5 posts categorized "11 Steps to Membership Management Success"


11 Steps to Membership Management Success – Planning Your Database – Final Prep of Your Master Import File

Prep Your Master Import File
Step 3 cont't - Final Prep Your Master Import File

In our previous “11 Steps to Membership Management Success” article you created the spreadsheet containing your data for migration into Wild Apricot. Hopefully you’ve tried our suggestions for ensuring your data is clean before the import.  

Now, we’ll look at how you’ll combine the fields you’ve created in your master import file with those fields required for Wild Apricot. This is a crucial step, as including the system fields and assigning them valid values will make your import much easier to complete!

Mapping your database fields

Wild Apricot has a very powerful and flexible data import module that lets you import your member and contact data. The step-by-step data import process will:

  • Validate your data against business rules in Wild Apricot
  • Create the database fields you need on the fly
  • Do bulk updates of existing data already in the system

When you start the import, the system will ask you to map your fields to the fields already in Wild Apricot. If you have data that’s not already a field in their database, Wild Apricot can create any custom fields you need during the import.

We recommend that you create the custom fields based on your spreadsheet columns, before you import your data. Why is this important? If the field names in Wild Apricot are the same as the column header fields (the first row) in your spreadsheet, the field mapping will be done “automagically”!

Need to upgrade your account?

Remember, a trial account will allow you to import up to 50 contacts (see Step 0 for more on the Wild Apricot pricing model).

Differentiating contacts and members

In Wild Apricot, all members are also automatically classified as contactsbut it doesn’t work in reverse: not all contacts are classified as members.

Here’s are some ways to tell the difference:

  • Members have exactly one membership level assigned, whereas contacts do not have any membership level assigned.
  • You can create custom fields for contacts (known as common fields) as well as for members (known as membership fields).
  • Members pay fees and have access to members’ benefits, contacts do not. However, unarchived members and contacts can both log in with a password to your Wild Apricot website.
  • Members get all contact common fields as part of their record. Membership fields are available only for members. Membership fields can also be activated and available for specific membership levels.
  • The handy diagram in the Common vs Specialized Fields section of Wild Apricot’s help page is super useful!

The best way to think about it for most organizations is like this: contacts are all records that may eventually become members when they join the organization under a membership level. Members are people (or organizations) that have joined and are enjoying special benefits provided under their membership plan, like discounted events, products and services.

Wild Apricot encourages you to load all contacts and members into the database to use the marketing features like email to convert contacts into members. You don’t have to load contacts into Wild Apricot and can use external email systems like MailChimp to drive conversions, but the experience is not as well-integrated.

To learn more, check out this help document to distinguish between contacts and members in Wild Apricot. It is really important to understand this difference and get to know all the Wild Apricot features that are available for members but not for contacts.

Creating custom fields

There are several Wild Apricot system fields that can be updated. For example, to suspend a member, you simply set the “Membership enabled” field to “no”. Read more in this description of all the system fields you can set and update in Wild Apricot. These must be part of the initial master import file, especially if you wish to assign membership levels during the initial import.

Learn to update your system fields

If you still think there’s more to do to get your database ready to import, we can help — Contact NewPath Consulting for a free consultation.

Extra charge calculation fields will likely not be part of your legacy database. These are powerful fields that allow you to add costs to the base membership fees. They can be used to add various options to a membership subscription, like a t-shirt, or to add fees based on member salaries. Extra charge calculation fields enable an organization to have dynamically-priced membership fees.

Now that you’ve defined custom fields for both contacts and members, you can try an export of any current records in the  Wild Apricot. The correct field names will be in row 1 of the export (also known as the header row). You can use this header row in your master import file. This will make importing your full database easy and simple, as your columns will be “automagically” matched during the mapping process!

Want to practice before using your own file?

 Try this sample master import file to make simple transformations of data from your legacy database.

The database customization, membership renewal and event management features are where Wild Apricot shines and is most powerful. These are the tools that save the most time. In fact, some organizations are satisfied with these features alone and don’t move on to create a Wild Apricot-powered website. But we think this is a mistakethe full power of the platform comes when you combine Wild Apricot’s website-building capabilities with all the automation modules.

If you want to take full advantage of Wild Apricot’s website tool, don’t worry. We’ll take you through those steps in the next few articles in this series.

11 Steps to Membership Management Success – Planning Your Database I – Prepare Your Master Import File

Young woman designs database
Step 3 - Prepare Your Master Import File

In Step 2, you learned about managing memberships using levels and bundles. Now, we’re on to Step 3: creating the master import file that you’ll use to import your membership data into Wild Apricot.

But first, a few other quick tips to help you get your membership database in tip-top shape, to help enable a smooth migration.

Archived records are included

Do you wish to store certain contacts or members in Wild Apricot, but do not want to upgrade to a more expensive Wild Apricot plan? You can do this with archived records— and at no extra charge. And, you can still “revive” archived records and make them active at any time. If you exceed your Wild Apricot database contact limit by unarchiving records, you will have to upgrade to the next higher subscription plan.  

Either an administrative user or an archived member can reclassify archived records in Wild Apricot using the administrative system in Wild Apricot. However, there are some technical limits on archives: know these limits before you prepare to archive!

Keep prep work in the background

Here are some tools we recommend you check out before we move on to preparing your master file for migration, configuration and testing:

  • Prevent surprise emails being sent automatically by turning off emailing for all contacts during the import. Wild Apricot does start the renewal workflows when data is loaded, so make sure you load data with email subscriptions set to “no”.
  • Wild Apricot also has a handy member set-up checklist that might help you create some subtasks within your project’s data migration plan.
  • If you want to verify your email addresses before loading them into the new database, you can try this excellent (paid) service called BriteVerity.

Not sure your data is ready?

If you still think there’s more to do to get your database ready to import, we can help — Contact NewPath Consulting for a free consultation.

If you’ve followed all the steps previous to this one, you will have assessed and inventoried your membership data and made critical decisions about how to organize it as you prepare for migration to Wild Apricot.

Before we move on to starting to create your master import file — Congratulate yourself on completing this final preparation phase [it might be a good time to get yourself a beverage 😊].

Whether you plan to build your public and members’ website in Wild Apricot, or only to link your existing website to the Wild Apricot membership website, you will need to do three things:

  • Decide on the custom database fields you need
  • Clean your database
  • Do some test imports to check data integrity

First, build the master import file locally…

To start creating the master import file you will need to create a spreadsheet containing your contacts and members. This file will have data organized into all the fields (or columns in a spreadsheet) you’d like to migrate into Wild Apricot.

Start by building your “master import file” spreadsheet, which you’ll create based on the raw data you brought together in Step 1. Excel, Google Sheets or Pages are all good choices for manipulating and getting the file ready. We like to use Excel because it is great at handling a lot of data (up to 1 million rows per worksheet). It also has a lot of useful formulas for cleaning up and transforming data.

Creating a master “data model” can be challenging, especially if you have not been using another database but rather have had all your membership data in unstructured documents like Word documents or many Excel spreadsheets.  

Tools to help with data hygiene

Be aware that a messy database will create problems in Wild Apricot! Migration of data between systems is a perfect time to clean up your database and put into place some new data-hygiene rules.

The right steps, still in the right order …

As we’ve said earlier, it’s tempting to start planning the website before, or in parallel with, preparing to migrate membership data.

You’ll benefit more if you lay a strong and reliable foundation, before building the house and designing the front entrance. How? By preparing and accurately describing your database.

Let the pros help

NewPath can advise on how to use filtering, formulas and other spreadsheet tricks to get your data in tip top shape. Contact us to learn more

Watch for our next chapter to complete Step 3, where you’ll complete the build of your master import file. We will include a handy worksheet that will help you create a master import file and define a “dictionary” of all the fields in your Wild Apricot data model.


11 Steps to Membership Management Success - Planning Your Database I - Managing Membership Levels and Bundles

Step 2 - Membership Levels and Bundles
Step 2 - Membership Levels and Bundles

In Step 1 of “11 Steps to Membership Management Success,” you read about planning and managing your membership database. In Step 2, you’ll learn about preparing your data for migration to Wild Apricot: managing memberships grouped around common elements.

One of the most important features of any membership management system is configuring membership levels (or tiers) and renewal policies. Membership management can be a complex topic, with several things to consider. We are going to try to make this topic easy to understand.

What are your membership levels and renewal policies?

A membership level is tied to one or more of the benefits your organization offers, and membership levels can be free or have a cost. Membership levels also have an optional renewal policy that specifies when members will have the option  to renew. As you assess your renewal policy, ask these questions:

  • How are your membership levels currently advertised, and how do you wish to implement these features into Wild Apricot?
  • What will your membership renewal policy be -- monthly, yearly, quarterly, or no renewal at all?
  • Do you want to take advantage of offering paid options or collect specific information for each member who signs up or renews at a particular level?

Do you offer membership bundles (such as a family or group plan)?

Membership levels can be configured as “individual” or “bundle” membership levels. The type of membership level will identify whether an individual can only renew their own membership or if they can renew on behalf of a group of others through membership bundle. All of this is easily configurable when setting up membership levels.

A membership bundle is a collection of members who are linked together under an “umbrella” membership managed by a bundle administrator — the lead member of the bundle.

Your organization can use membership bundles to offer group memberships to companies, teams or families. A membership bundle enables a group to renew together, rather than requiring each individual to sign up or renew on their own. Each bundle member receives the same access to benefits as the bundle administrator.

Read more on membership bundles from Wild Apricot


Priorities for a membership bundle

Members in a membership bundle share several important attributes:

  • a common renewal date
  • a common membership status
  • a common membership level

The entire bundle is charged a single membership fee, paid by the bundle administrator. That’s why identifying the bundle administrator is critical.

If you plan to use membership bundles, your database must be set up to support the “bundling” process during the database import. For example:

  • All members in a bundle must have a database field unifying them together into the bundle: in Wild Apricot, this is the User ID or email address of the bundle administrator.
  • You will need to decide whether you will bundle using the email address of a bundle administrator or whether you will use the unique number (aka User ID) of the bundle administrator.
  • To create the membership bundle, you will need to assign the  bundle key of the bundle administrator (email address or User ID) to each member of the membership bundle in the import file..


An simple import file will illustrate this process. In this file we are designating Sarah as the bundle administrator, using Sarah’s email address as the bundling mechanism.


Email Address

First Name

Last Name

Member Bundle ID or Email



Bundle Admin




Bundle Member 1




Bundle Member 2



Note that each membership level can be designated with a maximum or unlimited number of bundle members. This business rule will be enforced during the contact import process or when you are adding or removing bundle members.


Critical input to the planning process

In one popular CRM system, CiviCRM, the bundling mechanism is called a “household” and can be exported as part of the membership record. Other systems may have some other indicator of a membership bundle. In some systems you may have to create the membership bundle manually if there was never a bundling mechanism in place.

This can be a complex, iterative process — in fact, it’s usually one of the most complex and somewhat abstract parts of getting started with Wild Apricot.

We can help you navigate this key planning process — Contact NewPath Consulting for a free consultation.

In the next chapter in this series, you’ll look at some final considerations in preparing your data for migration to the Wild Apricot platform: Step 3 – Tips and Prep of Your Master Import File.


11 Steps to Membership Management Success - Planning Your Database I

Staff sitting around a table deciding on database
Planning your membership database helps you pull together your data to create one source of the truth about your contacts and members.

Step 1

Now that you’ve gotten set up and familiar with Wild Apricot in Step 0, you’re ready to start planning how you’ll set up and manage your membership database.

In these next three articles in this series, you will complete Step 1, which will help you:

  • understand how and where your information about contacts and members is organized
  • understand membership bundles and when they can be used
  • make decisions about archiving and cleaning up your data

Your database plan will help you create your master import file, which will contain all the information you will be adding or migrating into your membership management system. The database plan and related considerations are key to the process of defining your database and help work toward full membership management system implementation.

We’ve broken Step 1 into three parts, to give you time to think through and carry out this critical first step in the process.

Let’s start by understanding what your organization’s data looks like now. 

What’s the current state of your organization’s database?

From the wide range of organizations we’ve worked with at NewPath Consulting, we have found a small to medium-sized organization’s data is usually “organic” in nature. That’s a nice way of saying it has evolved and passed through many hands. It is also possibly quite disorganized, potentially lacking important pieces of information. In short, it’s probably useful for people—but not for computers.

So answering the question about what your database looks like now involves doing some digging and housekeeping.

  • Do you know where all of your data about members and contacts resides? Can you easily collect, understand and use this information?
  • Do you already have your data stored in a database system, or is it spread across multiple systems or storage methods?

Sometimes when volunteers manage a database, they make it useful for themselves, but not easily accessible for your members or your systems. When volunteers change, the integrity and accuracy of your database may suffer.

If you do use a system, is it:

  • a spreadsheet?
  • a commercial or open source database like CiviCRM or Salesforce.com?
  • one or more custom, legacy databases?

Even if your contact management system comprises a drawer full business cards and sticky notes, the starting point is the same – establishing what you have now, and deciding which fields you’ll want to use in your new set-up. You will also need to establish the “business rules” around certain fields in terms of what is allowed in those fields.

If your information is coming from different places or systems, you want to anticipate the issues that might arise with exporting or manipulating the data. Knowing what you want to keep, what each field means and what data needs to change to conform to Wild Apricot will help you manage this process more seamlessly.

Think of it as paving a smooth and manageable path to creating one "source of the truth" where everyone – your contacts and members, your stakeholders, your staff and volunteers – will be fully and accurately described.

Do you know how to export data from your current systems, if necessary? If not, do you have the documentation or access to the people who can help get access to your data?

NewPath Consulting can help with this part of the process. We have experience with all sorts of complicated and “messy” systems.

The steps and estimates in this series are based on our experience migrating diverse customer groups to Wild Apricot. We believe these steps have an intrinsic order, so it’s important that you follow the steps in the order we’ve described in this series. If you can’t finish one before we publish the next, you can always come back to it when ready.

Watch for the next chapter in this series, in which you’ll start the second step in preparing your data for migration to the Wild Apricot platform: Step 2 – Managing Membership Bundles.

Do you have questions about Wild Apricot or managing your member and contact database? Contact NewPath Consulting for a free consultation.


11 Steps to Membership Management Success – Introduction

The types of organizations that need an association management system have widely-ranging missions: from religious and community groups to foundations and charities, to conference organizers and subscription services, to associations and clubs of all kinds.

Are you an executive or staff at an organization considering adopting Wild Apricot, or a similar association management system (AMS)? Then this guide is for you.





 MEMBERS Supporters of a COMMUNITY or CAUSE  CUSTOMERS Enthusiasts of a SPORT or  HOBBY
  • Professional and Trade Associations
  • Political Advocacy and Campaigns
  • Subscription Website
  • Service
  • Condominium or Homeowners Associations (HOAs)
  • Foundations
  • Support Assistance Services
  • Special Interest
  • Charities
  •  Event/Conference
  • Sports
  • Faith-based Communities
  • Education and Training
  • Singles or Seniors Clubs
  • Student and Alumni Clubs

Your mission might be different – but you share a common need. Your business model requires you to deliver on your mandate and become sustainable by establishing a steady flow of membership dues and event fees into your organization. But volunteers and time commitment available to is usually very limited in smaller organizations.

And, you need powerful and flexible software features that assist you in managing your most precious asset: the information about your organization’s key stakeholders – members, communities and other supporters of your mission. You also may need an online store and a secure and mobile-friendly website to provide a “front door” into your organization.

Set up your system in manageable steps

This series of articles will take you through 11 comprehensive steps that will get you up and running on Wild Apricot, even on a budget. You’ll learn:

  • how to plan, implement and administer your account, membership database and finances
  • how to plan and design your organization’s website and events pages using Wild Apricot.

And, you’ll be able to move through the steps in the order that will help you do each one right while making the best use of your time.

The time estimates for each step are based on the effort required from your employees and volunteers. We developed these steps with knowledge gained in more than 20 implementations and migrations for Wild Apricot customers all over the world. These are not “ideals” or “marketing” – the steps are based on real-world experience!

For each step, we’ll provide an estimate of the time to completion, based on our experience helping clients migrate to Wild Apricot and similar association management systems. The total length of the full set-up process might vary, depending how much time you might need between each step to manage other priorities. If you are not migrating from an existing system, you may find some steps take a drastically shorter amount of time, or you may not need to take them at all. We will identify those steps when they occur.

Whatever your setting and resources, we’re confident that with these steps achieved, you’ll benefit from Wild Apricot’s range of features. If you plan right, your organization can rely on a quality association management system to drive activities like:

  • marketing
  • revenue generation and fundraising
  • online membership and event sign-up
  • membership renewals
  • automating various business processes
This guide is not meant to be a complete all-in-one documentation of Wild Apricot (that’s available on Wild Apricot’s Help website).

What you’ll get here is an overview of what sort of work is realistically required to take advantage of the benefits of the  platform, and how long you can plan to take to get it done.

Step 0: Sign up for a free Wild Apricot Account

Before you’ll be ready to start planning your database in Step 1, you need to obtain a free trial account. Got ten minutes? You can get started right from here.

Free or paid plan? You choose

Trial Wild Apricot accounts allow up to 50 contacts or members and five administrative accounts. The free trial website also has Wild Apricot branding in the website footer on every page

Get your Free Wild Apricot trial If you upgrade to a paid plan, you get more contacts and can add your own branding elements.

Choose a subscription term



$120 per month (avg.)

prepay for one year

10% off

prepay for two years

15% off

On average, Wild Apricot costs about $120 per month, or $0.40 per year per contact. Wild Apricot’s monthly and annual fees are current as of April 2018.  As you can see, the larger your contact database, the less you pay per contact to securely and capably manage your organization's growth on Wild Apricot.


Set-up advice from Wild Apricot

Before you start in earnest, get a high-level overview of all the features from:


We’ll help you do the right steps – in the right order

The steps and estimates below are based on our experience migrating diverse customer groups to Wild Apricot. Your mileage may vary, depending on your resources, but we’ll help by breaking the steps down into manageable, logical units.

It will be important to follow the steps in the order we’ve set them up here. If you can’t finish one before we publish the next, you can always come back to it when you’re ready.

Lots of organizations fall into the trap of focusing on their website first. It’s tempting to want to hang a sign up and invite people through your front door as soon as possible.

But if your database and the content within it is in disarray, you will not get what you ultimately want in the way of concrete, usable information about your members. Following the steps in a different order can mean putting the cart before the horse – and ending up with apples all over the road!

Think about the quality of your database as directly relating with your organization’s long-term sustainability.

A quality membership management system is key to a sustainable organization

Here is a preview of the  11 steps and publication timelines that will provide the greatest long-term benefit to your organization:



→ Fall/Winter 2018

Website look and feel

→ Winter 2019

Test and launch

→ Early spring 2019

Planning your Database I

Planning Your Website I

Import Your Database and Complete Payment Configuration

Planning your Database II

Planning Your Website II

Test and Launch

Planning your Database III

Creating Your Website I


Creating a Master Import File I

Creating Your Website II


Creating a Master Import File II


Benefits will multiply!

Your organization may not see the benefits of all the features from day one, but if you use our guide to get started, we’re confident you’ll benefit from more of Wild Apricot’s features to grow your organization’s membership and ensure its sustainability.

Watch for the next chapter in this series in the coming weeks.

Do you have questions about Wild Apricot or managing your member and contact database? Contact NewPath Consulting for a free consultation.