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Membership Site Platforms Explained

MemberClicks Blog Avatar MemberClicks Blog April 18, 2023
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11 min read

You want your members to be glad they bought your membership – and prospective members to be eager to join. One problem. Your membership site is outdated. 

When it comes to memberships, your website is the digital (and often primary) home of your membership program. An outdated membership platform or a site that lacks the features you need for your membership program to succeed will cost your organization. 

You could lose existing members or prospective members because they find your online footprint hard to use — but you could also miss out on ways to increase your revenue, deliver more value and engage your audience more fully. 

We’ll walk you through what you should be looking for in membership platforms so that you can optimize your membership programs and benefits. 

What are membership platforms?

Membership platforms are a kind of software that helps any organization or individual offering paid memberships build and manage a membership site. The software is usually developed to help build membership communities.

Typically, it includes capabilities or plug-ins for running membership-only forums, job boards, member directories, online courses, and more! They can also include membership site builders with custom landing page options, members-only exclusive content sections and online community builders.

These platforms are hosted online and use dedicated websites or portals to facilitate all these key actions.

Why use a membership platform?

A membership platform is an easy way for membership organizations to manage their membership while creating a rich member experience. They allow the organization to easily communicate with their members while also helping with things like online events, event ticket sales, online course delivery and more. They also allow members more access to other members to network thus providing more value with your membership.

What kinds of organizations use membership site platforms?

Organizations using membership site platforms include :

  • Associations
  • Chambers of commerce
  • Nonprofits
  • Clubs
  • Gyms
  • Experts, spokespeople or creators
  • Community programs.

They can offer free or paid membership plans, and may have different tiers of membership types. A great membership platform will make it easy to provide the offers and services you want to your members.

What’s the difference between a membership site and a subscription site?

People often confuse membership sites with subscription sites. However, it’s important to know what kind of site is best for your needs since they have different features optimized for their respective purposes. 

As explained above, membership sites help a variety of organizations better communicate with and engage their members. Typically, memberships are sold on an annual basis and so membership platforms are often focused on things like long-term member engagement, building connections between members and acting like an invaluable resource.

In contrast, subscription sites are for companies or non-profits who provide a very specific good or service in exchange for a recurring fee. This can be something like a magazine subscription, access to a music service like Spotify or monthly access to a piece of software. Typically, subscriptions are sold on a month-to-month basis with some subscriptions offering the option for annual subscriptions. 

There are a number of different providers of subscription platforms including companies like Patreon and social networks that offer additional access for subscribers like Twitch, Twitter and Instagram. 

In this article, we’ll be discussing membership site platforms and paid membership website builders. These providers are focused on providing the best membership site software with features optimized to help you cultivate a vibrant community, deliver great programming and engage your members throughout the year. 

Our top membership site software: MemberClicks

MemberClicks is our top option for membership site software for associations, chambers, and other professional-oriented membership organizations. MemberClicks offers a comprehensive suite of association management system (AMS) tools to manage and grow your membership in addition to just facilitating membership activities like paying dues and hosting online content. MemberClick’s membership site platform offers dozens of flexible features including member management tools, website and content management tools, email marketing tools, financial processing tools and financial reporting tools. 

MemberClicks also allows membership programs to automate many of the tasks they typically complete such as online payments, tracking communications, maintaining content and websites. The software has been proven to improve retention by allowing membership programs to quickly see snapshots of their engagement data and retention efforts. 

They also help grow online and in-person events by making signing up easy for your members. They even have functionalities for specialty cases like peer-reviewed submissions for academic conferences and custom forms for attendee registration. 

Features 

  • Membership database
  • Renewal automation
  • Financial processing 
  • Financial reporting and 3rd party integration
  • Content and website management
  • Email marketing
  • Event registration
  • Analytics
  • Custom reports

Is MemberClicks right for you? Find out

6 Leading Membership Site Platforms for Other Organizations

Wild Apricot – Best for Nonprofits and Small Businesses

Wild Apricot is the number one membership software for nonprofits and small businesses. Trusted by over 50,000 organizations, they have a powerful suite of tools including things like a membership database, website builder, payment processing, event management functionalities, online store and more. 

Wild Apricot has an easy-to-use and attractive user interface that’s designed to optimize conversion. Once a new member signs up or purchases an event ticket, the program automates things like event confirmation emails and financial transactions in order to save your staff time. 

Features

  • Member database
  • Website builder
  • Online payments
  • Event management
  • Email and contact databases
  • Mobile app
  • Online store
  • Integrations with WordPress, QuickBooks and more

Morweb – Best Full Membership CMS for Nonprofits

Morweb advertises itself as the one-stop shop for everything to do with your nonprofit website. Their paid membership website builder helps with custom website design, create a non-technical, easy-to-use content management system, provide hosting and security, and help organizations create a content strategy. 

Their solutions are customizable and tailored to each nonprofit’s particular needs. They also are mobile-friendly and easy for anyone to use. They sell different features in the form of modules. These include a forms module, a content management system module, a fundraising module, a video course module, and a membership module.

Their solutions are priced based on each module you choose which can add up. 

Features

  • Member application forms
  • Custom reports
  • Member information database
  • Member portals
  • Blogs
  • Resource pages
  • Directories
  • Automated dues renewal reminders

PeerBoard – Best for eLearning Organizations

PeerBoard (recently acquired by Docebo) is a membership platform that’s optimized for the needs of eLearning organizations. One of the platform's key strengths is its flexibility, allowing users to customize everything from the design to the functionality of their learning community.

The platform also offers features such as member application forms, custom reports and a member information database. One of the standout features of PeerBoard is its moderation and administration tools which make it easy for admins to easily manage their community and the learning journeys of their members. Docebo offers a learning management system and will help cement the combined company as a leader in the enterprise learning and eLearning spaces

Features

  • Public or private communities
  • Learning support
  • Member profiles
  • Member application forms
  • Custom reports
  • Member information database
  • Moderation tools
  • Customizable design and functionality
  • Integration with other tools and platforms

CommunityPass – Best for Parks, Community Groups, and Sports

Community Pass is a recreational membership software designed for parks and rec leaders. It creates targeted messaging for members, auto-renewal notices, online registration for programs, classes, and activities, payment processing, volunteer sign-ups, fundraising pages and more! 

This membership software platform is ideal for community, parks and sports groups because it allows them to engage their current users and members around their ongoing and one-time programming. However, it doesn’t have functionalities that other types of membership programs might want — like member forums and jobs boards. 

Features

  • Membership sign-ups
  • Fundraising pages
  • Volunteer management
  • Auto-renewal notices
  • Ticket and merch sales
  • Payment processing
  • Member communications

Tribe – Best for Large Businesses

Tribe is a community platform designed for large enterprises. They’re focused on helping large companies engage and delight their customers through education, events, engagement, resources and customer success features. 

Tribe allows companies to integrate their customers success and customer support functions and offerings in one platform. That means that customers can go to a Tribe site to learn more about their onboarding process and find tutorials about how to use the product – and then also contact customer support if they need extra support. 

Features 

  • Customer onboarding 
  • Content resources
  • Live events
  • Customer activation
  • Customer support integration
  • Discussion forums
  • Product feedback features
  • Customizable themes and features
  • Integrations with Slack, Mailchimp, and other enterprise apps

HiveBrite – Best for Alumni Groups

HiveBrite is a popular membership platform designed specifically for alumni associations, professional networks, and corporate alumni communities. The platform offers a range of features including things like member portals, blogs, resource pages, directories and automated dues renewal reminders.

HiveBrite also includes a robust event management system making it easy for alumni organizations to plan and promote events. The platform also offers a range of customization options, including the ability to create custom pages and modules.

Features

  • Member portals
  • Blogs
  • Resource pages
  • Directories
  • Automated dues renewal reminders
  • Event management system
  • Customization options
  • Jobs boards
  • Integrations with other tools and platforms

Thinkific – Best for Independent Creators

Thinkific is a membership site platform designed specifically to support individual creators and influencers in selling online courses, building communities, and creating membership programs. This membership site software sells itself as a way to turn your expertise into profit. They primarily work with entrepreneurs like business coaches, personal coaches, experts and more.

They offer custom web themes and domains, the ability to preschedule content, live lessons and events and tools that help creators sell bundles, offer coupons,and optimize their cross-selling strategy. This paid membership website building is integrated with a number of apps like Shopify and Mailchimp so that creators can run their membership business from one platform. 

Features

  • Automated emails
  • Custom coupons
  • Online courses
  • Analytics
  • Community engagement
  • Quizzes and assignments
  • Customizable themes
  • Live lessons and events

Kajabi – Best for Podcasters and Personal Coaches

Kajabi is a popular membership platform for podcasters and personal coaches. The platform offers a range of features designed to help users create and sell online courses such as course builders, quizzes and assessments. You can also upload your podcasts and coaching program materials directly to their platform to disseminate to your members.

Kajabi also includes a website builder, email marketing tools and integrations with popular payment processors. The platform offers a range of templates, making it easy for users to create professional-looking courses and websites without any design experience.

Features

  • Course builders
  • Quizzes and assessments
  • Website builder
  • Email marketing tools
  • Payment processor integrations
  • Templates
  • Affiliate management
  • Sales funnel pages

Discourse – Best for Open Source Customization

Discourse is an open source membership platform designed specifically for online forums and discussion communities. The platform offers a range of features including member profiles, private messaging, discussion forums and moderation tools.

Discourse runs on JavaScript using the Ember.js framework. It’s focused on creating engaging and interactive communities with features such as badges, likes and polls. As an open source platform, Discourse has a wide range of customization options such as the ability to create custom themes and plugins.

Features

  • Member profiles
  • Private messaging
  • Real-time chat
  • Moderation tools
  • Badges
  • Likes
  • Polls
  • Social login options
  • Customizable design and functionality

MemberPress – Best WordPress Plugin

MemberPress is primarily focused on helping creators who already have WordPress sites or want to manage their membership program via WordPress. Their plug-in provides things like paywall and content dripping features, customizable checkouts, subscription billing, members-only dashboards, the ability to create courses and more. 

This membership site platform is a great fit for people who already have a website and just want to integrate membership functionalities into it. It’s ideal for people who are technically savvy enough to use WordPress and are able to manage their own sites. 

Features

  • Paywalls
  • Online courses
  • Coupons
  • Community building
  • Member dashboards
  • Integrated checkouts
  • Drip content functionality
  • Affiliate programs
  • Subscription payments

Top Features to Look for in Membership Site Software

When it comes to which features you should look for in a membership site, there isn’t a list that fits everyone’s needs. Every membership organization runs different membership programs and has a community that wants to connect in different ways. 

Your best bet is to think through what kinds of features are right for your membership then match them to the membership platforms on the market. For example, an association’s needs in a membership site platform are going to be very different than an independent creator’s needs to serve their membership audience. Both groups will have different expectations of what they want in exchange for paying their dues. 

The association, for example, might want a membership platform that allows them to create a jobs board for their membership whereas an individual creator might want the option to upload content previews to give sneak peeks of new work. 

However, there are some key features that most memberships will want to keep in mind when they’re researching membership site software. These are:  

Scalability

Make sure that the membership site platform you choose can scale with your membership – no matter how large you expect it to become. 

Ease of use

our membership isn’t necessarily tech savvy. It should be easy for anyone to visit your site and figure out how to find the information they need. 

Integrations

Trying to coordinate your association management program with your email client and all the other key software you use shouldn’t be something that takes hours of manual work. Choosing a membership site platform that has integrations with commonly used applications will simplify your life and save time. 

Mobile optimization

Nowadays, your members are far more likely to visit your membership site on their phone than they are to do so on a desktop. Make sure the membership site software you choose is mobile responsive. 

Customizability

You have a brand. You like your brand. The last thing you want is to adopt a membership site platform that makes your membership organization look like any other site. A great membership site platform allows you to customize the look, feel and functionality of your site. 

Quality of end-user experience

There can be two different membership site platforms with the same feature lists – but that doesn’t mean they’re equal. What matters is the user experience.

For example, two platforms might offer a message board but one might be hard to use and unengaging while another might be built to foster sharing and engagement. Test out the platforms on your short-list before you commit! 

Wrapping Up: Choosing a Membership Platform

Choosing a paid membership website builder can feel like a daunting task. It’s not just the cost of the membership site software itself – but also the time and energy you’ll put into customizing, launching and managing the site. It’s important to choose wisely. 

You won’t go wrong if you approach the process systematically. 

  • First, define your needs, consult with internal stakeholders, research your options and request recommendations from other organizations like yours.
  • Once you have a long list, compare the vendors as a team, request demos for the ones you like best and refine your list. 
  • At that point, talk about support and implementation for the two to three options that you like best. 
  • Once you have all the information, making a choice will be simple. 

If you’re a professional association, MemberClicks might be the right choice for you. As the leading choice for professional organizations that have particularly complex membership needs, it might just be exactly what your membership program needs. 

Need more info? Here are some more resources that will help: 

·      Top 20 Association Management Software Options

·      Nonprofit Membership Software: Overview & 7 Top Providers

·      How MemberClicks Simplifies Membership Renewals

·      Mobile Event Apps: Crash Course & 10 Top Providers

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.

Download

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Get in touch to learn more about MemberClicks - software designed for the unique needs of associations, chambers and nonprofits.

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Membership Software that Clicks for Your Needs

Get in touch to learn more about MemberClicks - software designed for the unique needs of  associations, chambers and nonprofits. If you’re looking to create a better member experience, save staff time and reduce costs, let us match you with the perfect tools today!

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