Write-up of a web project recently completed

Below is a piece I did for a newsletter. We did later complete the content management system phase mentioned at the end of the piece.

<<DCCA’s Membership Management System

A citizen’s association’s core responsibility is to communicate with its members and community. Realizing the Dupont Circle Citizen Association’s (DCCA) membership management system (using Microsoft Access database, Excel Spreadsheets, and Outlook for mass emailing), was causing more headaches than it was solving, we recently undertook the task of finding a new cost-effective new solution. We found that the difficulty of using the database was causing our board members and committees to use spreadsheets and Outlook categories rather than our central data repository. We had a several frustrating limitations:

1)     Sending notifications to our membership was a painful time-sink for volunteers.

2)     No centralized storage – we were storing membership contact and payment information in different files and computers. Email-based file swapping just gave us too much room for duplicating effort, communication errors, and frustration.

3)     No Access – allowing members and administrators anytime, anywhere access to manage their membership information and make payments was not possible. This lead to delayed updates, lost information, and requiring substantial amounts of unnecessary effort.

4)     Many of our people use Mac’s and couldn’t even open the database.

As we got into our quest to improve our membership management operation we concluded, a web-based solution made the most sense. We drew up a requirements document and put out an RFP. We received a couple of proposals from web developers to build a system from scratch which were too expensive. We also considered several pre-packaged services of which none were going to offer us everything we needed. We accepted a bid from a local IT consulting and development firm, Benton Consulting. They recommended an open source software system (Drupal with CiviCRM) that was developed specifically for associations and campaigns. With this approach we gain the cost-benefit of a piggy-backing on an already made solution in addition to the ability customize the software as if we were building our own. We’re on our way to having:

1)     An automated system for accepting new memberships, member-managed contact updating, and accepting credit card payments from our website.

2)     The ability to send membership communications from our website from up-to-date membership listings.

3)     Reporting tools our leadership can use. We’ll know if membership up at this point in the year from last, which membership categories are growing, and which members who joined last year haven’t yet paid this year.

When we are comfortable with this new system and have the processes well-documented, we plan to proceed to integrate a website updating tool into the admin part of our website. Then, non-technical volunteers can update the web site. That and the other improvements will allow our volunteers to spend their limited time more productively.>>


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