Online Membership Management Systems vs Custom Built Membership System


When choosing a membership management system to help you manage your club better, you will inevitably be faced with a particular decision sooner or later. That decision is whether or not to use a SaaS (Software as a Service) or a custom-built system. Both system styles have pros and cons, so to help you with this decision, let’s weigh them up. 

First, I must point out that Member Jungle is a SaaS membership management system. This means that I have a bias when it comes to SaaS vs custom-made systems. However, I promise to be as unbiased as possible and only give you facts. The truth is that SaaS membership management systems, like ours, won’t be the right choice for everyone, so I’m not going to pretend they are. 


Online Membership Management Systems versus Custom Built Membership System


Now that we’ve addressed that; let’s get into it. 

What Does SaaS & Custom-Made Mean? 

Before we can get into which is better for your club, we must first define what SaaS and custom-made mean in the context of membership management software for clubs.

Software As A Service (SaaS) For Clubs

Software as a Service (SaaS) is a way of using software over the Internet rather than buying and installing it on a computer. SaaS is usually paid for on a subscription basis rather than a one-off purchase fee. Basically, signing up for a preexisting membership management system like Bond Software, Membes or Member Jungle.  

SaaS is popular because it's easy to use, automatically updated, and accessible from anywhere. SaaS products are super popular, and you are likely using several SaaS products already. Google Workplace (Google Docs, Sheets, etc.), Netflix and Spotify are all examples of commonly used SaaS products. 

Custom-Built Systems For Clubs

Custom-built systems are systems that are custom-designed for a singular purpose or customer. They are sometimes also called custom-made systems or bespoke systems. 

A custom-made system is one that is specifically built to cater to a customer's unique software requirements. These types of systems are created from scratch to meet the customer's exact specifications, ensuring that their software needs are met to their satisfaction. It can also sometimes refer to having plugins for sites like WordPress custom-built to help manage your members. Approaching a software developer and hiring them to create a system for you to use to manage your club and members. 

A custom system must be hosted on the internet to be accessed from anywhere or set up on a server in an office. Both options require significant costs, both initially and ongoing. Additionally, it is vital to consider backups, firewalls, security, and data privacy implications. All of these processes are crucial and must be managed well. The result of mismanaging these parts of your system can be as bad as losing your club's data. 

These are all things that are likely to cost extra and take some careful planning and management. With a SaaS system, all these features are included as standard and are a part of your subscription cost. 

Advantages of SaaS Systems For Clubs Compared To Custom-Made Systems

You Know How The System Works Before You Buy

SaaS-style systems have a wide variety of advantages that have helped them become so popular today. One of the biggest advantages of SaaS systems is that they have already been developed for the purpose. This means you are spending your money on a system that already exists and is proven to work well for managing clubs. Nearly all SaaS membership management systems will also have free trials of their system available. This means you can get a hands-on preview of how the system works and if it would work well for your club before you buy. 

Custom or bespoke systems, on the other hand, are created from scratch to suit your club's needs. Unfortunately, this means there is no guarantee that the system will work a particular way or that it will do everything the developers say it will. There is also not going to be a trial of any sort. This doesn’t mean that it won’t be great and everything you could have ever dreamed of. It just means that there are fewer guarantees and checks on the quality of your future system. 

SaaS Membership Management Systems Are Much Cheaper

Another big upside of SaaS-style systems is that they are considerably cheaper than custom systems. This is because the cost of building and maintaining the system is split over all the other clubs using the system. This is why most SaaS-style membership management systems work on an affordable subscription basis.

Though it’s hard to get an exact ballpark figure on how much getting a custom system made will cost, they are certainly not cheap. The cost of developing a membership management system from scratch is super expensive. It only makes sense that it would cost a lot to get one made. Getting a custom mobile app made that works like the Member Jungle App could cost up to $100,000. Building a custom system that works like the core of the Member Jungle system would also likely cost more than $500,000. Having a system built bespoke for your club could be extremely expensive and easily run over time and over budget.

SaaS Membership Management Systems Are Constantly Updated 

By their nature, SaaS systems are constantly having new clubs sign up to use them; this means that they must continually release updates and improvements to stay relevant in the market. If you sign up for a SaaS system, you will have a membership system that is updated and improved continuously for as long as you use it. Consequently, it will remain cutting-edge even after a decade of use.

Most custom-built or bespoke systems are made by developers who then hand the keys to the system over to you and never touch them again. This isn’t a criticism of bespoke system developers in the slightest; it is just literally not their job to make sure your system is continually up to date. This means that what is an incredible bespoke system today may be feeling a little old hat in a few short years. 

Developers sometimes use underlying software in the building of custom systems, if that software changes over time, it can cause the whole system to develop serious issues. Finding an IT person to fix or make changes to a custom-built system can be extremely difficult, if not impossible.

Also, it’s worth noting that most SaaS membership management systems will offer ongoing training and IT support for their systems, while bespoke system developers will not unless you are prepared to pay extra for it in the original project. Therefore, you may need to hire an IT person to work at your club to manage the ongoing technical aspects of your club.  

Advantages of Custom-Made Systems For Clubs Compared To SaaS Systems

Custom Membership Management Systems Are Built For Your Club

The truth is that a well-made bespoke membership management system will just be better than a SaaS one. It will be built for your club's specific needs, it will do everything you need it to do, and it will likely do those things better than any SaaS system. The developers making your custom management systems can build it from the ground up to fit your club perfectly. 

SaaS systems, on the other hand, can be customised and altered to fit your club well, but they will never be as custom as a system that is built specifically for you.  

Is A SaaS System Or A Custom-Made System Better For Your Club

The choice here is really between two options. One, a custom system that will be more expensive, have little to no ongoing support, has no guarantee that it will still be good in five years and has no guarantee it will work as the developer says it will, but if it all goes according to plan and you can afford a lot of development could be amazing. Second, a SaaS system that won’t be as fully customised to fit your club but will still be very good will have a free trial, will be cheaper, will keep improving over time and will work the way the developers say it will. 

Custom-built membership management systems can be excellent, but they are undeniably risky. Whether or not you feel like taking that risk is a decision only you can make. 

If you want more information on SaaS membership management systems and Member Jungle, please read either of the following articles.   

The Best Membership Management Software For Your Club or What Is Membership Management Software For Nonprofits?


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