How to Build a Membership Application Form (+ Template & Examples)

Membership December 02, 2020

Tatiana Morand

By Tatiana Morand

First impressions are important. While a prospective member may have visited your membership website or attended an event before deciding to join, completing your membership application form may be the first time they're officially connecting with your organization. The application form and process is also the means by which you get to know the prospective member and in turn, he or she is being introduced to your organization.

When you think about it, this form says a lot about your organization. For example, an attractive, easy to use application form might demonstrate that you are thoughtful, welcoming, and understand your members and their needs... while a complicated, time-consuming form might turn prospective members off and convey the wrong impression about your organization.

Your membership application isn’t just a form: it's the gateway to your organization. So, you should roll out the welcome mat for prospective members by ensuring that your application form is easy to find and complete, and is both welcoming and informative.

Whether you offer an automated, online form or one that members print out and send in, here are a few ideas for fine-tuning your existing or building a new membership application form.

Or, if you just want to skip to our examples and template, click here.

  Membership Application Form

1. Is Your Membership Form Easy to Find and Complete?

First and foremost, you want to make sure it's easy to find on your website.

Whether you have a “Join Us” or “Join Now” button, a membership page or menu tab, be sure the membership form isn’t buried deep in your website’s navigation and can be easily accessed like in the image below. 

join us page membership form

What else will they need to know?

To make the application process run smoothly, be sure all of the information needed to complete the form is close at hand. If a prospective member has to go look for information elsewhere, they might get frustrated and give up before completing their application. 

membership form information

Some organizations offer links to information right on the online form, while others have a “Membership” page on their website that includes a link to the form as well as other relevant details such as a list of membership categories or levels and their fees, or other information such as necessary credentials, etc.

Is it easy to complete?

You don’t want a prospective member struggling to fill in your form, so keep the application simple and easy to complete.

For example, if you require applicants to read through a full page of instructions, a guide or an FAQ, it's a sign that it's a bit too complicated.

Be sure to offer clear instructions on your the printable form or on the screen for online forms. If you're using membership management software program (such as WildApricot), you should be able to add instructions to individual fields in your form.

  Free Member Application Forms

As noted above, if members need to choose a membership level, check the fees or verify any additional information in order to complete the form, be sure you include links to the appropriate information either on the form or on the adjacent membership page.

Does your membership application close the sale?

When a prospect arrives at your membership page or application form, it may be your last chance to convince him or her to join. That’s why it’s important to ensure that information is close at hand on member benefits as well as opportunities for networking and participation.

Some organizations even go one step farther and offer testimonials on their membership page to put a human face on the organization and its membership. Recommendations from other members can offer powerful persuasion. Seeing the photo and testimonial of a peer can tip the scale, whether it's on your membership form or on your homepage like this example from the Senior Dining Association

sda member video testimonials

Of course, if you decide to include recommendations or testimonials you’ll need to get permission to use them and include the full name, title, organization, and use a photo if you can (or even a video like the example above). 


2. What Information Should Be Included on a Membership Application?

The key objective of your membership application form is to capture transactional information (contact information and fee payment).

But it also offers an opportunity for you to get to know your new prospective member and also motivate participation in your organization. The challenge is finding a balance between gathering the information you need and providing additional details, without making the form completion seem like a daunting task.

“Need to have” items:

Here are some of the key items your member application form should include:

  • Membership types or levels and their fees
  • Membership requirements (e.g., if candidates require specific designation, education, credentials, a professional conduct statement, etc.)
  • Membership/subscription term
  • Contact information (e.g., name, organization, address, telephone, email, etc.)
  • Pertinent personal information required (e.g., date of birth, etc.)
  • Conditions of membership (e.g., terms, privileges, responsibilities involved, etc.)
  • Payment options and process details (e.g., online payment, check, etc.)
  • Details on application process (e.g., if the application needs to be reviewed by a committee, etc.)
  • Previous membership (e.g., are they a former member?)
  • References or sponsors (if required)
  • Chapter/Affiliate/Region information (e.g., if it is a multi-chapter organization and membership is assigned based on particular criteria)

“Nice to have” items:

The following may be included on the form or offered as links to pages on your website. You may want to distinguish between the information fields that are mandatory or required and those which are “nice to have” such as:

  • Membership benefits and/or your “promise” of what membership in your organization will offer
  • Personal or professional interests / type of information they want to receive (e.g., government relations, advocacy, legal, professional development, etc.)
  • Committees/Task Forces/Volunteer positions
  • Privacy/sharing: You may want to indicate what information will be shared (e.g., on membership directories or elsewhere on your website); what will be available to volunteers, such as board members; and what information will only be available to staff administrators.

welcome to the example association

For a downloadable version of these steps that you can print off and share with your team, check out our Member Application Form Checklist!


3. Can the Look and Feel Make an Impact?

If it’s been a while since you looked at your membership form, take a good fresh look right now. How does it look? How does it sound when you read through it?

As noted earlier, the prospective members’ first impressions can be critical, so it’s important that your application form is appealing; easy to move through and complete.

Researchers found that it only takes one-tenth of a second for visitors to a website to decide the attractiveness of a web page — meaning your prospective member will make up their mind about joining or registering within a few seconds of being on your “Join Us” or Membership page. If the form looks complicated, time-consuming or confusing, they may postpone completion or even worse, they might re-consider their application.

That means that you need to capture their attention right away and move them through the page to completion. You also need to make the applicant feel welcomed. Here are a few tips for keeping your application form (online or off) more appealing: 

  • Divide it into sections, grouping relevant information together: A long, unending page of text can look daunting, so it’s important to break the application form into sections — for example, using bold headings to separate grouped fields. Some online forms enable you to do a multi-step process, which moves the applicant from one page or section to another so they don’t see a long form; others use color or big, bold colorful headings to draw the reader from one section to another.
  • Communicate your organization’s personality through the typeface, color and graphics: If you’re a community organization or networking is your strength, you’d want the design to be more friendly than formal. You could consider including color or graphics to catch the applicant’s attention and demonstrate your welcoming culture. Alternately, if you’re appealing to professionals or corporate members, think about ways to capture a look and feel that visually speaks to your audience. You could still consider using appealing background colors, and of course incorporating your branding through your logo or other visuals. You can also use type and graphic treatments to draw attention to optional sign-up items or information (e.g., volunteer positions) you want prospects to notice.
  • Make it user-friendly: Completing forms is never a fun thing to do, so make yours user-friendly by offering checkboxes. If you're offering an online form, offer drop-down menus and pre-filled answers to speed completion time.
  • Use a concise, but friendly tone of voice: Like color and graphic style, the tone of your application form should be in keeping with your audience and the nature of your organization. But whether you choose a casual, light-hearted tone or a more formal voice, be sure your questions are positive. In researching this topic, I saw a number of application forms that went into detail about what an applicant “must not have done” and other “registration standards”.  While it’s important to include any membership criteria, this information could be offered in a more user-friendly tone of voice.

 Read More: 25 Solid Membership Website Examples & How to Create Your Own

  Free Member Application Forms

4. What Format – Online, Offline or Both?

Completing a membership application can be a time-consuming chore, so you should offer options that make the process as quick and easy as possible.

For some, paper forms can be a cumbersome turn-off – they prefer to complete and submit it online. Others might want to take the time to print off a form and return it via mail. You know your membership audience best – what would they prefer? Be sure to indicate the options that are available, for example, can they:

  • Join online? 
  • Pay membership fees online? (on a secure page with details on online payment options) This can be a critical consideration, as we noted in our article, Understanding Online Payment Services“When members or supporters are ready to sign up, register for an event, or make a donation, they want to do it quickly and easily. In fact, websites that don’t support online payment can be seen as being out of touch.”
  • Open or download a printable application form?

Why You Should Move to Online Member Application Forms

Moving to an online member application process (such as WildApricot's) from your membership site is not only more convenient for the applicant, but it also offers major benefits for the staff or volunteers managing membership administration, such as:

  • Increased efficiency: When you enable prospects to join through an online membership application process, all of their information is immediately and automatically saved in your membership database. This offers increased efficiency since there’s no need for staff or membership volunteers to spend time transferring information from a printed form into the database. In addition, since they can pay online, there is no need for staff to deal with credit card approvals or wait for checks to arrive in the mail – saving accounting time and effort.
  • Improved accuracy: Since information is seamlessly stored in your member database, it ensures that contact information is correctly recorded and any future updates can be made by the member through online member self-service.
  • Anytime, anywhere access: Prospects can sign up online anytime. They can join right away, instead of having to spend time downloading forms and mailing them in. In addition, anyone with administrative permission to your online membership management system can access this information anywhere, anytime, from the moment the application is completed.
  • Secure online payment: Using an online membership application also offers access to secure online payment options — like we mentioned before, no more waiting for cheques!
  • Automatic data back-up: Not only is the new members’ contact information transferred automatically to the membership database, but this will also be backed-up “in the cloud” so there is no chance of losing precious member information or out-of-date records.
  • Instant confirmation and welcome:  With an online membership management system, you can offer automatic membership confirmation and welcome emails. This means you can welcome new members immediately and turn prospects into active members instantly.
  • It should be quick and easy: Creating an online membership application should be quick and easy if you are using a membership management system or software. In WildApricot, for example, users can create an application form using a combination of fields drawn from your membership fields and common fields, along with custom fields (e.g., upload a photo). 
  • It’s paperless: It's an environmentally friendly option — save the environment along with growing your membership! 

5. It's Not Just The Form — It's The Follow-Up Too

Once the applicant hits the send or completion button on your online form, or sends in their application by mail, they want their membership experience to begin.

But in reality, it truly starts with their confirmation email or letter.

So, it's important that you confirm the membership and welcome them aboard as soon as you can. 

Most membership management systems offer automated email welcome and confirmations that you can customize to meet your needs. If you also offer options for submitting applications by mail, be sure you have systems in place to follow-up on these immediately as well.

Take the opportunity, both on the form and in the confirmation email, to demonstrate what your organization is all about and the benefits of being a member. Welcome the new member and start building member engagement and trust from the start.

Read More: Welcome New Members Right with These 9 Email Tips (+Template)


Membership Application Form Examples & Template

Now that you're ready to get to work, here are a couple templates for you to get started. 

This template is applicable to any organization, and can be printed or sent over in its original Google Doc format for any new members to complete. 

membership application form

If you'd like to edit the form above, just follow this link, duplicate the file and you're good to go!

However, we recommend setting up online member registration forms instead, like the examples below. This kind of membership form makes it a lot easier for new members to apply to join your organization, since it's hosted on your website so they can access it on their own time. 

Here's an example of this type of form for a club: 

membership application form

And here's a more general example for any kind of membership organization: 

membership application form

If you want a more tailored version of a membership application form, check out the examples below from some of the best-known membership organizations. 

This example from Toastmasters International is great for organizations who have a lot of international members, since it provides options for preferred language. 

membership application form

The following application comes from a social membership club and includes a section for referrals by another member: 

membership application form  

This membership form example from the YMCA includes a space to fill out family information — perfect if your organization offers family memberships or group memberships. It also includes a section asking how the prospective member found out about your organization, which is a great way to help you track which recruitment tactics are most effective. 

membership application form  

The Best Software for Managing Your Members

Are you currently processing registrations manually... and getting sick of it? 

One of the biggest complaints I hear from membership managers is how much time it takes to process new member and event registrations.

Fortunately, a software exists that completely automates the registration process online so you never have to lift a finger again. It's called Membership Management Software and it saves some organizations up to 20 hours a week in administrative work.

The best part is that Membership Management Software is an all-in-one tool that eliminates most of the admin tasks when it comes to running a membership organization. Some of its main components include:

  • Automated contact database updates
  • Online event registration and payments pages
  • A way to accept online donations
  • An emailing system to communicate with your members
  • Professionally designed newsletter templates
  • Instant financial reports

If you'd like to see how much time and money membership management Software can save you, start a free trial of WildApricot, the number one Membership Management Software on the market used by over 20,000 organizations around the world.


Membership Application Form

Membership Application Form Membership Application Form

"As our club grew from the 60's to in excess of 150 members and the need to collect dues and establish membership categories arose, it became very hard to manage everything with the paper system we had been using. WildApricot solved all that perfectly."

- Fred Finney, Vistoso Cyclists


All the best with creating and optimizing your membership application forms! We hope this guide has given you the insight needed to grow your organization and engage more members.

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