Fast Forward Interactive

9 Critical Features Every Membership Management System Needs


Credit: Robert Rafferty, Growth Marketeer • 28 March 2023


Membership management systems play a major key role in Associations, chambers or commerce and other membership-based organisations. But it’s difficult to find one that brings the right features to the table. There’s more demand than ever for new features, integration requests, and other technical requirements so let’s pin-points what the ideal membership management software might have under the hood.

Identifying your needs and pain points


I know my pain points, get me to the list of features!


As an organisation or business that relies on memberships to thrive, it can be tough to choose a membership management system for you that:


  • Registers members
  • Manages members and contacts lists
  • Automates renewal reminders
  • Promotes news, updates, or events
  • Processes payments
  • Creates customizable forms
  • Integrates with other tools   


And it gets even more difficult when one membership management system lacks even one of these features. That means you’ll need to find a solution that not only helps with your requirements but now it also needs integration with the rest of your tools.


And how are companies integrating these days?


Like this.

Membership management software integration

…and this

Membership Management software problems       









You’ll find it’s become more commonplace among software solutions out there, any solution, either charging you extra for integrations or locking them behind paywalls and more expensive packages. Hubspot lists nearly 300 apps on its integration marketing place, but only 28 are free. Leaving the rest of the integrations in much more expensive package levels.


Now you not only have to pay for both platforms but now you’ll have to pay just to integrate them as well.


But don’t worry. A new trend is coming to fruition that surprisingly started within the membership management tech community, and that’s all-in-one membership management systems.


What do these do?


Well, it’s a collection of all the necessary tools and features an organisation would want in a singular platform. All the tools are natively integrated with each other at no extra cost, which is the key money saver. The value, however, is how well these tools communicate and share data between themselves that no third party integration could ever truly do.


So, to make it easier for you to understand what these tools and features are when they’re put into one of these all-in-one platforms, we made this list of 9 critical features your membership management system needs to be successful, and most importantly, free of nickel & diming third-party integrations.


1) CRM:


CRM’s are typically the bare minimum when it comes to taking organisations digital. Also colloquially spoken as member databases, member lists, and so on, CRMs are the industry catch-all term for the ability to manage contacts and keep their information up to date in as simple a manner as possible.


This goes without saying that if you find a membership management solution that does not have this feature, then it should be avoided.


Without a proper member CRM, you could not personalise, customise, or automate any engagement activities you take with contacts.


Furthermore, you’ll find it difficult to build your lists if you use other tools that engage contacts that are separated from the CRM. If they are not integrated, you simply cannot add contacts to the list automatically. You’ll find the process very manual, and you might as well go back to using spreadsheets. 


The all-in-one platform approach solves this issue by just simply having it at the core of the system. All modules you’ll find down this list will at some level feed information and contacts to the CRM as well as take data from it to personalise and/or automate that module’s role.


This feature comes first in this list, and you’ll probably see it creep its way into the functions of the rest of our features as well. CRMs are just that important.


2) Mobile App:


Mobile apps are one big bottleneck for a lot of platforms. When it comes to membership-based organisations, engagement is the #1 defining role the management needs to take on. Technology persists at every level of people’s lives nowadays, and that typically comes in the form of a smartphone in the pockets of every one of your members. This is where it’s crucial to introduce your organisation’s own app so that members can stay engaged on the go.


While most membership management software providers do provide some form of mobile app solution as part of their platform, it often-times becomes an add-on or additional cost. Usually, because it’s either a headache for them to implement cleanly as a reflection of the client’s website, or just simply building it from scratch as a service.


This is the biggest feature gap that a solution can have, so when you’re shopping for a provider, make sure that mobile apps are included. Sometimes you can find platforms are mobile-friendly, but that leaves a lot left over to be desired for members. An App is a huge step up in engagement quality than a mobile-friendly platform, as it gives the organisation complete control over the visibility, information, and notifications that get delivered to members.


Furthermore, there are features on mobile apps that don’t work on a desktop format as a web app does. The next feature shows a really great example of a mobile-only feature.


3) Digital Membership Cards:


Digital membership cards are a great way to leverage mobile apps to your organisation’s, or even the planet’s benefit. Digital membership cards function exactly like most physical membership cards do, but exist on your organisation’s mobile app.


Physical membership cards act as a form of identification and a key of sorts. It’s common that membership cards unlock doors to facilities for members only, check in members at events, and even used as a way to confirm discounts for members on certain purchases.


Digital membership cards can do all these things by leveraging a smartphone’s myriad of sensors, GPS, camera, and so on, the digital card becomes far more actionable, customisable, and of course, more green, as there’s no longer a need to print wasteful plastics anymore.


Digital cards are delivered and redacted digitally and instantly, making it far more seamless to manage memberships.


Activities that the member uses via their digital membership cards feed into the CRM of the platform. Every check-in, ticket purchase and so on get recorded in their history, or updates their contact details automatically, and accordingly. This makes your membership list a living, breathing source of accurate data.


4) Community & Member Directory:


Another great feature that doesn’t have to live on mobile apps, but instead both, are membership directories and communities for organisations. This basically allows your members to ‘log in’ to your website or mobile and use widgets from the platform on the website that gives members access to a database of members. Though, in best practice, it’s best to formulate communities that are basically separating your database into particular subjects that might appeal to certain sects of your membership or audience.


This lets members network digitally and remotely and fosters a sense of connectedness in your organisation. This is arguably one of the least required features, but it’s an easy enough one that we feel it should be a part of any platform, and removing the ability for members to log in is just one more degree of separation from an organisation that members might be wanting.


5) Email Campaigns:


Email campaigns are a big feature. One that is also plagued by third party nickel and diming schemes, so if it’s not already a part of an all-in-one platform, then it’s best to continue shopping around.


Member engagement comes in a lot of forms, but it’s with an email campaign strategy that direct messaging and marketing can be pivotal. Members want to be kept in the loop, and emails are the most direct way to do so (aside from pushing notifications on your mobile app).


The greatest aspect of email campaigns is that they can automate and personalise each email for members based on the CRM, which is ideally the very same CRM we talked about at the beginning, where all contact data is kept up to date simply by the member’s activities being tracked by each module.


Merge tags are a great way to personalise each email to the contact by leveraging their details in the CRM. A tag written like this, “[firstname]” without quotes, will be replaced in the live email with the sender’s actual first name, and only for that sender. It does this by tracking down the destination email address in the CRM and replacing the tag with the correct tagged detail. This works for any pre-existing data.


Personalised emails mean blasting emails to contacts doesn’t require making them generalised or bland to catch all contacts, and each email will seem like it was written for each person directly. This is a great way to engage and delight your contacts.


6) Automated Membership Reminders:


Automated membership reminders are simply a base requirement for any membership-based organisation.


If you’re looking for membership management systems that help you kick your feet up while growing your member-base and ROI, then you’re going to need automated membership reminders.


How these reminders are delivered are up to the platform, but generally, emails and push notifications are the standard methods.


When members get close to the end of their membership, it’s important that the membership management system you adopt actually knows when this is and notifies the member of their upcoming membership termination.


Without this automation, members will be blind to their membership’s end date. Most people don’t memorise the end date of their memberships, so it’s quite easy to slip into a situation where members are unaware of memberships ending and then constant confusion and explaining the situation to those who rightfully get frustrated at this moment.


It’s best to nip this situation in the bud and just remind members to renew their memberships. This brings you to ROI faster and keeps your membership numbers higher. No manual intervention, just let the system take over.


7) Event Management:


Events are a huge part of engagement in a membership organisation. Without events, members would be hard-pressed to actually meet and mingle together.


Depending on the role that your organisation plays in your community or industry, it’s important to host events as it’s a great way to get members involved, draw in new members, and establish yourself as an important figure in your industry or community.


Events, if you haven’t already guessed it, are leveraging tech now. Probably more than ever before. 


QR code check-ins, live streaming, and even VR have been injected into events in the past few decades, but the most common denominator is the need to go paperless at the door. Your very same mobile app could be adopted by attendees and each account would have a QR code. That means scanning the QR code at the door, checking in the registered guest, and then that information is tracked on the CRM.


Now, for future events, you can make certain email campaigns for members who had attended events in the past by creating a smart list. See how these tools come full circle?


8) Payment Processing:


Payment processing is important for those organisations who transact often for tickets and membership fees. If it’s not part of a membership management system, then it’s probably not for you. Payments online are commonplace now, and manually tackling this ordeal only makes engagement and ROI goals harder to reach.


Without payment gateways, members are stuck manually paying, and you’ll be stuck manually processing. It’s time-consuming, and if you should ever expect to grow your organisation meaningfully, it’s only smart to give your members the ability to purchase digitally and process the payment with a gateway. It brings up the quality of the membership experience and puts the payments in the palm of member’s hands, which makes them feel more in control.


This also opens up more opportunities for converting new members by giving multiple methods of payments, accepting differing credit card companies, and so on. Now, you may wonder why you can’t just do this separately from the platform. Well, you could. But why not just have it included? This reduces the need to hard-integrate this function on your website, and it comes ready-to-go with the platform you choose from Day 1.

On top of that, you’d need to integrate each payment gateway one-by-one. By using a platform for this, the integrations come pre-installed, essentially.


9) Full-Scale Analytics:


Analytics is likely the easiest module for a membership management system. Any good SaaS model out there offers some level of analytics, and it’s important to know that the membership management system you choose to go with does indeed include this feature. It’s highly unlikely that it’s missing, but if you come across a product that lacks this feature, treat it as a red flag.


The key component of analytics is not only taking in web traffic, and event traffic, but how you’re able to combine this data and make sense of it.


There are online user actions and offline member actions. Knowing the member journey from entering your website to becoming a member, to checking in to events is a great way to not just benchmark yourself as an organisation, but pin-point your most valuable members for promotions, rewards, and keep your loyal members engaged.


Analytics are also key in identifying bottlenecks in your organisation so that you can take action and can address what makes users drop off the membership sign up process, or skip renewals.


Membership Management Systems are an Engine


A well-oiled engine runs smoothly and the same goes for membership management. Every module an ideal membership management system has is crucial, and they must work together in order to create an automated, but personalise engagement solution that keeps turnover low, and grows your membership.


It needs to be digital, and easy to understand, but most importantly it needs to bridge whatever gap there may be between the organisation and the member.


When choosing a membership management system, it relies heavily on looking inward toward your organisation first. Knowing and pinpointing your needs and pain points are key in helping you choose the right solution for you.


At Fast Forward, we’ve taken all these modules we’ve talked about above, and more, and combined them into an all-in-one platform that eases most pain points for organisations. There are some great benefits that aren’t just features on the platform when you leverage Glue Up, our all-in-one platform, as you’ll get dedicated customer success managers whose sole goal is to help your organisation succeed.


Curious about how it works?  Book a demo and we’ll give you a tour of what a true all-in-one membership management system is all about.