Membership Database Selection Guide

Understanding your Software/System Options

Now that you've identified your current and future needs and gathered and prioritized your requirements, you can start identifying the type of software that might fit your needs.

What factors will influence the type of system you need?

Your specific requirements will determine the type of software or system you should look at. For some organizations, this may mean considering a full Association Management System "that offers database features to run operations, such as member services,  event management, communications, product databases and fundraising"  such as Wild Apricot. But organizations that focus solely on fundraising and donor database management might want to look at commercial off-the-shelf options.

Single spreadsheet or multiple data tables/relational database?

For example, if you are currently using a spreadsheet, but need to keep track of financial information for each member (e.g. membership fees), or you need to sort events by people and people by events - you'd need multiple data tables that could be cross-referenced. (For these more complex requirements, you'll need a system based on a relational database in which multiple data tables are related to one another through a common identifier.)

Online or Off-line?

The number of administrators, locations or computers on which you'll use the system will also impact the type of option to consider. For example, if you know you'll have multiple users (e.g., staff and/or volunteers) that will need to access the software from a number of computers, you should probably consider an online or web-based system that all users can access easily via any web browser. If, on the other hand, you have one administrator in one location, you could look at desktop software that runs on a sole computer (e.g., off-line).

Off-the-shelf or custom?

While your situation will determine whether online or off-line applications make the most sense, there is another factor to consider in making your choice: whether you want software that your organization buys and installs on your own computers (and for which you may need to pay for updates), or software-as-a-service (SaaS) - web-based software that is hosted "in the cloud," for which you pay a fee, but receive automatic updates.

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Creative Commons Licence

Wild Apricot Software Selection Guide by Wild Apricot is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution- NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Based on a work at

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