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Getting started with membership management

Wild Apricot software is designed for associations, clubs, non-profits, and member-based organizations. This guide provides an overview of how Wild Apricot can be used to manage your members and other contacts like newsletter subscribers, donors, event attendees, and volunteers.

See Getting started with Wild Apricot to learn more about other Wild Apricot functionality.

Members and other contact types

Everyone in your Wild Apricot database is a contact. A contact can be a member, an event attendee, a donor, a newsletter subscriber, or any combination of these roles. Contacts can be added automatically through your website, added manually by an administrator, or imported in bulk. For more information, see Adding a new contact.

Members are a special type of contact:

  • They are assigned to a specific membership level. Each membership level defines:
    • Type of member (e.g. monthly or annual subscriber, board vs regular member, paying vs non-paying).
    • The automatic emails and actions that should be sent after a member applies, renews, or becomes overdue. For example, Premium members might renew annually and be given an extra 30 day grace period to renew, while Basic members renew every month and automatically lose their member privileges if they do not renew on time.
  • Members can be given special access to member only pages and events.
  • They have special membership-related fields such as renewal date and member status.
  • They can be listed in a member directory.
  • They can be organized into member groups.

Customizing database fields

Information about each contact is stored in a separate record, with each record storing different chunks of information in fields (e.g. first name, last name, email address).

In addition to their contact record, each contact can also have a membership record, and one or more event registration records or donation records.

You can customize your contact database – and your forms – by adding, modifying, reordering, and deleting database fields.

Wild Apricot database fields are divided into two classes: common fields – fields that apply to all records (e.g. first name, last name, email address) – and additional fields that only apply to membership applications, event registrations, or donations. Each record is a combination of common fields and fields specific to that type of record. For example, a membership record will consist of membership fields and common fields, while a donation record will consist of donation fields and common fields.

The forms that appear to the user – and are used to create records – also combine both types of fields. A membership form, for example, will display both common fields and membership fields.

To customize a form, you add or remove fields, either common or specific to the form type.

You can add any number of common fields or other database fields. You can modify, reorder, and delete existing fields (except system fields such as Member ID, First name, Last name, Organization, Email, and Phone). You can create different membership fields for different membership levels, and limit the visibility of all field types to members or administrators only.

For more information, see Customizing database fields.

Creating different membership levels

You can create multiple membership levels, each with different membership fees, subscription periods, renewals policies, and benefits. You can limit access to pages, events, event registration types, and individual membership fields by membership levels. Inclusion in a member directory can also be restricted by membership level.

Setting up corporate, team, or family membership bundles

You can offer discounted group memberships to companies, team, or families by setting up membership bundle levels. A membership bundle is a group of members who are linked together and managed by one of their members – the bundle administrator. Bundle members share the same renewal date, status, and membership level.

With each bundle level you create, visitors to your site can create separate membership bundles. You could, for example, set up a bundle level called Families to allow individual families to create separate membership bundles for their family members. The membership fee for the bundle level will be applied to each bundle that is created, and will be invoiced to the bundle administrator.

Organizing members into groups

You can organize members from different membership levels into member groups according to their interests or participation in committees. For example, you could create member groups such as "Board of Directors" or "Volunteer Committee". Organizing members into member groups allows you to:

  • Control page access by group
  • Select the group to receive an email message

Automating membership applications

Wild Apricot provides an online member application form that visitors to your site can use to apply for membership in your organization. You can add multiple application forms to your site and adjust the settings on each one so that only specific membership levels are shown. You can customize the form by adding or removing membership fields and choosing the membership levels to which the form applies.

The application process works a bit differently depending on the membership level selected by the user (Free or Paid) and the payment method used (Offline/Check vs. Online payment). Here is a high level workflow:

You have the option of requiring administrator approval of new membership applications or automatically approving them. For more information, see Member applications workflow.

For paid memberships, you can also automatically send customized receipts and invoices. Both online and offline payments can be handled. For more information, see Payment settings.

The automated confirmation emails can be customized separately for each membership level. For more information, see Customizing default membership emails.

Members can also be manually added by a site administrator, either one by one or via import.

Automating membership renewals

With Wild Apricot, you can automate the membership renewal process with timed reminders and actions for each membership level. You can provide for a membership renewal invoice to be automatically generated and emailed to members a specific number of days before their renewal date. If the member does not renew within a certain period of time, you can provide for their membership status to be set to Lapsed, their membership level to be changed, and/or their contact record to be archived.

To fully automate the renewal process, you can set up recurring payments.

Suspending, archiving, and deleting members

You may wish to suspend someone's membership because of misconduct or some other reason. You can also suspend a member to convert the member into a contact. Suspending a membership will:

  • Remove the membership so they become a non-member contact
  • Hide them from any member directory
  • Keep an archive of their membership level and status 
  • Keep all their contact information as it was before (e.g. you can still send emails to this person)

If a membership is lapsed for a considerable period of time, you might want to remove the person from your contact database so that they no longer count towards your database limit. Rather than deleting the member's contact record, you can archive the record so it can be restored at a later date. Archived records are automatically excluded from receiving emails and do not count towards your database limit. Once archived, a record can be deleted at anytime.

See also How membership status affects available functionality.

Online member self service

One of the main advantages of using Wild Apricot is that members can perform various tasks on their own – without bothering the administrators. These tasks include:

  • Renewals – Member can renew and pay online
  • Upgrades – Members can switch their membership levels themselves and immediately receive the privileges of the new membership level
  • Updating profiles – Members can edit their own profiles (e.g. change email address) and the changes are automatically reflected everywhere on the site
  • Financial history – Members and other contacts can view a full history of past invoices and payments and pay any outstanding invoices online

Searching for members

You can search for members from either the Contacts module or from the Members module using a simple keyword search or using an advanced search. From the simple contact search, you can also select from a list of predefined filters to quickly display event attendees, donors, or other types of contacts.

Using the advanced search, you can combine multiple search criteria, and control whether any or all of the criteria needs to be met, then save your search for future use.

For example, you could search for:

  • members who last logged in more than 3 months ago
  • members at a particular level with a renewal due in the next week
  • members from a particular state with email delivery disabled

Viewing membership information

Once you have your search results, you can view individual member details by clicking on members within the list. From the Contact details screen, you can view and edit contact information, and use the Prev and Next button to browse through other records in the list.

You can send an email blast to the entire search results by clicking the Email members button. You can create your email blasts from scratch, use a previously sent email, or choose one of the professionally designed email templates provided by Wild Apricot.

You can also export the results to a spreadsheet by clicking the Export button. 

Adding a member directory to your website

To allow visitors to your site to see a list of your members, search for members, and view member profiles, you can add a member directory gadget to a page on your site.

Clicking on a member listing within the directory will display that member's profile (subject to their privacy settings).

You can control which members appear in the directory, restricting the list by criteria such as membership level or database fields such as city or state. You can create multiple member directories, each with different settings. For example, you could set up different member directories for members and non-members, or for different regions.


Whether a member appears in the directory also depends on that member's privacy settings.

In addition to controlling which members are displayed in the list, you can control which fields are displayed for each member and the order in which member records are sorted.

Comparing Wild Apricot's contact database to Excel

Wild Apricot's contact database is web-based and offer many advantages over traditional desktop software such as Excel.


Wild Apricot



  • Access via your web browser, no installation required
  • You need a computer with Excel software installed
  • Also need a copy of the Excel file with your member records

Database format

  • Relational database: each record is linked to additional data in other modules, e.g. Finances, Events etc.
  • Flat file database (records stored in one table)
  • Entire record is represented on a single row

Sharing/multiple users

  • Multiple admins can simultaneously work with the same database
  • Each person has access to his own local copy of the file and then has to send updated file to others
  • If edited simultaneously, leads to multiple files copies that have to be manually reconciled

Member self-service

  • Members can apply, pay online, renew, update own records – no admin intervention necessary
  • Online payments are integrated into the membership application and renewal processes
  • Member record automatically created/updated once payment is received
  • Members have to contact/notify the admin, who would make all the required updates manually
  • Payment process is handled separately and payments records have to be created/updated manually

Website integration

  • Website can have pages which show information directly from the database, such as a member directory, or save information into the database, such as a membership application page
  • Admin has to manually update web pages every time membership database changes
  • Entries on website online forms have to be manually entered into the database

Data consistency

  • A single database stored online
  • Members and admins all update the same database
  • Data is always up-to-date
  • Multiple database copies on different computers
  • No easy way to share workload or reconcile changes made by different people
  • Often end up with data inconsistency

Member communications

  • Email your contacts/members directly from Wild Apricot
  • Email tracking available in Wild Apricot
  • Use 3rd party emailing system to send mass emails
  • Emailing statistics and details stored in a separate system


  • System automatically generates various membership and financial reports for you
  • Any reporting is done manually, and often requires the use of 3rd party systems

Integrated view

  • Quickly get a glimpse of each member status, financial standing, event registrations, and donations
  • No easy/quick way to tell if member is paid up or not, is registered for events, made donations, etc.

Membership management automation

  • Members who apply and pay online are automatically granted access to a secure site
  • System automatically sends renewal reminders and confirmations
  • Members who do not renew/pay are automatically locked out until they do
  • Always keeping track who has paid or not, and then manually give them access or lock them out
  • Manually send renewal reminders/confirmations from a separate system.
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Membership Software - Wild Apricot Contact us:
Wild Apricot Inc. 144 Front Street West Suite 725, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5J 2L7