Membership fees, is your organisation taking payments online? Are you following the essential best practices?


Most organisations and associations that are in the business of collecting membership fees. It is harder than it looks and it can get very complicated. Here is the essential list of best practices that every organisation should follow when it comes to membership payments.


1. Opting in and out for auto renewals.


Whether it is a monthly or yearly membership schedule, your members should be able to opt-in or out of auto-renewals at any point after paying their membership fees. Auto-renewals are the best way to ensure that associations continue to have an optimum revenue stream coming in. Ensure your system also caters for ‘price increases’ easily, this will ensure you can utilise auto renewals.

2. Members Credit Cards can be kept on file

Organisations can keep credit cards on file, but only if done so securely, e.g. using a PCI compliant service such as Stripe to hold the card details on file. Automatically keep the last credit card used on file for auto-renewals and again allow the member to be able to turn off renewals at any point in time.

Staff should never see or relay a users credit card details. There are always members that want staff to register for them, have staff do everything apart from the payment, when the user logs on next they will get to the payment screen.

Using a service for payments such as Stripe also makes additional payments easier and refunds too.

3. If an automated renewal payment fails

Where possible, warn users that their credit card on file is about to expire, which will save them from receiving a failed payment notice.

Users should be notified when a payment fails and have the ability to correct the issue (e.g expired card) themselves. Ideally your system will send an email automatically to inform them that a payment has failed.

Sometimes this can fail due to other reasons such as insufficient funds. Some organisations retry these payments daily others only attempt it once before notifying the customer. Daily notifications to the user that this has failed without an end limit is not a great idea, setup retries at intervals such as 1 day (first attempt), 3 days (2nd attempt), 7 (3rd attempt) days, 14 days (4th attempt), then abort and contact through a staff member, such as a phone call.

4. When a user submits a payment

When a user clicks that "Pay" button, it is important that the web browser should be locked until there is an outcome, too many times users are able to press the submit or pay button more than once and this causes duplicate payment issues. This one simple feature will save hours of staff issuing refunds and asking the I.T. department what went wrong.

5. Batch jobs that process auto-renewals

These jobs must re-check that the renewal has not already been paid just before applying each individual payment. This is extremely important for large organisations with many renewals, especially if they are all being processed at once. 

A batch job often fetches all the records to process (e.g. 30,000 records) then will go through these one at a time and process the payment. So the time lapse between the first payment and the last can be up to 10 hours for some complicated systems. During that 10 hour window many things could have changed. The user may have renewed it manually or another batch job started running and is processing the same list, by double checking prior to processing that payment the system is ensuring the latest information is at hand before continuing. 

The first batch job should abort if it finds a payment it expected to pay has been paid, as it might be the 2nd batch job and could also catch up to the first to a point where they are running in parallel and duplicate payments are occurring unnoticed. 

6. Renewal processing

Renewals are complicated so make sure you streamline this process. Ideally this is automated, the new subscription should be created regardless of the payment method, then its only a matter of working out if your system charges the user at the time of the new subscription being created or you prefer them to receive an email and have to press the pay button manually. We see a combination of the two. A creative for renewals is to allow early renewal and to also allow users to add a donation amount to their subscription.

7. Retain your customers

If a member has not renewed within a certain time and its almost at a point where your organisation will cancel their account, send these members a series of ‘sorry to see you go’ emails, in most cases, it’s a reminder for them to pay for their membership, this last one will ensure that you claw back some of your members that have just opted out.


That is the list so far, log in and add your own learnings!

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