Great choice for growing associations
Our organization has been using MemberConnection as our AMS since 2018. We had previously been on several of what I would call "base-level" platforms where features and customization were very limited. We found that as our staff and membership grew, we needed a more adaptable system to be able to meet our needs. We went through a thorough exploration and review process in which we looked at more than a dozen AMS platforms and gradually narrowed our choices down based on our needs and priorities. Some of our specific requests included a greater ability to customize pages and features on our website; the option to track member engagement at the organization and individual levels; enhanced query and reporting functionality; and closer integration with our accounting software. We explored the possibility of upgrading to a fully customizable AMS (such as MemberNation or MemberSuite) but felt that the cost of implementation was too high, and the complexity of the systems might be more than our small staff could handle. We were also hesitant to move away from an all-in-one platform that could manage not just our member database, but also email communications and our website. We decided on MemberConnection due to its ability to offer a high level of client configuration while still providing an intuitive, easy-to-navigate interface.
We are a nonprofit trade association with an organizational membership model (dues are paid by the organization and benefits cascade down to any and all individuals affiliated with the member organization). This aspect of our work was a crucial consideration since we had found that prior AMS platforms had been better suited to individual membership models. Our association is regional in scope and we average around 350 member organizations year-to-year. There are about 2800 affiliated member individuals in our database. Our staff size is 10-12 FTEs with a membership team of two individuals. Dues are primarily based on a calendar year renewal and dues levels are tiered according to members' financials.
MemberConnection is somewhat unique in that it exists as a somewhat pared-down version of Euclid's ClearVantage platform. MemberConnection is supported by its own client success team but leans on Euclid Technology's broader team of web developers and database programmers for configurations and more complicated support items. The result is that MemberConnection can offer a robust set of features at a moderate cost and clients benefit from the platform's backing by a larger company with a full support team.
As an all-in-one platform, MemberConnection includes the typical member database, event management, email marketing, financial management, and web/content management features. In addition, there are modules for product sales, job postings, committee/chapter management, surveys, awards and certifications, journal/subscription management, and fundraising. The staff client is web-based and the platform allows for up to 10 user licenses.
As mentioned earlier, our membership model is organizational with individuals receiving member benefits and permissions through their affiliation with member organizations. Tracking member engagement at both the individual and organizational levels was a must for us. Our biggest indicator of engagement is event attendance, which we are able to see at both levels. Email responses, committee membership, and other activity can be tracked at the individual level. There is also a CRM function that uses the “Actions” button to enable staff to track interactions with members or to track requests, questions, or action steps.
Individual records can be created easily from scratch or within an organization profile. Staff can add data fields to profiles as needed, can create customized fields, and use data masks for fields like telephone number or email. The merge function enables staff to merge duplicate records in the database and allows the user to choose individual fields to keep or replace in each record. Members can update their individual records via the member dashboard on our website, and primary contacts have access to update organization information or add/remove individuals from their membership account.
We use two dues scales for members with the dues calculation based on one of two financial indicators. We were able to build out our dues structure and member types in MemberConnection without a problem. We have now been through two dues cycles and have been able to calculate dues, modify dues, prorate dues, etc. as required. Most of our members still pay dues by check, but we are able to offer a convenient online payment option for those who want to pay by credit card. The dues structure is also linked to our online membership application so new members can apply and pay dues in the same step.
MemberConnection offers both quick search and advanced search options within the individual and organization databases. The advanced search includes a very robust query builder that allows for a range of Boolean search operators and strategies. There are practically no limits on what is searchable, so essentially if a data field exists in the database, it can be included in a query. Queries can be preserved as “Saved Lists”, which are dynamic lists of individuals or organizations that will update automatically as records are added or updated. There is also a handy “Bucket” feature that allows staff to create groups of records either from queries or by selecting individual profiles.
Lists can be exported to CSV files or pulled via formatted reports. The export function allows users to select which fields to include and users can also save export settings for repeated use. Custom reports can be built upon request by the MemberConnection team and typically are billable time. The one weakness here might be that users are not able to more easily create custom reports directly within the staff interface.
MemberConnection can accommodate both small and large events. We offer a range of programs, paid and free, in-person and online, members-only and open to the public, and the platform is able to handle all. Our largest event is our annual conference, and we were able to set it up in MemberConnection with such elements as early bird pricing, multiple registrant discounts, sponsorships, and member/non-member pricing. For agenda items, we can create breakout sessions, set registration limits, and enable waitlists.
Members are able to view events through the web-based calendar and register themselves or others from their organization. Staff can also register individuals from the back-end and can cancel, substitute, or refund registrations. The system tracks event history for individuals, and staff can track whether registrants actually attended.
Website / Content Management
MemberConnection’s content management system includes options to edit pages using a WYSIWYG editor or with more complex editing functionality for working directly with HTML/CSS. Clients choose from a selection of themes to provide the basic design for their website. From there, clients can build web pages from scratch or use the collection of short codes to incorporate elements such as staff lists, product tables, or bulleted lists. These elements provide an easy way for clients with little design experience to create professional-looking websites. The wealth of design features can be a bit overwhelming, but the level of customization and scalability is perfect for associations that want more control over their website.
Most web forms, such as event registration and checkout, come with a standard design and layout but can be somewhat customized. For example, we have added custom language to our event registration forms to give instructions to members on registering multiple individuals. Overall, though, there is a high degree of flexibility and customization that can be built into a website and the only limitation might be staff time. MemberConnection also boasts responsive design, so web pages will resize for viewing on tablets and mobile devices.
Clients can set permissions so pages are viewable to members only or even to specific subsets of members. PDF, Word, and similar files can be uploaded in the CMS for posting on a website. Video files can be embedded from sites like YouTube or Vimeo. Other web elements include a blogging function, the ability to host an online store, and a job board.
Users have access to their profile through a dashboard on the client site. Members are able to renew, update their information, or set communication preferences through their dashboard. We have also set things so our primary contacts for member organizations have advanced permissions to update information about the organization as a whole or to manage individual members attached to their account.
The email marketing function in MemberConnection is structured as campaigns and appeals. Campaigns would encompass broader message categories or targeted promotions. Appeals would correlate to individual messages sent as part of each campaign. For example, we have a campaign set up for each year’s dues renewal and might send 3-4 appeals or messages as part of the campaign. Clients can track response rates for both campaigns and appeals.
The message builder is perhaps the biggest weakness that we have encountered. MemberConnection features the Echion email editor that enables clients to draft message templates using a WYSIWYG editor and some HTML. Clients can merge data fields into messages to import names, organizations, or other common elements into broadcast emails. The editor is a bit limiting and doesn’t include the full set of features or level of customization that is available through the CMS. We have been able to import some message templates but also found that there are issues with some characters not translating properly in different email clients due to the encoding used by the editor. The message builder still meets most of our needs but could be improved with a few fixes or tweaks.
Messages can be sent to lists (broadcast email) or to specific individuals and can be sent ad hoc or scheduled to send at a later time. Clients can track response rates on email messages through a series of pre-programmed reports. Metrics include open, read, and click-through rates. These metrics are tracked within individual profiles, so it is possible to see whether a specific member took action on a particular message. Separate reports will also show bounces and click-throughs for specific links within a message.
MemberConnection uses a ticketing system to log support requests, but we have also been able to reach out to team members directly when needed. The MemberConnection team is small but mighty and provides a level of personalized support that we truly appreciate. Our contact worked with us through the entire implementation process and training and has remained available to us when we have questions or want to discuss enhancements. The team is quick to respond to support tickets and we have seen most issues resolved in a matter of hours.
Over the past two years, we have worked with the MemberConnection team to implement a number of configurations, from minor tweaks to our member database to building out our conference registration within the events module. While there are some limits to what features can be customized, we have been very happy with the level of customization that we have been able to bring to the platform. Some examples of configurations would include customizing automated event confirmation messages, adding billing/admin contacts to organization profiles, and creating an online membership application. MemberConnection has pushed out regular updates and we are often pleasantly surprised by the addition of a new feature or tool. Another benefit of MemberConnection being built on top of ClearVantage is that any integrations built for the latter platform can also be applied to the former. We have undertaken one major integration with a mobile app provider and are in the middle of another integration with our current webinar platform.
Customization work, report building, and some other support items do require purchasing configuration hours through MemberConnection. These can be purchased beforehand in blocks of 10, 20, and 40 hours with tiered pricing – the higher the number of hours, the lower the hourly cost. We have used 30-40 hours each of the past two years, but that includes several major integrations. I would expect us to need less than 20 configuration hours in a year for routine maintenance and minor tweaks.
MemberConnection has proven to be a great fit for us as a growing membership association and has enabled us to provide a more customized website and overall enhanced experience for our members. The product offers a good middle-of-the-road option for organizations that have an interest in stepping up from the base level of AMS platforms but maybe not the staff or budget to implement a fully customizable AMS. MemberConnection enables clients to have a high level of configuration while still providing an all-in-one solution with website management and email marketing built-in. Support is top-notch and we appreciate the level of personal communication and guidance that we have received since moving to the platform.