According to Pew Internet research, 81% of American adults use the internet to search for information (91%) and conduct online banking (61%). This means your prospects are using your website to gather information on membership. So the logical next step is enabling them to join online through your website as well. After all, your membership application form is the gateway to your organization – you want prospects to be able to easily open that gate and then welcome them in. If your prospects are faced with outdated forms they need to download, complete and return, they may postpone joining or, even worse, re-think their decision.
In addition, first impressions are important, so offering a convenient, easy-to-use online membership application form and payment process demonstrates that you are a thoughtful, welcoming organization that understands your members and their needs.
Why move your membership application form online?
So if your organization doesn’t offer a membership application and payment process through your website, here are seven reasons to consider moving to an online process:
These days, we all expect anytime, anywhere access. With an online application form or process, prospects can sign up online anytime. This means that when an individual is interested, they can join right away, instead of having to spend time downloading forms and mailing or faxing them in. In addition, with most membership management systems, those managing your membership administration can also access this information anywhere, anytime – from the moment the application is completed.
But moving the application process online isn’t just about convenience for your prospects; it also offers major benefits for the staff or volunteers managing membership administration, such as…
2. Increased efficiency
When you enable prospects to join through an online membership application process, all of their information is immediately and automatically captured (hopefully 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.
3. Improved data 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.
4. Automatic data back-up
With online applications through a web-based membership management system, the new members’ contact information is transferred automatically to the membership database, but it is also backed-up “in the cloud,” so there is no chance of losing precious member information or out-of-date records.
5. Secure online payment
Along with an online membership application, prospects should be able to pay their fees online too. This means you need to offer access to secure online payment options as well. If this is a built-in feature of your membership management system, it makes the fee payment process much smoother for both the applicant and your administrative staff, since 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.
6. Instant confirmation and welcome
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 right away. So it’s important to confirm the membership and welcome them aboard as soon as you can. With an online application process (using most membership management systems), you can offer automatic membership confirmation and welcome emails. This means new members are welcomed immediately, turning prospects into active members instantly.
7. It’s paperless
Using an online process is also an environmentally friendly option – since it is a paperless process!
Is it time to move your membership process online?
If your organization has yet to offer an online membership application form, it might be time to offer this up as an option to your membership prospects.
For those of you already using membership management software or association management system (AMS), your provider should offer instructions for creating and customizing an online membership application form, so that can be the first place to start.
For additional ideas and tips for creating more effective membership application forms, you might also want to check out our article and checklist:
Looking for Membership Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Membership Management software solutions.