Membership Database Software

Membership database software will help you track and communicate with your members. Normally I'd only recommend it for charities and other large nonprofits but if your community organization has 100 members or more then its worth having a look. It will do away with a lot of the grunt work and leave you more time to work on relationship building as part of your fundraising strategies.

You have two options in relation to membership database software. The first is to buy a ready made package, where you just install it, add your member details and off you go. The second is a little more ambitious, but a realistic alternative for any community organization that has already got some technically minded members. In this case you would create all of your member data on an open source database and then integrate it with your website.

Membership database software packages

Build your own

Building your system is not as hard as you might imagine. If you've got anyone in your organization with computer skills they could produce the software in a relatively short period of time.

You'll want to use one of the free database packages for your data storage. I would recommend MySQL. Once you've designed your schema and added your member data, it's easy to write some little java programs that can automate your communications via email.

If you want to integrate your membership information into your website then you can use the language PHP. This works really well with MySQL and it is free as well.

The nice thing about using PHP with MySQL (apart from them being free) is that almost all of the web hosting vendors support them. Have a look at the book, PHP and MySQL Web Development, written by Luke Welling and Laura Thomson, for more details.

It won't be long before you'll be able to let your members sign up through your website (and take their fees through secure payments). Your own membership database software is free and you can tailor it to your needs. It's a viable alternative if you got the resources to develop it. It could be a good project for someone still at school and they may be only too glad to get the experience.

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