In the past year we’ve received a lot of inquiries – and some new clients – from associations and other organizations that want to use Wild Apricot for their member side data. The ways these new clients use that member side data include the following:
Online registration for events
Membership-only and contact-only web content
Membership and contact email management and distribution
Online AND Offline transactions management and export
If an organization is going to really utilize the association management software capabilities of Wild Apricot, it should consider at the very least how Wild Apricot can help them in all of the above areas. And for purposes of database structuring, it’s better to think about it as you begin to use it, rather than thinking that you’ll get around to figuring out membership renewal when it comes around for membership next year. Because the more you can plan ahead in setting up your database, the less cleanup you’ll have down the road.
It’s not that data cleanup is avoidable – unless your organization only has a few members, it’s likely to happen. Things change. You’ll need to collect additional data, which means additional fields. You’ll have additional purposes for sending out email which may mean coding members differently – again, possibly additional fields. Categories may be combined, or eliminated, or revised. Data cleanup.
It’s just that, with some planning, it can be reduced.
One of the nice things about Wild Apricot is how much easier it is to do this cleanup than it was just a few years ago. I think we did our first data work with Wild Apricot in 2009, and it was a clunky process, at least compared to today. It was easy to make mistakes, hard to find how to make corrections appropriately on export files, etc. It was quite a bit of trial and error, and time-consuming.
Today it’s much more of a strategic process. There is still trial and error but this has much more to do with how fields need to be defined from the client side (sometimes the client doesn’t really know how they want to use a field until it’s online) but the cleanup is MUCH easier. Defining of fields, the addition of fields, and the placement of fields within contact status or membership status is much cleaner. Not perfect – but no system is. Logical and flexible is what we want, and on data loading, that’s a good description of Wild Apricot.
One word of warning – if you’re loading new membership data, make sure that you have the automatic emails turned off for each membership level BEFORE you do it, or Wild Apricot will generate a welcoming email, and once you have your data clean and ready to go, go back to each membership level, clean up the language to your preference and turn it back on. There’s no reason to let your members know you’re working on their membership data.