Creating a membership website is easier than ever. Popular platforms such as WordPress have spawned a large marketplace of upgrades and enhancements to choose from, including many membership plugins. Searching the WordPress plugin repository with the term “membership” yields more than 39 pages of results. So while it is easy to create a membership website by installing a WordPress membership plugin, choosing which membership plugin to use can be challenging.

A Look At Different Types Of Membership Plugins

Choose Wisely A Look At Different Types Of Membership Plugins

Step One: Pick a website platform

Firstly, if you’re not sure that WordPress is the best platform for your membership website, consider that WordPress powers 60% of websites that use content management systems. As free, open-source software, WordPress is the most popular platform for developers to create plugins. That means if you want to add website functionality beyond your membership management software, you are likely to find a WordPress plugin to achieve that goal.

Squarespace and Weebly are other popular platforms that are not as robust as WordPress but do have plugins available to add on membership software. For example, if you have an existing website in Squarespace, it is worth exploring what Squarespace membership plugins are available. It’s nice when you only have to learn how to use one new thing, such as membership software, versus learning that as well as how to perform edits or build in a new platform.

Helpful tips:

  • There are instances where a membership plugin will have more robust features in one platform versus another. So as you are narrowing your choices it is worth inquiring about any limitations across platforms.
  • In the case of some membership software providers, you may have to build a portion of your website in that platform to access all features. Unfortunately, that locks you into ongoing payments for both services and will force you to rebuild your website from scratch if you want to use a different platform for your website or membership software later.

Step Two: Identify the type of membership plugin you need

Secondly, membership software falls into two categories — systems for membership organizations and systems for creators of content or subscription products. Many plugins will have features that overlap both models but will be stronger in one area. You should be able to tell which category a plugin falls within by reviewing its feature list.

    • Membership organizations: Trade associations, clubs, chambers of commerce, not-for-profits, societies, and professional groups often look for features like membership directories, event registration and invoicing. Some of the subtypes of this category include:
      • Membership management software
      • Membership CRM
      • Member directory software
      • Club software
      • Golf club management software
      • Yacht club management software
      • Chamber of commerce software
      • Association management software
      • Church management software
      • Donor management systems
      • Constituent engagement software
      • Event listings platforms
      • Co-working management platforms
    • Content generators:  Subject matter experts, coaches, bloggers and those with educational or course content want to sell and restrict access to valuable content. Content generators will often want features such as selling digital downloads, offering drip content, and delivering courses online. Subtypes of this category include:
      • Learning management systems
      • Coaching software
      • Content subscription software
      • Community membership software
      • Digital download systems
  • Other types: Some entrepreneurs might be selling subscriptions to products that are shipped to members on a regular basis (example: subscription meal boxes). Others may be selling subscriptions to online services like dating websites.  We won’t get into these types of membership sites for purposes of this article.

Step 3: Narrow the field of membership plugin choices

Research is time-consuming, but it’s the best way to prevent mistakes. If you are part of an existing membership organization, document your current membership processes. Regardless of your status as an existing membership organization or a new venture, you should sign up for demos, read feature lists and talk to various membership management software providers. Use Google sheets to document your findings so you can share the information you are gathering with colleagues. In your spreadsheet, create the following columns:

    • Must-have features (each feature should have its own column),
    • Integrations,
    • Nice-to-have features,
    • Process requirements (Example: new members are not charged until their trial period ends),
    • Software cost and setup fees,
    • Cost per admin seat (if applicable),
    • Support options (and cost), and
    • Review stars/rating information.

Conclusion of Membership Plugins

Finally, use the rows to list the plugins you’re considering; take notes in each column as you do research. Note the responsiveness of the providers you are considering. If their sales team is good, hopefully, their customer service team will match that level of responsiveness. In conclusion, you can find other tips here to learn how to pick the best plugins for your membership website.

Amy Hufford works at MembershipWorks as a Technologist. She has consulted in the nonprofit and membership technology space for 20+ years. This journey has led her to gain experience with more than 10 membership software platforms, including custom code solutions.


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