SECTION 1 – Identifying Your Needs
What are your membership database requirements?
Before you can shop for new membership database software, you need to figure out your specific needs. In this section, we're going to outline some of the steps you might want to take to identify your requirements so you can be sure that you find a solution that will fit all of your current and future needs.
Step 1: Gather a Selection Team
It might help to create a "selection team" or committee that can work together to identify your organization's membership database needs. This selection team should include a representative from each of the groups who will be using the software – e.g., staff, board, members, volunteers, etc. Having all users involved should ensure that you identify not only all of the key requirements, but also set realistic expectations of both the software choice and the skills of those who will be using it.
Be sure this team includes the expertise you need to:
- Fully understand your current membership database needs and organizational processes
- Recognize the short-comings of your current system/process
- Identify your longer-term needs (e.g., over the next 2-3 years)
- Appreciate all users’ skill levels
Step 2: Review Your Current Situation and Long-term Goals
Before you embark on the time-consuming task of choosing a new membership database system, it is important that your Selection Team takes stock of your existing system or process – its pros and cons – what’s working and what needs to change. In other words, why are you thinking of making the change?
You should also clearly identify your objectives for the search, including your short- and longer-term goals (e.g., 3-5 years). For example:
- Do you expect your membership is going to grow exponentially over the next couple of years?
- Are you planning to create membership levels that will require you to track membership information differently?
- Will you be launching events or programs for which you will need to cross-reference data or capture different financial data?