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Why It’s Time to Move Past Your Excel Membership Template

Author: Ranojoy Ghosh
December 18, 2019
🕑 6 min read

If you’re like many of the small membership organizations I’ve talked to, you’re currently using an Excel membership template to keep a bird’s-eye view on your members.

You might think it’s the easiest option.

After all, Excel is available to anyone — the perfect solution for a small membership organization who doesn’t have much budget.

Plus, when you’re first starting out, the thought of looking at other options might seem too complex, or might not even be on your radar.

I get it. There’s a lot to think about when you’re first starting and growing your organization, and worrying about how to manage your members is probably at the bottom of your list.

But the longer you use Excel, the more you’ll start seeing its limitations.

As WildApricot’s Director of User Onboarding, this is something I’ve heard a lot about from small organizations — and I’m here to help you figure out how to solve this problem before it starts.

From a lack of integrations to no way to collect payments online, here are the seven most common issues I’ve seen with organizations who use an Excel membership template rather than a software solution.

Read More: Why It’s the Perfect Time to Move Past Your Club Membership Excel Template

1. It Doesn’t Integrate with Anything

Excel was made to be a spreadsheet tool — that’s it.

So, if you’re storing your members in Excel, you’re undoubtedly using a ton of other software platforms to accomplish all the other tasks you need to do to run your organization.

Eventbrite for ticketing.

Mailchimp for emailing.

Doodle for volunteer scheduling.

And the worst part? Excel doesn’t integrate with any of them (or with anything else) unless you’re willing to put a lot of work into building custom scripts (which, let’s face it, you probably don’t have time to do).

That means that if a member lapses or wants to be removed from your email list, you have to remove them from all your systems manually.

Or if one of your members attends an event, or is only available at certain times, you have to add more and more fields in your sheet — turning it into more and more of a behemoth.

Click through to claim your 60-day trial of WildApricot to create effective QR codes that will speed up event check-in.

2. There’s No Easy Way to Share Information

If you’ve ever had to email a spreadsheet back and forth, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

What edits did Karen make?

Did Joe actually add that new member?

And even if you’re using the online version of Excel, you still run the risk of of one person updating a version they downloaded onto their desktop two years ago.

Plus, if more than one person is looking at the spreadsheet, the chances of information being deleted rises exponentially.

If you’ve ever accidentally deleted a row and shifted everyone’s information so that every member ends up with the wrong email, you’ll know what I mean.

Or, even worse: what if your computer crashes and the file is lost forever?

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3. There’s No Way to Collect Payments Online

A lot of small organizations rely on manual payments.

You might be collecting cheques for membership dues, and asking for payment at the door for your events.

However, the more you grow, the less sustainable this becomes.

(And have you ever had to tell a member their cheque got lost in the mail? What a nightmare.)

Using an online payment processor — something that’s not possible via Excel — means it’s a lot easier for members to pay dues as well as sign up for events… which means they’re more likely to do it.

Just look at how this ski club managed to get more registrants than ever before for their main event simply by moving to online payments:

Read More: Understanding Online Payment Services + Top 10 Payment Providers

4. There Are No Self-Service Options

How many emails do you get from members who’ve changed their address that you then have to update manually?

But you know what’s worse? The ones who don’t email you.

They stop contacting you. Emails you send them go unread, and letters are returned to sender.

And it’s not because they don’t care.

It’s just because their email changed, or they moved and forgot to tell you.

But if they had the option to do it themselves online, they might be more likely to remember — meaning you wouldn’t have to wonder why they ghosted you, and would always be able to reach them.

Plus, using an Excel membership template means you might not even know how many members you actually have.

Between accidentally duplicated records and the chance that lapsed members won’t contact you if they can no longer be in your database, it’s difficult to keep track of exactly who’s part of your organization.

But if members can update records themselves, the chance of accidentally creating two of the same person is greatly reduced.

5. It’s Not Secure

Member data security is one of the biggest concerns I hear about when talking to membership organizations who are looking to move out of Excel.

With phishing attacks on the rise, keeping your member data secure is more important than ever.

And if you’re just sending a spreadsheet back and forth via email, the chances that someone will be able to hack it are much higher than if you’re using a dedicated cloud provider that includes data encryption as part of their standard operating procedure.

6. There’s No Way to Contact Support

If anything goes wrong with your Excel membership template, who you gonna call? 

Not Ghostbusters — or anyone else, for that matter.

If you’re trying to pull data about who attended which event from one spreadsheet and export it to another and your computer crashes, you’re on your own.

Or if your only volunteer who knows anything about IT gets too busy to help you figure out how to do a v-lookup, you’re stuck.

And even if you’re the techie on your team, wouldn’t it be nice to have some support to back you up?

7. It’s Too Confusing

The longer your organization lives in Excel, the more complex your sheet will become.

As opposed to a nonprofit CRM or membership management software, there’s no way to add additional fields without it becoming more and more confusing.

Sure, you can colour-code it to see which members are about to expire, and you can add additional tabs with event information. That will work if you only have a couple of events and a small membership base.

But if you start adding a lot of custom fields — for example, to track who attended which event — things will get messy fast.

This becomes particularly relevant when your admin leaves the organization.

Why are some cells yellow? Why are others green? And what does that field called TTYL represent?

You’ll never know.

Did any of these struggles sound like ones you’re facing today?

If so, it might be time to start your free trial of WildApricot. 

Our all-in-one member management software can help you save over 20 hours a week, with solutions including:

  • A website builder, event registration, and an email builder, so you can stop wasting time on trying to get a variety of different platforms to integrate
  • Being in the cloud, so information is always accessible to your team and doesn’t have to be emailed back and forth
  • A variety of admin roles so that different members of your team can have different levels of access
  • PCI-DSS compliance for credit card payments  as well as many other security measures, so your members’ information is automatically backed up and kept safe
  • Self-service options, so members can easily update their own profile without you needing to do it manually
  • Payment processing, so you never have to worry about another cheque getting lost in the mail
  • A responsive and dedicated support team who’s ready to jump in if you have any questions

Free Trial WildApricot

And if you have any other questions, please reach out to me and the rest of the Onboarding team at coaches [@] — we’re happy to help!

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