Every organisation needs a quality system to record members, their contact details and their status. Here are some of the issues you should consider:
- Will you screen members or can anyone join?
- Will you charge membership fees - if yes, how much.
- Do members have to renew membership every year?
- If you have a renewal system, how will it work?
- Will you give members a card or some other proof of membership?
- Will you keep your records on computer or on paper?
- What details do you need to know about members?
- Who will administer your membership system?
How to set up a membership system
Type of system
Discuss the type of membership system that will suit your organisation. For all the systems listed below you will require an application form. You can give some proof of membership like a card or a badge, or you can simply keep a register of members. Here are a few different types of membership to choose from:
- Free membership: Members apply to join, fill in a form and if approved, become a member.
- Voluntary contributions: Membership is free, but members are encouraged to make donations to the organisation. Churches are a good example of this system.
- Paid membership (renewed each year): Members pay a membership fee every year - decide what people can afford and make provision for people who cannot pay. If you choose this system you need a clear process for renewal every year. Remember that people will join in different months and will have to renew one year later. You need a system to let them know and to collect their fees from them. You will also have to suspend members who fall behind.
- Paid membership (monthly contribution): Members pay a small amount each month. This system needs a lot of administration to keep it up to date. It works best for organisations like trade unions that can get deductions made from wages.
- Paid membership (one off fee): Members pay once to join the organisation and remain members until they resign or are expelled.
- Automatic membership: People in a certain area or sector automatically become members and there is no fee or system. Anyone can attend meetings and vote. An example of this is a resident’s organisation in a block of flats.
Process for joining
Once you have decided on the type of system, you have to develop a process for joining.
- Decide whether people should apply on a bespoke form, if yes, design the form.
- Should new member be nominated by existing members?
- Will there be any interview or screening process to exclude people you may not want as members?
- How will you inform people once they have been accepted as members?
- Will you have a probation period or will new members have the same rights as existing members?
- Will you organise training or induction for new members?
Co-operatives UK offers a number of one-day training courses for co-operatives – find out more.