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Blackbaud CRM™ Best Practices Memberships in Blackbaud CRM™ - You DO Have a Choice!

The term “membership” can have very different meanings to organizations, depending on how they are used. Blackbaud CRM™ offers several ways to address “Membership” Programs and “Giving Societies”. When designing your system, it’s important to determine what your organization is trying to accomplish with these programs and weigh the pros and cons of each. Often the choice is made based on revenue versus recognition counting.

Membership Dues vs, Contributions

What does the word “dues” mean to your organization? I am constantly surprised by the negative connotation of the word “dues” compared with the more positive word “gift.” Alumni Associations and Museums, for example, typically have well-defined Annual and Lifetime dues-based programs. Members expect to pay dues. However, I have worked with radio stations and other organizations where “dues-paying” was viewed as a negative term or not pertinent to the way they operate.

Dues-based Memberships - Pros

  • Memberships can be Annual, Recurring or Lifetime

  • Memberships can have installment payments

  • Dues appear as Membership Transactions on the Revenue History page

  • Memberships can have multiple levels, terms and price points

  • Membership dues payments can be made in one system and counted in another

  • Memberships can have benefits which are tax-deductible

  • Memberships can have add-ons, premiums and promotions (discounts)

  • Rules can be set to count the entire payment (including benefits) as revenue or only the tax-deductible portion

  • Renewal/Expiration windows have a great deal of flexibility with rolling dates, grace/lapsed periods, etc.

  • Upgrades and downgrades are easily tracked

  • Gifts of Membership are available

  • Dues are easily entered via a Membership Dues Batch

Dues-based Memberships - Cons

  • All revenue goes into the same “bucket” in the General Ledger - you cannot specify multiple designations for membership payments

  • Only revenue is counted - no recognition credits

Contributions-based Memberships - Pros

  • Giving activity (types of gifts) can be specified, including pledges and recurring gifts

  • Giving can be toward a single or a group of designations

  • Memberships can be achieved using a single transaction or a combined amount of multiple transactions

  • Options for additional contributions during a renewal window can be counted toward a donation, upgrade or renewal.

  • Benefits can have the entire amount as tax-deductible, a portion tax-deductible or no tax deductibility at all.

  • Renewals, Grace periods and Lapsed Memberships Rules are identical to Dues- Based Memberships

  • No manual entry of Memberships needed - a business process can be configured to run on a scheduled or one-off basis

Contributions-based Memberships - Cons

  • No Lifetime Membership Options

  • No Add-On or premium functionality available

  • No Promotion (discount) available

  • No Gift Memberships

  • No installment plans - a Membership level is achieved when contributions reach configured amounts

  • Transactions appear as regular revenue on the Revenue History page making it difficult to easily view which transactions qualified for a membership.


Blackbaud CRM ™ also offers a dues-based/contributions-based hybrid program. It was developed for Membership Programs that have dues-based lower levels and contribution-based premium levels. However, the same pros and cons discussed above will apply. For example, a $500 membership dues payment qualifies you for a Silver Membership. You can have add-ons, premiums and promotions associated with that level. A donation of $1000 qualifies you for the Gold level, but you cannot have add-ons, premiums, promotions, gifts of membership, etc.

Memberships vs. Recognition Programs

Often clients are torn between using Membership Programs or Recognition Programs for their giving societies. Recognitions Programs were designed to use Recognition Credits only - not Revenue. Here are some points to consider:

Recognition Program - Pros

  • Can configure for Annual or Lifetime Societies

  • Can select specific Revenue Types to include

  • Can select specific Recognition Types to include

  • Can select one designation, a specific set of designations or all designations

  • Can include an additional selection of records to include (or exclude) from the program

  • Can have multiple levels within one program

  • Recognition Program Members receive a constituency of Recognized Donor

  • Recognition Processes can be run on a job schedule

  • A program can be added to a constituent record on a one-off basis

  • Constituents who qualify but do not wish to participate can decline and the reason is tracked

Recognition Program - Cons

  • Recognition Programs expire either at the end of the fiscal year or the calendar year so there is no “rolling” feature. For example, if a Constituent qualifies in June for a Program which has an expiration date of the end of the calendar year, he/she will only be a member for 6 months and will have to requalify

  • There is no accommodation for more than one “additional” selection. For example, if your organization offers a Giving Society for donors aged 21-30, a separate program will have to be configured. If you use the one “additional selection” to pull donors in by age, the donors who do not fall into the age range in the selection will not qualify.

It is imperative that your design consultant explore all of the options for Memberships and Recognition programs for you Organization. Beginning an implementation or an upgrade is the perfect time to examine your current business processes to help your organization operate in a more efficient way.

If you’d like to talk about membership programs or other CRM functionality, contact us by email or fill out our contact form. We'd be more than happy to discuss your specific questions.

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