These 10 Member Data Fields Will Help You Grow Your Organization

Membership October 24, 2016

Terry Ibele

By Terry Ibele

“In God we trust; all others bring data.”

-William Edwards Deming

Dr. Samuel Dyer is one membership manager who understood the power of collecting and analyzing data when he started The Medical Liaison Society in 2013.

By collecting data from his first 12 members, he pinpointed the best way to promote his organization. Four years later, The Medical Liaison Society had grown to over 500 members strong.

Perhaps you’re creating a membership database for the first time, or you’re updating an existing one. At WildApricot we’ve helped over 17,000 organizations set up their membership databases.

We've seen that the more accurate your data, the smoother any nonprofit can run. And with the right member data, strategies to grow, engage, or retain more members become easier, just like Dr. Dyer found.

From our experience, here are the 10 mandatory fields to keep track of in your member database.

And if you'd like to learn more about using member data to grow your membership, check out our free webinar on How to Use Data to Grow Your Membership in Just 1 Hour a Month.


1) Join Date

Besides acting as a trigger for renewals, a member's join date can be used to set up a simple appreciation strategy, which can increase member engagement.

As Steve Olenski of Marketing Land says, "The more a customer feels appreciated by a business, the more he or she is likely to support that company and recommend it to others." And the same goes for membership organizations as well.

So, here’s how to use a member’s join date to appreciate your members:

On the anniversary of a member joining (or on the sixmonthiversary, or whichever versary you choose), send that member an appreciation email. Talk about how their contribution to the organization made a difference and offer a small gift such as a discount to your next event as a simple thank you.

In a similar way, Patty Foley, the past membership chair of Friends of Lucy Robbins Welles Library, used appreciation letters to gain a retention rate of over 90%.

 Free Member Application Forms 

2) Reason for Joining

If you’re looking to boost your member growth, knowing the reason a member joined is crucial.

This information will give you insight into which benefits are most attractive to new members so you can pour more resources into those benefits to attract even more members.

Dr. Samuel Dyer, CEO and Chairman of the Board of the Medical Science Liaison Society had a very clear idea about which benefits attracted members to his organization.

He discovered from tracking the reasons someone joined his organization that many just wanted access to the exclusive results of a salary survey he published for his industry. As a result, Dr. Dyer invested more time and energy into scaling up the salary survey and over the next four years he was able to use it to attract over 500 new members to his organization.

In the same way, once you discover which benefits are drawing in members, you can allocate your resources accordingly.

Adding this field to your new membership form is easy to do. You can keep it an open field to allow new members to comment freely, or you can provide multiple choice options.


3) "How did you hear about us?"

Many of the small to medium-sized organizations I’ve spoken to don’t know the return on investment of their marketing initiatives.

This information is important, because it allows you to see which marketing initiatives are working and how to budget accordingly.

Here’s an example: Perhaps you run a newspaper ad. Knowing how many members joined because they saw the ad will let you know if the ad is worth the cost.

The math is simple:

Additional dues from new members who joined because of the ad ÷ Cost of ad = Return on investment.

Knowing the cost of the ad is easy, but finding out how many members joined because of it is a little more tricky.

That's why you need to ask every new member how they first heard about your organization.

Once you have enough data, you’ll be able to see which are your marketing initiatives are worth it.


4) Event Registrations & Attendance

It’s well known that holding an event is the best way to engage your members and “keeping your members engaged and happy is key to maximizing your member lifecycle,” says Mike Morrison of The Membership Guys.

Keeping track of event registration and attendance lets you see who’s stopped coming to your events and therefore who’s the least engaged.

Once you identify these people, send them a “win-back” email - a special offer designed to re-engage someone with your organization.

Take this example of Starbucks’ “win-back” email:

Membership Form
While Starbucks' email is for a discount on a product, in a similar way, you can give your unengaged members a discount on your next event.

Organizations that are successful at member engagement have a plan in place to send these emails out on a regular basis.

Of course you can do these things manually using Excel and Outlook and physical registration forms (not to mention keeping track of who gets a discount or not), but luckily there is software specifically designed for this - Membership Management Software (that’s our specialty at WildApricot).

With this type of software, you can easily pull a list of all the members who haven’t attended your events, send them an email with a discount code, and allow them to sign up and pay all online.


5) Donation Amount

Throw your donation box in the garbage. You need to be tracking exactly which members donate and exactly how much.

Here’s how to use that information to increase donations.

First, put a donation field in your new membership form. People are more willing to donate to your organization at the time they’re paying for a membership. That’s why a cashier will ask you to donate a few dollars to a charity when you’re paying for your groceries. Once you do this, you'll know exactly who's donated and how much.

Second, turn all of these first time donors into repeat donors by emailing them a story about how their donation made a difference. Sixty percent of first time donors want to know this information before making a second donation.

Third, every year, send all your donating members a personalized thank-you email. In this email state how much they donated last time and ask them to donate the same amount again. Be sure to include a direct link to your donation page.

And on your donation page, communicate exactly where the money is going. Thirty percent of donors don’t give more money because they’re skeptical about how it’s being used.

In this way, keeping track of who donated and by how much can help increase your donations.


6) Willingness to Volunteer

Here's the simplest way to get a list of individuals ready to volunteer for your organization.

In your membership form include a field that says, "Are you willing to volunteer?"

Then whenever you need a volunteer, you can simply filter your database for people who answered, “yes” and voila! You’ve got a list of ready-to-volunteer individuals.

You can even go so far as to create checkboxes for types of volunteer needs and which days work best.

It’s as simple as that.


7) Profile Information

Not much needs to be said about collecting this information. Here are the must-track fields for a member’s profile:
  • First Name
  • Last Name
  • Email
  • Phone Number
  • Address
One benefit of collecting this information through a membership website (using software like Membership Management Software) is that members can login to their profiles and update the information themselves. No more manual work! Here are our top 10 picks for membership website builders

Member profile attachments banner

8) Membership Level

Tracking each member’s level over time will give you a good idea if you’re creating the right amount of value for each level.

First, tally up how many members you have in each level. The most common levels I see are: Free, Regular, Premium.

  • Free: These members have access to basic benefits like a newsletter. This is likely the largest portion of your members
  • Regular: These members have access to most benefits. This is likely the second largest portion of your members.
  • Premium: These members have access to all benefits and special discounts. This is likely the smallest portion of your members.

Over time, you’ll be able to see how the percentage of members changes in each level, like in the graphs below:

Member data

In the above example, the increase in Regular memberships seems to indicate that many Free members upgraded. This could be do to an increase in value for Regular memberships.

However, Premium memberships went down in year two, which could be a sign that the organization needs to offer higher exclusive value to Premium members, which may help convince more Regular members to upgrade.

In this way, you’ll be able to see how the value offerings for each of your membership levels are taking effect over time.

 Free Member Application Forms

Read More: The Complete Guide to Setting Up a Robust Membership Model

9) Renewal Date

There are two options you can set for renewal dates:
  1. The same date for every member. For example, you can have all your memberships renewal on Jan 1st.
  2. Individual member dates. This means that every member’s renewal date will depend on the day they joined.
The choice is really yours. However, knowing the renewal date of your members is a major trigger for renewal reminders.

A good strategy that a lot of organizations use is to send a renewal reminder email two weeks before, one week before, and on the day of. As we’ve explained in our webinar, The Tech Effect, the increase of new technologies has actually changed human behaviour and made us more forgetful.

So, make sure you send those reminders! You don’t want any of your members forgetting to pay on time.


10) Member Payment Status

Keeping track of this information is crucial to maintaining a healthy cash flow for your organization. It will let you know who's paid, who's overdue, and who's lapsed.

However, processing payments for events and dues, and running after people for overdue payments can be one of the most manual (and frustrating) administrative tasks for any organization.

But, there’s a better way that can rid you of all this work completely. Simply integrate your member database with an online payment provider like PayPal and allow members to pay for everything online. Then, automate reminder emails to members who are overdue. This can all be done with Membership Management Software. No more checks, cash, paperwork, or chasing down members.

Doing this will give you an instant boost in cash flow, just like Gary Rubens of the Ski Club of Washington DC discovered.

Within one month of promoting the club’s upcoming winter trip and offering payments online (something the club had never done before), all spots were filled and the club’s cash flow increased by $18,000, allowing Gary to cover all his deposits.

As Gary put it, “This is by FAR the earliest we have ever sold out a ski trip... Our President and Board are also tremendously impressed.”

Forget manually trying to track your members’ payment statuses, let Membership Management Software do the heavy lifting.


Are You a Member Database Pro?

Keeping track of these 10 member data fields will help you run a smooth membership organization and help you develop strategies to grow, engage, and retain more members for your organization.

If you don't have an easy way to collect and track member data already, consider using WildApricot's all-in-one membership management software. You can get a free, 30-day trial of WildApricot here.

Or, if you're ready to test out your member database skills against the top nonprofits, take this short quiz we developed with database expert Wes Trochlil.

The Membership Growth Report:

Benchmarks & Insights for Growing Revenue and Constituents

Get the report now!

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