Membership Tips

04 August 2022 Senior News Team

Rolling Versus Fixed Date Membership – Which One Should You Choose?

 One important decision for charities and non-profit organisations to make is the membership system to adopt. Before making this decision, it is important that you first define your organisation’s goals. These goals will put you on the right track and influence your decision making.  

Choosing the right membership system can be challenging, but not impossible. In this article, we will discuss the similarities and differences between the rolling and fixed date membership systems. 

Fixed Date Membership 

Fixed date membership system is based on a defined date, i.e. it is open for a specific period of time. This period has a defined start and end date. It begins when you say it does, regardless of when the member actually signs up. A fixed date membership starts on January 1/July 1/September 1.   

The idea behind this type of membership is to create a sense of urgency for potential members to go ahead and take the plunge into subscription and make the members who have joined feel like they have more access to you. 

This membership system is great for subscription sites that engage a lot through live calls or if the group is collectively working toward a goal, or membership sites that sell highly interactive coaching programs and online courses. 

Pros: 

  • Members know what activities they should be doing at various points of the year. Providing the annual extra workload is not an issue, the system can be seen as easier to manage. 
  • All members start and end on the same date. 
  • You are able to send out an additional membership drive during the course of the year. 
  • Marketing campaigns for fixed date membership systems will have short breaks in between. If you open enrolment for your course once per year, you will be able to take a few months off before jumping back into marketing mode to promote the course. 
  • In addition, marketing for fixed system yields great results. With set points ahead of renewals month, campaigns can go out to members knowing they are all likely to be interested. 
  • Since the start and end dates for members are fixed, an email reminder can be set up to easily remind members to renew their memberships as the expiration date of membership approaches. 

Cons: 

  • You will NOT be able to promote this type of membership to new members until the end of the membership term. Otherwise, the new member will not be able to get the full membership term. For example, if a new member purchases their membership on April 1 for the membership ending on June 30, they will only receive a three month membership. If this happens, the membership admin will need to manually adjust the membership plan which will be difficult to manage long-term.  
  • Fixed date membership requires picking the right renewal time. Christmas might not be the best time as your staff might be in short supply and members might be otherwise engaged. 
  • Shutting your doors after the membership window closes might cause you to lose potential members because they won't want to wait for your membership to open back up.  
  • If you don't have a loyal group of followers, you may not get much interest in your membership at first. Therefore, it is important to have a decent following when using fixed membership system. 

Rolling Membership 

Rolling membership system is based on purchase date. This option allows members sign up whenever they want. They don’t have to wait for a particular time of year or the first year being a part year like in a fixed system. For example, if an alum purchases their membership on September 15, 2015, their membership will expire the following September of the next year assuming it’s a one year membership. 

The rolling membership system is probably the model that comes to mind when you think of a membership organisation website. In a rolling system, your membership organisation is open year-round and never closes.  

This membership system is set up this way in an effort to get as many members as possible and leave none behind. It’s very member-centric. Using this system, there's always an opportunity for growth. 

Pros: 

  • Rolling renewal of membership allows you secure and pay for your membership from season-to-season without having to re-apply or provide your card details each time. Your membership can be automatically paid for and rolled-over into the same membership category for the following season using the same payment method previously provided. 
  • It provides a regular income instead of a windfall in one month. This can be seen as a plus for fund management and budgeting. 
  • A recurring monthly email reminder can be set up easily and sent to remind members to renew their membership. 
  • This option allows groups push membership prior to a group’s event throughout the year. 
  • Membership sites that use the rolling system don’t have to change their core processes. The system is easy to run once you are all set up. 

Cons: 

  • Since there’s no break in between enrolment, any kinks or problems found in your site have to be fixed immediately – you don't have the liberty of working on them during your membership's downtime. 
  • A rolling membership model isn't good for you if you have fixed material to share or you want to have more live interaction within your online course.  

There’s really no right choice overall as the best membership model is the one that’s great for your members and meets your organisation’s needs.  

A rolling membership is best advised when you: 

  • don't have fixed content, 
  • don’t have a real reason to open and close your membership, 
  • have content that can for the most part manage itself or 
  • want to spread out admin work and have a regular income. 

On the other hand, fixed date membership is appropriate when you: 

  • need more interaction with your members,  
  • have a large following or course that isn't self-paced or 
  • want more control over your marketing timings.  

If you need more information or advice about your membership system, you should talk to us.