Submitted by admin on Mon, 03/28/2022 - 11:18

How Your Membership Site Is Different From Your Association's Website

By Farhad Khan, BEng & CEO on March 28, 2022

This blog comes with the Website vs Member Portal Guide and Worksheet

Website vs Membership Site: Two Different Entities
Many associations and nonprofits have challenges around their member management and technology, and often the sword falls on their combined website and membership site. The issue starts when they try to view their website as their go-to hub for all online use. They aren’t trying to cut corners, they just don’t know that the best practice for smart data management, successful online marketing and healthy member engagement is by keeping your membership site separate from your website.

This article will help you understand the pitfalls of combining your membership site and website, and understand the advantages of keeping them separated.

Website vs Membership Site: Function & Audience
Let's take a look at websites and membership sites to understand how they differ; their different functions and their audiences. Have a look at the chart below to understand the differences between the two:

membership site association cicicrm

Website: A Marketing Machine For A Broad Audience
Your website is, above all, a marketing machine. It is a space that anyone can access. It is your number one source of information for the world to see and, ideally, functions as a lead magnet for your association. Whether it be potential clients, members, donors, you name it – the content on your website is geared to position you as a trusted authority in your field and will determine whether or not they contact you. Our 'Know Your Membership Quick Guide and Worksheet' can help your association to establish who your members are so you can create better content and benefits that appeal to them.

Membership Site: A Vehicle To Deliver Association Benefits
Your membership site, on the other hand, is all about your members. Here we flip the script from focusing on you (the association) to the member, what they want and how they can grow professionally and personally. With a membership site, members can only access with a login, and you control the user experience by delivering specific content to them. The membership site provides members with members-only services, training, events, and opportunities. The members can do practical things such as update profiles, certifications and renew their membership on the membership site.

Furthermore,  a good membership site will be well-designed, easy to navigate, and include current and relevant content. It should also have a powerful search tool so members can quickly find what they're looking for. With Member Lounge, you'll be able to include your members in the most conversations, from marketing activities to membership development possibilities. Visit Member Lounge to learn more. 

Watch our webinar 'Grow Your Association's Membership With Your Membership Site' to to learn how to turn your membership site into a powerful engine to help grow your association!

To learn more about how to deliver member benefits on your membership site, read our blog '5 Ways to Present your Association Benefits for Maximum Member Engagement'. 


membership site association civicrm

Problems With A Combined Website & Membership Site
A combined website and membership site on one platform makes for a complicated site map. Information can get easily buried. Any given user (be they a prospect, donor, member, you name it) isn’t seeing the relevance of the information they encounter because it’s not geared specifically for them.

There just isn’t enough real estate to keep the information that is relevant to both users and members front and centre. Searching through the content on the website becomes an overwhelming experience for the user who is trying to wade through all the content. When members can’t easily find your benefits, there is frustration, benefits aren’t used and members don’t see the value of their membership.

Members who don’t see the value in your membership are at risk of not renewing their membership and are unlikely to refer their peers to become members. Easy navigation makes for happy members, which leads to membership growth.

A member who is confused with the website may contact your team to ask more questions. Handling avoidable customer service inquiries takes time, money and resources from the typically small admin team of associations.

Web Security Benefits
Keeping your membership site separate from your website ads an extra layer of security for your membership site. If ever there is a security breach on one site, the other one is not impacted. Read our blog 'What Are Website Security Updates And Why Does Your Membership Site Need Them?' to learn more about how to keep your sites safe from security breaches.

Keep The Membership Site & Website Separate But Connected
When it comes to membership options and offering access to appropriate content for different users, an all-in-one website gets complicated. The best way to keep all your stakeholders satisfied is to create different platforms for different users: a website for the general public and a separate special membership site that offers access to members-only content.

By keeping your tiered membership access organized, you will be able to communicate your member benefits more readily to your members and save your admin team time and energy.

Easy-To-Navigate Sites
Keeping the website and membership site separate makes navigation easy and more intuitive for your user. The user who wants to browse your website to get to know your association will be able to have a different expectation than the member who wants resources to benefit their membership. Of course, the website and membership site will link to one another for easy access.

Having the link to your membership site on your website is a great way to create awareness about your membership site and show visitors to your website that you offer a catered experience for members. Read our blog '7 Rules to Create a Great User Experience on Your Membership Site' to learn how to grow your membership and retain members through quality user experiences (UX) on your website and membership site.

Membership Sites Have A Longer Lifespan
Websites have a shorter life span than membership sites. Websites need frequent updates to stay up-to-date and reworking websites is common as internal and external trends change. When a website and membership site use the same platform, updates to the website can be an arduous and expensive undertaking because the member content is intertwined. It is best practice to separate them so when you want to update the website, it is an easy process.

Membership sites, on the other hand, offer benefits and services that have long-standing value beyond the design. Membership sites have specific uses and are often build with customization for the specific needs of the association. This gives them longevity, regardless of design.

membership site association civicrm

Ready for a Separate Membership Site 
Ready to take the plunge and create a separate membership site? This is a huge step toward member satisfaction and retention. Creating a membership site that is easy to navigate and offers clear solutions to members will cut down on client support offered by your team, offering significant savings in time, money and energy. For associations that do not have the in-house capability to build a separate membership site, we are happy to offer membership management software as a service to you.

Learn More About Member Engagement
Join an upcoming webinar or live podcast to learn more about member engagement, member retention and creating user journeys for your membership site!