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How to Create the Perfect Membership Agreement

Andrea Amorosi April 16, 2024
Table of Contents
8 min read

A membership agreement is more than a formality. It is an important official document that is a must for both large and small membership organizations.

A perfect membership agreement template should allow your organization to create a membership agreement specific to your group.

In this article, we will explore why a membership agreement is critical and what it should include. We’ll demonstrate the value of a well-crafted agreement and how it can minimize misunderstanding, provide clarity, and help your organization progress.

What is a Membership Agreement?

A membership agreement is a legal document used by a variety of non-profit and for-profit businesses to detail the relationship and responsibilities between an organization and its members. It explains what is required for membership, the benefits of membership, and how that membership can be severed. It often defines what the ramifications are of canceling the agreement by the organization or a member.

A flexible membership agreement template can be customized for the specific needs of an organization and the services it provides members.

Why a Membership Agreement Is Helpful

While a membership agreement may be a legal document, it is not a legal requirement for an organization to have one. There are, however, some very good reasons to use one.

A membership agreement is intended to solidify the relationship between an organization and its members and the duties of both parties. Since membership agreements are generally mutually beneficial to both parties, it serves to outline the duties of each to qualify for the benefits of membership.

For smaller organizations, a membership agreement adds a level of professionalism and expectation for your group.

A membership agreement is valuable on many levels:

  • It explains duties of involved parties
  • It lists benefits
  • It details terms for cancellations
  • It defines length of membership
  • It states fees and outlines payment options
  • It may elevate the status of your organization
  • It can provide other information about membership

They are particularly helpful because of the unique qualities of a membership group. Many businesses are based on individual sales or transactions where a product and service are involved. An item or service is delivered, paid for, and the sale concludes in a single event.

A membership is an ongoing arrangement. A membership agreement explains the details of that agreement and sets the parameters of an ongoing relationship.

A Membership Agreement Can Prevent and Manage Conflict

One of the major reasons membership agreements are so valuable is that they can avoid, prevent, and resolve conflicts. Since membership agreements are generally designed to be mutually beneficial, avoiding conflicts benefits both parties.

A well-written membership agreement provides a path to conflict resolution. It can also be useful in avoiding any legal action from a disgruntled member.

Provides Protocols for Anticipated Situations

Exceptional membership agreements are written with keen anticipation of potential situations. While some situations may be in common with other organizations, some may be specific to your group.

Protocols are approved ways an organization handles such situations. They can establish ground rules for how similar conflicts may be handled.

Step by Step: How to Write Your Membership Agreement

Writing a membership agreement for your organization is not difficult, but it does take thought and organization. Here is a simple step-by-step guide to creating a membership agreement that works best for your organization and its members.

1. Begin with Basic Information

All membership agreements should include basic contact information of the member and the organization. It should include the type of membership that is being agreed to and the length of the agreement.

If it is a “family” membership, for example, it should detail who is included under the membership agreement. The basics include the who, what, and when of membership.

2. Identify Your Member Benefits

Member benefits are a key component for most organizations. These should be listed and briefly explained in your agreement. You may want to list the most valuable or most frequently taken advantage of first.

This is also a good place to detail pricing, as many members associate their fees with the number of benefits those fees provide. If there are limitations or restrictions on benefits, they also should be noted here.

3. Describe Membership Duties

Membership duties can vary widely depending on the type of organization you have. Duties can range from simple, timely dues payments to volunteer or engagement responsibilities.

4. Set Membership Rules and Bylaws

Your organization’s rules and bylaws are the tenants by which your organization operates. These, too, will vary upon the type of organization you have and its mission.

Rules may include:

  • Age Requirements
  • Location Limitations
  • Requirements for Maintain Good Standing
  • Rules Regarding Complaints

Generally speaking, rules outline the privileges of membership and describe how those privileges may be taken advantage of. They are the guidelines under which an organization operates.

Nonprofit organization may find it beneficial to include information about its structure and how funds are used in a section discussing bylaws.

5. Rules Regarding Termination

Any membership agreement should have a clear and understandable termination policy.

This policy should include how a termination of membership may be initiated by either party. It should detail any ramifications for either party should the cancellation or termination not be mutual.

While non-payment of a subscription or dues may be an obvious area to cover, be sure to cover other situations that may occur.

Be sure to include any stipulations for refunds members may be due or specific financial penalties they may incur as a result of termination. Including a clause for automatic membership renewal can help limit unintentional cancellations.

6. Ask for a Signature

Of course, an important step in executing a membership agreement is requesting the signature of the member. This may also authorize the payment of any fees or dues.

Remember, a membership agreement may be a legal document. A signature helps solidify the enforcement of its provisions.

Add Flexibility and Adaptability in Your Membership Agreement

Your initial membership agreement should be created with flexibility and adaptability in mind. While, of course, you want your agreement to be as perfect as possible, changes, sometimes out of your control, can and will happen. These changes can usually be made easily and agreements updated through a membership management system. Factors that could necessitate changes in your agreement may include:

Updates in Rules: Membership groups may recognize a need for rule changes due to circumstances they may encounter over time. These will need to be included in any updates.

Changes in Dues and Fees: As fees change and new membership plans are introduced they, too, should be included in any agreement updates.

Updates in Benefits: We’ve already discussed the importance of member benefits. Not only should members be engaged with an immediate update when benefits are added by those too, but this should also be noted in a membership agreement.

Technology Changes: As technology evolves, so may the need for upgrading your membership agreement. Technology changes could impact how dues are submitted, how communications occur, and how members are engaged and stay involved.

Change in the Organization’s Location: Of course, any change in contact information for the organization will also want to be noted in the membership agreement.

Overall, it is imperative your group stay up to date on any information provided to its members. This includes your website, social media, digital content, and, of course, your membership info and agreement.

Types of Organizations That Can Benefit From a Membership Agreement

Any organization that wants to provide clarity and avoid confrontations with its members is a candidate for a quality membership agreement. These include:

Professional Associations

There are associations for just about every profession in America. Lawyers and accountants have them, as well as realtors and restaurants. Associations keep members connected to their industries, sometimes even on a local or regional level.

Membership agreements or associations are valuable for detailing educational benefits, exclusive content, and access to certain conferences and conventions. Association members often use their participation in a marketing group to demonstrate their involvement and knowledge in their chosen career and industry. It can be important for professional organizations to detail the use of organizational logos and how membership can be promoted by a member.

Charitable Groups

Many charitable organizations make use of membership agreements to solidify support and levels of support, set appropriate expectations for members and volunteers, and to elaborate on the mission, purpose, and goals of the organization. A membership agreement serves as recognition from the nonprofit that a member’s participation is appreciated.

Subscription Services

Subscription services frequently entice members through special discounts or even free gifts with their subscription or membership. Businesses often offer these benefits as part of a business plan that includes a member completing their obligation to complete membership duration or required purchases.

Member agreements for these types of organizations are crucial in providing clarity on the obligations of each and any penalties associated with early termination. When fees are charged in advance, it can also detail any refund policies that may be applicable.

Civic Groups

Local service and community groups are an excellent example of smaller, local organizations that can benefit from a membership agreement. Members can be provided details on benefits like access to the membership list, local discounts that may be available, and even meeting attendance obligations to maintain membership in good standing. It also adds credibility to these smaller, local groups.

Youth Groups

Youth groups can increase their appeal to parents by detailing the benefits of membership. These benefits may include participation in sports, travel, educational opportunities, and sharing common interests.

This can clarify the details and responsibilities of both the parents and the organization. It is important for youth organizations to be clear about responsibilities, travel, and participation, and a written membership agreement can help protect the organization and set appropriate expectations.

The point is, whether your organization is large or small, local or national, civic, charitable, or for-profit, it can benefit from a well-conceived membership agreement. The agreement can help protect you legally while building trust and confidence with your members. The more thought and consideration you put into your customized membership agreement, the stronger the relationship it can help you build with your members.


If your organization does not have a membership agreement or it is using one that may be outdated, here are some important factors to remember:

  • While a Membership Agreement May Not Be Legally Required, It Is a Legal Document
  • A membership Agreement Can Prevent Confrontations and MisUnderstandings
  • It Can Circumvent Legal Action
  • Should Detail Important Benefits
  • It Can Help Establish Protocols
  • It Details Rules and Guidelines
  • It Can Raise the Prestige Level and Respect for Your Organization
  • It Should be Flexible

Operating any membership-based organization can be a challenge. Organizations who are still attempting to keep all of this data up-to-date via spreadsheets can power up their efforts with a membership management software program.

While this can seem overwhelming, a membership management software can help. Start realizing the benefits of automating your membership management with MemberClicks, an all-in-one solution for challenging daily and scheduled tasks.

Don’t wait any longer. Start with your free trial today. Discover how MemberClicks can streamline your organization to benefit both your staff and your members!

Free Member Retention Guide

Ready to retain members and keep them coming back forever and ever? This guide will teach you everything you need to know about member retention. We cover all the basics, like the first steps to member retention and how to map out your member journey. From there, we dive a bit deeper into retention tips.