Membership fees, is your organisation taking payments online? Are you following the essential best practices?
by Brett Andrew 29th April 2020
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.
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 you system also caters for ‘price increases’ easily, this will ensure you can utilise auto renewals.
Organisations can keep credit cards on file, but only if done so securely, e.g. using a PCI compliant service such as Stripe or Braintree 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 Braintree and Stripe also makes additional payments easier and refunds too.
Users should be notified immediately and have the ability to correct the issue (e.g expired card). Send an email automatically to inform them. Sometimes this can fail due to other reasons such as insufficient funds. Some organisations retry these payments daily others only attempt it once. 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.
The web browser / screen 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 huge issues. This one simple feature will save hundreds of hours of staff issuing refunds and asking the I.T. department what went wrong.
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 24 hours for complicated systems, so many things could have changed since that last payment is processed, 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.
If a member has not renewed within a certain time, get your membership team to send these members a ‘sorry to see you go’ email, 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.
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