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Five Benefits of a Good Website for Associations

matt-willson

Aubergine have learned a lot about the benefits of a well-planned website for associations, from our experience in building websites for an eclectic range of organisations including the Society of Local Council Clerks, the International Federation for Societies of Hand Therapists, the Parks Management Association, the British Farriers and Blacksmiths Association and the Music Managers Forum.

Here’s our guide to the key benefits of an association website, which include

  •             Simplifying membership sign-up and management
  •             Automating membership fee renewal
  •             Automating the management of communication lists
  •             Providing a valuable resource centre
  •             Allowing additional revenue generation

Simplifying membership sign-up and management

Many associations spend a large amount of administrative resource on signing up new members and keeping track of existing ones. This often involves old and cumbersome systems, with spreadsheets inherited from previous managers a common theme. Sending out sign-up forms, processing payments and updating member information can be a full time job.

A well-planned website can automate a lot of this for you, saving time whilst minimising the potential for human error and giving control over information accuracy and payments to the members.

A successful association website will:

  • Have clear calls-to-action across the website to join
  • Include a simple sign up form
  • Allow online payments for a variety of payment cards
  • Reduce administration for the association

The signed-up member should then be able to administer their own association profile and easily find when their membership is due for renewal.

The website can provide easy-to-access information to association management about membership numbers and new sign-up rates, breaking them down by membership type if needed.

Larger associations will benefit from a website that communicates directly with existing databases and systems, creating new member profiles and issuing invoices automatically.

Automating membership fee renewal

When combined with an online payment processor (such as Stripe), a good membership site will be able to take repeat payments for memberships. Monthly or annual renewal payments will be taken automatically; if a member’s card has expired or changed since their original payment, an automated process can both prompt the member to update their payment method as well as inform the associations admin team about the issue.

Membership renewal rate is an important success indicator for many associations – the website can be coded to notify the association about individual lapsed members, as well as send out automated “are you sure?” emails to the member. Regular automated lists of lapsed members can be generated for the association to make follow-up calls or emails, useful for finding out reasons for leaving or for reputation management.

Automating the management of communication lists

Timely and accurate communication to members makes for a good relationship with the association – but this can be made difficult when the membership data is spread across multiple systems or has not been maintained regularly. Creating professional, well-designed emails is difficult when you’re not an email marketing expert – with the wide range of devices used to read emails, it’s hard to keep on top of best practice for successful email delivery and design.

A good association website will synchronise with a reputable email marketing provider such as Mailchimp or Aweber, automatically adding new members to an email list, removing lapsed members and updating the email addresses of members who update their website profiles.

These email marketing systems have modern design templates that work across all devices, often with simple user interfaces that allow even inexperienced association admins to produce quality emails.

The likes of Mailchimp also offer automated email follow-up processes, meaning you can automate sending of a pre-defined series of emails to new members – for example a welcome email, followed by an introduction to the resources available, followed by a summary of events across the coming year.

For associations that follow a more segmented approach to member communications, additional member data such as membership type or preferences can be synced to the mail provider.

Providing a valuable resource centre

The value of many associations to their members is the wealth of knowledge built up over many years. A well-structured website can help members find and digest that information, as well as inform them about new developments.

Often this information is member-only, and a good association website will make it easy for the organisation to ensure web pages are available to logged-in, paid-up members.

Sometimes the association will want to make some of this information public, for example to demonstrate to potential new members the quality of knowledge they’ll get once they join – having a one-click process to doing this should be available.

As the knowledge base of the association evolves, so should the website – having clearly categorised and easily searchable resources means that the website can be flexible over time and remain invaluable to its members.

Facilitating additional revenue generation

The business model of some associations includes additional revenue streams from members. Virtual events and online learning are now accepted as the norm for career development, and are relatively low cost for associations to deliver.

Websites can integrate a calendar of events and allow the association to distribute tickets; a fully-featured website LMS (Learning Management System) can give members access to dedicated online courses, including the facility to issue certification and log CPD hours.

Both event ticketing and LMS systems can be integrated with an online payment provider to take payments for both – or they can be made accessible to logged-in, paid-up members as a value-added element to their membership.

In summary: what makes a good association website?

Ultimately, it’s a website that makes both the association management and their members happy. Saving management time, increasing revenue and making expertise available are usually the primary drivers for the organisation; making signup and payment simple and allowing easy access to resources are often the most important factors for members.

Whilst every association and their website needs are different, from our experience these five key benefits play an important role in making a new association website pay dividends.

  •             Simplifying membership signup and management
  •             Automating membership fee renewal
  •             Automating the management of communication lists
  •             Providing a valuable resource centre
  •             Allowing additional revenue generation

Useful Resources:

Aubergine guide:

“How to prepare for a new website”

Association websites:

SLCC.co.uk

IFSHT.org

ParksManagement.org.uk

TheMMF.net

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