UPDATE 10/21/2016: We’ve updated this article with a new solution since the post originally went live.
No one can argue—getting things for free is awesome!
Whether it’s a brand new car or just a Chipotle burrito, free stuff makes you happy. So what if you could get something you need and would actually invest money in for free? Maybe something like…membership management software?
I’ve put together a list of the best free membership management software solutions out there for you to compare and contrast.
1. Wild Apricot
Wild Apricot is web-based software for small associations and non-profits to help manage membership, website, events and other activities. It runs through a web browser without needing to install anything on your local computer. Their focus is small organizations and they have a mix of free and paid options. Their free option is free up to 50 members. They charge $25/month when you get to 250 members.
Wild Apricot offers custom domains and integrates with QuickBooks as well. It has good support (and has some great resources and user reviews), even with the free option, and is very customizable. However, if your organization grows rapidly you will quickly outgrow the free version and have to pay monthly fees.
Silkstart is software for helping associations better grow their membership and promote their causes. They have a platform that helps organizations accept payments online for dues, events, and a host of other things. They are SaaS and are free up to 50 dues-paying members. They charge $250/month when you get up to 1,000 members.
In addition to all the basic membership management features, Silkstart has dashboards that help associations see how their organization operates over time, they have early-bird ticket creation, and a strong focus on events, and they have a great blog for tips and advice. Their strong focus on events and also the ability to see the success of your organization long term is great for your business. However, they were just started in 2010, so consider the pros (often greater innovation and usability) and cons (less of a track record) that come with new businesses.
GroupSpaces provides technology to manage membership, activities, and promotion online through a free group website. Their main customers are mostly student groups, social groups, and small organizations. They are free up to 50 members, and they begin charging $7.99/month when you get to 200 members.
GroupSpaces provides ticketing, the ability to create a custom domain or integrate with your current website, as well as manage events. However, they have a very simple back end and they do not integrate with QuickBooks or any other accounting package. It is also worth noting that we attempted to reach them several times with no success. This may be an indication of low customer service levels.
MemberPlanet is web-based software that provides everything for you to manage your group in one place. It’s used by a wide variety of groups, and is completely free up to 200 members. They begin charging $4.99/month when you get over 200 members.
MemberPlanet has donation campaigns, integrates with QuickPay, has online surveys, and has different types of support available among quite a few other options. However, at over 200 members there is a monthly fee, and MemberPlanet was just launched last year, making it another new company like Silkstart.
BigTent is an online platform that allows users to manage multiple groups all in one place. They provide a secure network where members can interact with one another and stay informed and involved in their groups’ activities. Similar to GroupSpaces, the majority of their customers are like-minded groups, social clubs, small organizations, and the like. BigTent is free for any number of members, but does charge a per transaction fee of 4.9% and $0.49 if you need to take payments through it.
BigTent offers payment processing and unlimited free photo and file sharing as well as more general functionality to manage your membership. BigTent is great for small groups/organizations with a small budget and not many people or the time to manage complicated software—they have a customer support page to help you through it yourself. It’s very basic and simple to use and doesn’t require a lot of maintenance. However, they don’t give you a custom domain, and they also charge transaction fees.
ClubMaster is an open source membership management system written in PHP. Its goal is to make a complete membership solution that is free for all, and contains all enterprise features. It’s licensed under a Beerware license (a very relaxed license), so you can do everything that you want with the software.
ClubMaster, in addition to the inherent customizability of being open source, includes shop/order management and integrates with QuickPay. That said, it also means they have very limited support (there is a mailing list for support questions) so you may run into problems with installing and running the software unless you or someone else in your organization is tech savvy.
MembersGear is a free open source membership software that provides you with all the tools to easily administer a membership or subscription web business. It’s PHP software that allows you to integrate and configure your own design with their management system.
MembersGear supports member affiliate programs, unlimited groups, and product selling. It’s free and downloadable, and is ideal for managing a subscription-based membership website. However, similar to ClubMaster, support, although free, is limited given that it’s open-source, and unless you’re tech savvy you may encounter some problems.
Admidio is a basic open source management software available on SourceForge that focuses on general management, and which can be applied to membership and event management. Although basic on the surface, the features of Admidio range from membership list creation and management to integration with online postings and advertising.
Admidio covers many of the key features of membership management software. It can keep your lists updated, integrates with Excel and can export in .pdf format, and it allows for posting online and advertising to your member lists.
However, it does not come packaged with many of the bells and whistles included with other software options, such as Wild Apricot. It does not include payment processing, automatic renewals, or accounting. You may want to consider additional software to supplement these functions.
Tendenci is a much more in-depth open source software solution, covering the major features of membership management, such as payments, membership lists, donations, and email integration. The full version of the software are available for download on GitHub.
Tendenci is feature- and option-rich, to be sure. However, as with all open source software, it does require some technical expertise to get it up and running. That said, if you don’t want to handle implementation yourself, hosting and support are available as packages purchased on the Tendenci website.
10. Zenbership (addition)
Who doesn’t love penguins? Already Zenbership has me hooked with their clean website and quality presentation. This presentation doesn’t end with their website since their software also offers a clean, modern, and easy-to-understand user interface. Zenbership not only offers your standard membership management features, but also includes free event management, social media marketing, and email subscription options.
Zenbership has to be one of the cleanest and expansive open-source membership management programs I have come across. However this quality comes at a price. The software itself is free, however installation isn’t simple and requires web-hosting on your own Linux based servers. If you are savvy with technology, then Zenbership won’t present any issues, however for those who aren’t as savvy, Zenbership does offer help for a price.
Looking for Membership Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Membership Management software solutions.