Transitioning your association from offline to online

by Shaun Jamieson
on March 3, 2016

Here at SilkStart, we often work with organizations who are taking their membership signup and renewal online for the first time. They’re finally ready to part ways with a downloadable PDF that needs to be printed, filled out, scanned and emailed back – or even mailed in. It’s great to see organizations ready to take this leap, but in 2016, it’s still surprising that many are not making this change.

This got me thinking – ‘why do so many organizations still rely on the PDF application form?

Well, it could be budget – technology costs money. It could be time – the time required to make the change. There’s another unique challenge that prevents many organizations from making the switch – complicated membership dues structure.

We’re so busy onboarding clients that almost everyone in the team helps. During my last two onboards – COCA and the BIASC, it dawned on me that there was one thing that stood out: both of these organizations had complicated membership dues structures. By complicated, I mean that there were calculations and lots of data entry fields that were required to be filled out before a membership fee was determined.

I’ll quote my Principal Engineer when I say that ‘with enough time, money, and resources, you can build almost anything’, but that doesn’t mean it’s worth it for a small-staff association to invest in custom software to handle overly complicated dues structure.  

So, I came up with:


3 steps to help organizations make the leap from downloadable pdf to ‘click to join’:

1. Start from your members and work backwards. Did you read my post on Customer Obsession? One of the principles I learned at Amazon was to start from the customer (your members) and work backwards. What makes their life easier? (online payment – yes, straightforward pricing – yes, a form that doesn’t take hours to complete – yes!)

2. Simplify. In real estate it might be location, location, location, but when structuring your member dues it’s simplify, simplify, simplify. This will make it easier for a member to figure out what it will cost and make it considerably easier for you to transition to an online dues structure.

3. Use computed membership plans. Understandably, even after you simplify your fees you may still be left with a dues structure that requires inputs – employees, or revenue, to determine the membership cost, and that’s ok. In fact, it’s why we support computed (calculated) membership dues. We build an online signup process that is simple for your members, while capturing all the relevant information needed to calculate the membership fee.


Is your organization looking to transition to an online dues structure? Do you have a complicated dues structure that will make it difficult for you to transition online? Rest assured, we can help you start from your customer, simplify the process and if necessary create a computed enrolment form that allows you to calculate membership amounts based on any number of inputs.

If you’re interested in learning more about SilkStart computed plans, just get in touch.


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Shaun Jamieson

CEO @ SIlkStart

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