by Larry Weaver
Many nonprofits find a membership-based organization encourages a sense of pride and ownership in their supporters, and allows flexibility in attracting people from diverse economic backgrounds to participate at a level they can afford. It requires that the nonprofit spend a bit more effort in developing structures that suit them and their donors, but FundRaiser can help, through the use of the Memberships Module.
Memberships can vary widely between non-profits: some may only require a donation of any amount, while others have minimums and/or levels; some will have all expiration dates falling on the same day of the year, while others will have expiration dates that vary from member to member; some will offer tangible benefits to members, while others will not. All of these differences can be taken into account when using the Membership Module.
New memberships are added by simply adding a gift record that has a Gift Type code of Membership Dues. Prior to doing this, though, you’ll need to set up the following things.
FundRaiser allows you to have multiple Membership Type codes (as many as you need), which you will use to identify members in groups. Different nonprofits will have different ways they need to segment their membership, so there is no hard and fast rule on what these Type codes "should" be. Codes give you information about the kind of member that person is. Most commonly the codes either describe community role, role within the nonprofit, or giving level. For instance, codes based on community role might be Family, Individual, Child, Student, Senior, or Corporate. Codes that describe roles within the nonprofit might be Supporter, Sponsor, Benefactor, Director; and codes that describe giving level might be Samaritan, Angel, or Saint.
The way your nonprofit refers to different levels of membership will vary, of course, but the idea is that the Membership Type code is the highest division of your members, and can be used to target segments of them for various reasons (correspondence, invitations, appeals, etc.).
These Membership Type codes are managed in the Windows | Codes menu. You may add, edit, delete, and even merge codes, just as you can with other codes throughout FundRaiser.
The Membership Rules Window is used to set up details of handling membership payments and expiration dates.
Rules that govern how memberships will be treated in FundRaiser are set in the Options | Contributions menu. You will see two tabs that affect Memberships, the first of which is "Membership Rules". The first section outlines how you treat dues payments. If your nonprofit considers a gift of ANY amount sufficient for membership, then you’ll want to mark the last choice. Otherwise, you’ll need to determine which of the other two statements best reflects your existing rules. The first choice simply means that you take any overpayment and apply it to the next dues period. The second means that you’ll treat that overpayment as "extra", or, in other words, as a gift in addition to the dues payment.
The next section tells FundRaiser how to figure out the expiration date, for new and renewing memberships. The first choice allows members to start anew, in effect, if they have missed an expiration date, but adds a full payment period to anyone paying early, just as a magazine subscription can be allowed to run out or can be paid early. When a late payment is sent in, the magazine subscription (or membership) starts up again as of that payment date, and runs for another full payment period; when an early payment is sent in, a full payment period is added to the existing subscription (or membership).
The second choice is one that actually penalizes early payment, in a way, as it always figured from the payment date. So, if an annual membership is due to expire in June, for instance, but the member sends payment in April, that membership will then have an expiration date of April in the next year.
The final choice in this middle section allows no "gaps" in membership. If annual dues are paid early, the membership is extended a full year. If annual dues are paid late, the "gap" is considered paid, and the expiration date remains the same day of the next year. In this type of membership expiration date determination, your organization will also need to make a ruling as to how long one can be "overdue" and still renew an existing membership. At some point a membership could be so far overdue that it is no longer a "renewal", but the membership is considered lapsed, and a new payment becomes a "re-join". The statistical report for Memberships will allow you to set those "cut-off" points, by the way.
The last section simply gives FundRaiser a default format for figuring the expiration date for new members, and on which day of the month to place it by default.
The Membership Defaults Window is used for setting up the most often used defaults for newly added memberships.
This section simply allows you to set the most-often used defaults for newly added memberships. None of the settings you make here will be "written in stone", but are simply the settings that are most common for all memberships. Each membership record can be modified at the time you enter it. The Membership Type code was mentioned earlier in this article, and there are two other codes for which you may set defaults here: Membership Benefit and Membership Miscellaneous. Again, you may create these codes (if any) in the Windows | Codes menu. These are NOT required codes. If you have no use for them, then, by all means, don’t use them.
Membership Benefit can be used to indicate what (if any) benefits the member will receive for their level of membership (Type code). It may be that they receive a newsletter, or a magazine subscription, or use of a particular facility (pool, gym, spa, meeting room), or admission to a special event (banquet, seminar, retreat), or any one of a number of things or combinations of things. Keep in mind that only one code may appear on a membership record, so that, if a particular membership type involves multiple benefits, you may have to have a different benefit code for each possible combination of benefits.
Membership Miscellaneous can be used in any way you like. Just remember that it is a code that can be used to segment your membership, as are the Type and Benefit codes. Any of these codes can be used (separately or in combination) to create groupings, focus reports or correspondence, and otherwise target portions of your membership base.
Membership Period is simply the most-common length of membership. If all of your members pay annual dues, then Annual is the choice to make. Some nonprofits, however, find it convenient to offer other payment periods to attract those who might otherwise not be able to afford an annual dues payment, or who find it difficult to fit that annual payment into their budgets. While you may find that monthly and quarterly dues periods require more management, you may also discover more people willing to support your cause because you are willing to fit into their economic situations.
Default is the dues amount that you will most often be using. Minimum is the least amount that one can pay for a membership (if you have a minimum, otherwise leave this set to zero).
While FundRaiser Basic is not designed to handle memberships, per se, it can be used effectively by some non-profits. If your have only annual memberships and they all come due on the same day of the year, for instance, then expiration dates are not a problem. All you have to do is identify that someone is a member, and renewal letters will be a once-per-year occurence. You may identify a member using either the Category code or the Donor Source code. You may even have several of these codes, each one indicating a different level of membership. You may identify a membership dues payment using the Gift Source code that is a part of each gift. Using these codes, you’ll have the ability to use the "query" to pull together members for targeted mailings. If you have expiration dates that fall throughout the year, it would take a bit more management, but you can certainly query for anyone who had a gift a year ago with a membership gift source code that you created, which would allow you to see which ones have not renewed, and you’ll be able to send them a renewal letter. It may require that you use the "Que" feature, or some other work-around method, but it may get you by until the day you can afford to move up to FundRaiser Select or Professional with the Membership Module.
Larry Weaver leads online training for FundRaiser Select and Pro. In his free time Larry enjoys music, motorcycles and being a grandfather.
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FundRaiser Software offers non-profit organizations intuitive donor management software that is easy to learn and easy to use. Three programs, ranging from simple to sophisticated, let you choose the features you need now, while guaranteeing a built-in growth path for the future. Software flexibility, budget options, and superb technical support make FundRaiser Software uniquely adaptable to the needs of non-profit organizations - whatever their mission.