Membership Site Software Evaluation Ideas

Considerations when building your organization’s membership site platform.

What is Membership Site Software

A membership site is a website that delivers content only to people that are members. It is often included as a part of or is an addition to most association management software systems. The site itself is created and cultivated to serve existing members but to also attract new members with content, education and events.  All membership sites require a full featured content management system (CMS) to give organizations the most flexibilty to manage and add any type of content.  

With a membership website, members get access to valuable content, networking and educational opportunities as a benefit of membership or at a discounted price over non-members.  Non-members see the diffrence in prices or content access and determine that membership is a valuable investment opportunity.  

Therefore, the member management site software you employ has to deliver content based on specific permissions for every piece of content.  The software should easily automate and manage this during the content publishing process.  In addition, the system needs to be able to manage each users relationship to the organization to determine which content they should, or should not, be able to access. 

Membership Site Software

Important CMS Considerations For Your Membership Management Software Matrix

Open Platform CMS

True CMS functionality

Too many platforms claim to have CMS features but offer limited functions.  Templates make website design easy but it should never be the onlly choice if you want to deliver a custom design and experience for your organization.  

Open versus closed platforms

An open platform allows you many more options over a closed platform.  A closed platform requires you to only go through a single developer or company to make any changes.  

Community support

One of the biggest considerations.  Two of the largest open source CMS platforms available – WordPress and DNN – have extensive free and low cost options for adding functionality.  If the platform you are considering requires custom development for any function, it will be very expensive to make any changes in the future. 

Licensing costs

Open source platforms are readily available for any size of organization.  Unless you need all of the benefits of a licensed platform, you should avoid any platform that charges annual or monthly licensing costs.  Instead, use your budget to adding features to your website on an annual basis. 

Membership ManagementFinal thoughts

  • An organization’s membership website is its most valubale public image tool and the correct CMS is one of the most important decisions when determining the membership management software matrix.  Members, prospects, media and consumers go to the website first to learn more about an organization.  Every organization should have the greatest flexibilty to provide the best design and content possible. 
  • The organization’s website is its greatest source of potential members – if it has the capability to build a list of users and their access history.  For example, a non-member that returns regularly without becoming a member should be contacted directly to sell a membership.  But, if your CMS system isn’t capable of building a list of prospects from web visitors based on their status and activity, opportunity is being lost. 
  • The organization’s website can be the first source for emerging trends in the organization.  Utlizing analytics on content, users and keyword searches, the organization can get a glimpse into what is on the minds of members and webs visitors. 
  • Many association management software (AMS) platforms are adding CMS features.  However, it is not how the company makes their money and usually offer limited features.  Tell your AMS vendor that you will be using a different platform for your website content.