Excel vs Membership Management Systems: Which is Right for Your Club?
Are you tired of managing your club's membership info on Excel? Fighting against Excel’s formatting? Trying to remember the right formulas to use? Excel has been a trusted tool for decades, but is it still the best option today? Maybe not. Membership management systems offer automation, accuracy, and a central database. However, they are not free and involve a learning curve.
In this article, we are going to look at how Excel stacks up against membership management systems when it comes to running a club. Hopefully, this will help you make an informed decision about which is best for your club.
It has to be said that we at Member Jungle are a membership management system and this gives us an obvious bias. However, we are all also members of clubs and we would never recommend something to you that we wouldn’t use ourselves, there are definitely situations where Excel is the better option. I promise that this will be a completely honest comparison between Excel and membership management systems.
Excel Spreadsheets For Membership Management
While I have been saying and will continue to say Excel, this is covering both Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets. They are very similar and can both open and edit the same documents. So, I will be talking about both of them throughout this article.
It is probably worth clarifying what exactly it means to use Excel for membership management. Excel can record, store and track critical data about the members of your club. Excel can be used to record the following for your club:
- Member Information:
Such as name, address, phone number, email, membership type, and membership expiration date.
- Membership Dues:
The data can be organised by member name, date of payment, the amount paid, and method of payment.
- Attendance Records:
The data can be sorted by event or meeting name, date, and member name.
Generate reports that provide insights into the number of active members, the number of new members, and the number of members who have renewed their membership.
All this can make the running of your club easier and more efficient.
Advantages of using Excel for membership management
Pretty much everyone on the planet knows how to use Excel. We might not all know how to use it perfectly, I know I certainly don’t, but everyone knows the basics of Excel. This familiarity is one of Excel's great benefits. If you get a new administrator or manager, they will likely already know how to use Excel. This cuts down on training time and confusion.
The price of Excel is also a pretty strong factor in why people choose to use it. Excel only costs $6.99 a month as part of their Microsoft 365 package or $139.99 per year for only Excel. This is not a lot of money, especially when it comes with things like Powerpoint and Word. There is no competition in the price comparison between Excel and membership management systems. Excel is absolutely cheaper than a membership management system.
Excel has an impressively wide range of functions that it can be used for. From storing and sorting information and data to exporting data into visual graphs and accounting software. It is no wonder that Excel has been a widely used tool of a generation.
Limitations of using Excel for membership management
Lack of automation
While Excel can do lots of helpful things, it suffers from a serious lack of automation. Meaning that a lot of Excel’s better functions involve a lot of time-consuming manual involvement. Seeing your member data as easy-to-read and understand graphs is very useful. Having to fiddle with Excel’s formatting settings, manually select the columns and rows you want to include and enter all that into the graph isn’t great. Also as great as Excel is, it cannot help you automate your membership renewal process. The best you can hope for is being able to sort the members whose membership is up for renewal by date, then manually write down all the names so you can send them renewal letters or emails. It certainly works, but it is far from efficient.
Prone to errors
With Excel, it is easy for human errors to become a problem. If you are using Excel to manage your members' information. You will be relying on your admins to correctly enter your members' data into the spreadsheet. This leaves plenty of opportunity for typos and mistakes to enter your all-important spreadsheet. This becomes even more likely if your members are writing down their information by hand. Then your admins have to decipher the handwriting and enter it into the spreadsheet. There's a lot of room for human error in this process.
Limited collaboration and accessibility
The final notable issue we need to address is that spreadsheets aren’t great for collaboration. It is pretty easy to end up with a few different variations of a spreadsheet floating around. That is certainly something I’ve done. I opened an Excel spreadsheet in google sheets and accidentally made two versions of the same sheet with slightly different information. It isn’t hard to accidentally do, and it can lead to some major oversights and issues.
Membership Management Systems
Membership management systems are designed to automate a lot of the processes that come with running a club or organisation. They do all the same things as a spreadsheet and a lot more.
Advantages of using a membership management system
One of the largest advantages of using a membership management system is automation. With a membership management system, you can automate your renewal process. When there are members whose memberships are up for expiry soon the system will automatically send them renewal reminder notices with links for them to renew and pay themselves. There’s no need to copy out their information so you can send an email or letter, it’s all automated for you. Membership management systems eliminate the need for posting renewal letters ever again, saving you time and money.
Membership management systems are a great way to eliminate the human error that makes its way into Excel spreadsheets. This is because the systems are a lot less finicky than Excel and because it eliminates the need for paper forms and admins having to enter all the information themselves. With a membership management system, your members can enter their own information using digital forms. A member entering their own information is much more likely to notice a typo in their phone number or address than an administrator who has never seen either before. This also allows members to update their details whenever they need to. That is a lot of time-consuming work you poor admin no longer needs to do.
Saves you time
As you can probably guess from the first two benefits, using a membership management system can save you an incredible amount of time. Automating your renewal process and having your members fill in their own information makes a big difference. Membership management systems can also save you time by making searching member data and viewing it in easy-to-understand graphs a lot easier than on Excel.
Centralisation of data
Membership management systems store your data in a central database. This database keeps your data secure and centralised, meaning that you will not have the issue of two slightly different sets of data floating around. Plus in our modern age, data security is a big deal. Your club probably has a record of important private details of your members. Keeping this safe is very important. With a centralised database, all your admins can access the database from home or the office.
Membership management systems are all-in-one systems. Meaning that rather than having a hodgepodge of different systems, you will just have one system. Most membership management systems will be able to replace all of the following:
- Website Builder
- Email campaign service
- Event ticket sales service
- Merchandise sales service
- Online payment system
Depending on the membership management system, they may be able to replace more than just these.
Meaning that instead of multiple payments to several different services, you only have one payment.
Limitations of using membership management software
Price of Membership Management Systems
The biggest limitation of using membership management systems is the price. Membership management systems vary in price quite a lot. The price varies based on the number of members and the needs of the clubs using it. This range can be pretty large. Generally speaking, the price tends to be between $100 and $500 a month. You can see the Member Jungle Pricing page here for more details. Even at the lower end, this is much more expensive than Excel. Accounting for the fact that it will probably be replacing several other paid services like website builders and merchandise sales will make the price comparison less dramatic. Though, in some cases, all-in-one membership management systems are more expensive than all the things they are replacing combined. At the end of the day, they are more about saving time and effort than money.
There is a definite learning curve when it comes to using a membership management system. New administrators who join your club will probably already know how to use Excel to some degree. While any new administrators that join will need training to use a membership management system. Many membership management systems including us at Member Jungle, offer training and a free support portal to help with this. Training is available before you sign up and at any point during the use of your system. That being said, any training someone needs on the system is time they are not spending running your club. Membership management systems are harder to learn but easier to master than Excel. It comes down to how much time you want to invest in training your current staff and future administrators.
Comparison of Excel and Membership Management Systems
Membership management systems are all-in-one systems. They are designed to do a lot more than just Excel’s job and replace several different services. For the sake of this comparison, if we just look at the features it offers that Excel also offers it is fairly one-sided.
Excel has fewer features, is harder to use, has less automation, is worse at collaboration, is slower and is more prone to user error. However, it is cheaper and often quite a lot cheaper.
The fact that it is much cheaper, and almost everyone already has some basic knowledge of how to use it is a very big plus. If you run a very small club, with less than 50 members, then you are probably fine with Excel. Sticking with Excel as a very small club is not a bad idea at all. Especially once you consider that your members’ dues are what is paying for a membership management system. All that being said, at Member Jungle we’ve set up several systems for clubs with as few as 50 members, and they have loved their systems. It all comes down to how you want to run your club.
Why Should I Switch To A Membership Management System Now?
Leaving Excel is an important decision and one you should not take lightly. As I have said, there are drawbacks to a membership system and they may not be the right choice for every club, but that is a decision that only you can make. Switching to a membership management system is investing in your club’s future and growth.
Before you make any decisions, you should do as much research as you can on membership management systems and how they work. I’d recommend having a look at What is Membership Management Software or Save Time with an Online Membership Management System. Keep looking and weigh up your options carefully. Doing this will ensure that you make the best decision for your club.
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