If you’re considering a member portal for your nonprofit website, you’re on to something big. 

A portal is a members-only extension of your nonprofit organization’s website. It allows members to log in and sign up for courses, make payments, submit applications and certifications, and more all on their own — taking tedious tasks and busy work out of your team’s inboxes. (And completely off their plates!)

Because of its ability to provide a seamless user experience (and significantly reduce admin time for staff), a membership portal can make an incredible impact on any member-based nonprofit organization.

Wondering what a member portal could do for your nonprofit? Read on and find out.


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The difference between membership portals and websites

A membership portal (AKAmember portal or membership software) differs from a traditional website because it requires users to log in before accessing it.

Portals have different goals and serve different audiences than regular websites. A website is for prospective members, stakeholders, and the public, so its job is to communicate value, educate people, and bring in prospects or donations for the organization. A member portal performs specific services for members, improving their experience with and elevating the perceived value of your organization.

While websites follow marketing trends and rely heavily on a marketing team for creation and updates, member portals exist behind the scenes — solving problems through membership software and tech features. Because of this, membership portals tend to have a longer lifespan and require fewer updates than websites over time.

Difference between membership portals and websites

The benefits of membership portals for nonprofits

Portals are so advantageous to member-based nonprofits that we’d go so far as to consider them must-haves. Here are just a few of the many benefits they offer:

benefits of membership portals for nonprofits

Reduced member support time

Because they’re self-serve, portals reduce time spent supporting members one-on-one. Once optimized, they can handle tasks like document submissions, payments, and more without requiring even a minute of your staff’s time.

Automated processes

By automating workflows, membership portals reduce manual tasks. Portals can be set up to automatically send emails based on a member’s renewal date or last donation.

Effective scaling

Portals allow you to serve more members without scaling your team. They also free up staff time — allowing them to focus on offering and adding value instead of doing repetitive admin tasks.

Friendly member experience

Membership portals provide a pleasant experience for members because they’re personalized and aimed at helping them complete a task, support a cause, or grow. Members love that they can easily access the tools and content they need to succeed.

Enhanced data collection and insights

With more and better insights into the demographics of your member base, you can communicate more effectively with your active members or try to re-engage others.

Revenue generation opportunities

Member portals can generate more revenue by serving as a selling feature to prospective members and shining a spotlight on new programs or events.

Key features of member portals

The features each team needs depend on the work they do. As a result, member portals are typically very customizable and have tons of potential features, all of which can be categorized as operational or growth-focused.

key features of member portals

Operational features streamline admin work, making life easier for your members and reducing the hours your staff spends supporting them one-on-one.

Some examples include:

  • User account management for registration, login, forgotten passwords, etc.

  • Search tools that help members find information within the portal

  • Analytics that track portal data and help you better understand your member base

  • Automated communications (like reminders when it’s time to renew)

  • Event management and calendar tools (some even handle registrations)

  • Application submissions and certification documentation approval

  • Integrations with other tech like your CRM and payment processor

Growth-focused features provide additional value to your members.

Some examples include:

  • Customizable member profiles

  • Personalized user dashboards

  • Exclusive content and resources that support members personally or professionally

  • Access to members-only training, resources, and webinars

How to implement a member portal

Thinking about implementing a member portal? There are a few best practices to keep in mind as you do:

#1 Do it in phases 

Start small and build in phases, tackling high-priority features and those with operational value first. This way, you start by reducing staff admin time, making it easy for you, your board, and your team to see the ROI. Then, once you have a solid base, you can shift your focus to features that add value to your members’ lives. 

#2 Gather and act on member feedback

Get feedback from your members from the get-go. Get them involved when discussing new features. Ask them what’s working and what isn’t. You can uncover great value from conducting a few focused user interviews.

#3 Consider how you’ll support your users

A membership portal is great — but using more tech means coaching more people through tech difficulties. So create a proactive strategy for supporting members who struggle or get stuck on tech issues.

#4 Consider data privacy and compliance

Because your portal will handle private information like member names, email addresses, and credit card numbers, prioritizing cybersecurity and data compliance is essential. Think carefully about what information you request from members and how that information will be stored and used. Sometimes less is more.

#5 Plan for regular updates and maintenance 

All active web projects need a strategy around ongoing support and maintenance — and member portals are no exception. A tool or feature that doesn’t work can cause members to lose trust and faith in the system, so ensuring the portal is up to date is key. 

How to encourage member portal adoption

Most people resist change — especially tech change. So one of the main challenges of offering a portal is convincing people to try it, use it, and incorporate it into their regular lives. This is what we call product adoption” and it’s important because once you invest time and money into launching a portal, you want it to be successful.

Member portal adoption tips

  • Communicate the features of your portal and encourage users to try them.

  • Implement an effective onboarding process to guide users through the portal.

  • Provide tech support documentation.

  • Offer portal training sessions and tutorials.

  • Keep the content fresh and relevant. Regular updates give users a reason to return!

  • Regularly share about benefits and new features through emails or social media.

  • Make it easy for users to provide feedback. (And use it to make improvements.)

member portal adoption tips, checklist and examples

Member portal success story: 1% for the planet

Wondering what a member portal looks like in action? Check out the impact it made for our clients, 1% for the planet.

Membership portal for environmental member based nonprofit

The goal

Launch a membership portal that supports their membership team so they could scale and continue to serve more members.

The process

We started by rolling out operational features designed to take work off their membership team by reducing emails and member support requests and increasing the number of certifications processed each month.

Then, we added features designed to streamline process certifications. These features automated online dues payments, international currency conversions, renewal and payment reminders, and more.

Finally, we added member-based features to increase directory activity. Things like a map view of members, improved search, and curated lists of environmental partners. All while achieving our collective goal of providing a user-friendly experience with a consistent brand feel.

The results

When we first engaged with 1% for the Planet they had about 3,000 business members and 4,000 nonprofit partners. Many of these stakeholders hadn’t logged in to the portal. After our work was complete, within 6 months:

  • We had over 4,000 unique users log in to the system.

  • Received 5,958 donations through the portal.

  • Received 1,556 new member certifications through the portal.

  • Had 2,393 members complete their profiles.

Membership portals change nonprofits!

With the potential to streamline operations, increase donations and revenue, and seriously impress your member base — all while freeing up your staff to do bigger work — it’s hard for us to find anything negative about these heavy-hitting, self-service platforms.

As long as you make a plan for your project, each feature’s roll-out, and how you’ll handle tech support once the portal goes live, you and your team will never look back.


Swap busy work for bigger things

Inefficient workflows and websites weigh your team down. Good tech frees them up!

Book a free software consultation to learn how a member portal can reduce repetitive tasks and let your best people get back to doing their best work.

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