need. There’s the obvious things such as keeping passwords secure and unguessable (but still easy enough to remember!) but also the consideration of what happens when one of the club’s team retires and someone else takes over. You also need to check how much – if any – of your members details are made public with this kind of system and who has access. This is especially important if your club has youth members as there are extra laws to keep track of with regard to how their personal details are kept private.
One final consideration is whether there is a free trial or, at the very least, some kind of demonstration available. This will allow you to check out your proposed club membership software for real rather than have to rely on some salesman’s word.