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Memberships: How to Create & Manage a New Member - A Comprehensive Guide
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on 6/26/2024 1:22:00 PM


Memberships are a great fundraising tool and can further support the organization's mission by raising funds while providing donors with membership benefits or incentives. While Membership work in a similar way as Sustainers, memberships can be used as a tool to collection donations on a scheduled billing date and typically have annual dues and can be paid in full or over a period of time. If your organization is leveraging memberships as a fundraising tool, learn more below on how to create membership within CharityEngine.


  1. Before creating membership records, you must create the membership types as a first step.
  2. Membership in a non-profit typically involves individuals or entities formally joining the organization by paying a membership fee or fulfilling specific criteria set by the organization, typically with a finite timeframe. Members may receive certain benefits such as access to exclusive events, newsletters, voting rights in organizational matters (such as electing board members), or discounts on services provided by the non-profit. Membership fees can contribute to the organization's operational expenses and may also be a way for individuals to show ongoing support.  If membership timelines for the organization are recurring, without an end date, consider the usage of the CharityEngine sustainer feature.

Instructions - Creating a Membership Type

Step 1: In order to create a membership type, begin by navigating to the Configuration App > Membership > Types > Create New.
Step 2: Enter the following data elements:
    1. Name - required and internal name
    2. Code - required and this is the external name presented to your donors
    3. Parent - optional, for use if your membership structure is nested
    4. Active - default to Yes, if set to No, note that this may hamper any web form testing/exposure
    5. Public - default to Yes, can be set to No if you wish to limit external exposure
    6. Rate - optional, set for the price point associated with this membership type
    7. Duration - optional, set for a numeric value and frequency (i.e. Months, Years)
      1. Note: If you configure a duration date for the membership type, when a new membership is created for that type, the system will automatically set the start and end date. For example, if the duration is configured for one year, when a new membership is created, the system will automatically enter the start date as the creation date and the end date a year from the start date. Leaving this value as null will create membership records with no end date.
    8. Description - optional, internal reference
Step 3: Click on SAVE to secure your changes.
Step 4: Repeat for all necessary membership types. 

Instructions - Creating a New Member

Step 1: After creating your custom membership types, you can begin to create new membership records. To begin, navigate to the Contacts App > Members > Search & Manage > Create New.

Step 2: Complete the entry for the following data points related to your new membership record.
General Tab - On the General Tab you will be able to enter:
      1. Rate: the rate at which the member will be billed (total final value)
      2. Active: defaults to yes
      3. Create Invoice: defaults to yes. upon completion of the membership record and click SAVE an invoice will be generated
        1. Note: If utilizing automatic billing to customize recurring billing select No
      4. State Date: this is the starting date of the membership. Click on until to add an ending date
      5. Category: as this is a membership record, this will default to Membership
      6. Type: select the membership type to be applied 
      7. Status: optional for organization preference
      8. Fund: optional, selection of Fund account
      9. GL Code: optional, selection of General Ledger Code to be applied 

Contact Tab - On the General Tab you will be able to enter:
      1. the Person, Organization, or Household to associate the membership.
      2. If no contacts are found, or if the contacts do not match, you can create a new contact record with the data entered.

Billing Tab - On the Billing Tab you will be able to establish a manual or automatic billing of the membership:
      1. Manual billing – please note all transactions and invoicing must be manually created and processed by a user within your organization.
        1. This also allows you to create a custom billing schedule after the membership record has been created. (Via the Invoice tab which will be created upon saving the record)
        2. This is a great feature for examples in which a customized invoicing and billing is needed for the individual donor
      2. Auto(matic) billing – selecting Auto will expose billing options including installment amounts, frequency and payment method.
        1. This is a great feature for examples such as an "Annual" membership which will be automatically invoiced and billed monthly
        2. Note, please be sure to apply to all future invoices.
      3. Note: All payment method types can be used for automatic billing and a transaction will be created, however cash and checks will not process until they have been entered into the database.
Attribution Tab - On the Attribution Tab assign optional attribution elements such as campaigns, solicitors, regions, etc. These associations will be available for all downstream reporting elements including campaign association, solicitor assignment, region, opportunity assignment, and/or tribute assignment.

Step 3: Click on SAVE to secure your entry and complete the creation of a new a membership record. This will expose additional options for future management of a membership record. 

Instructions - Managing and Maintaining Existing Membership Records

Step 1: Once a membership has been created, you may need to manage elements of the membership record, including invoicing and billing. To begin, navigate to the Contacts App > Members > Search & Manage > locate the membership record > ACTIONS > Manage.
Note: Within ACTIONS, you will also have quick access to a few essential functions such as status change, sending an email, adjusting a billing date, cancelling a membership, reviewing payments, and deleting a membership record. 

Step 2: Manage to view the membership configurations including the following tabs:
Billing Tab - From the Billing Tab you can manage your billing options including changing from manual to automatic. 
Note: If you adjust any elements of the billing component, be sure to create a selection for Copy to Invoices including copy (or apply) to open invoices, collectable invoices only, or do not apply to any invoices. 
Invoices Tab - From the Invoices Tab you can manage all invoices associated with the membership as well as leveraging Add New to create a new invoice.
Note: Manual creation of invoices can be leveraged for manual billing or if an out of cycle payment is requested/received. 

To manage existing invoices, click under ACTIONS > Manage.

Note: If the invoice has an assigned payment type (i.e. Credit Card or ACH), the user will also have the ability to initiate a 'Pay Now' to pay the invoice immediately.  
You will then be navigated to the Dues Invoice screen. Here you can capture payment details or adjust invoicing needs. 

On the dues screen, you will be able to configure general settings such as the amount and due date, as well as center payment information on the Payment info tab such as a check number.

If the membership is set for manual billing, you will also be able to create the transaction on the payments tab by clicking add new.

Payments Tab - On the Payments Tab, click here to view all payments associated with the membership record. Payments are funds attempted or collected upon. (Note, invoices are simply the notification to attempt to collect payment. An invoice does not secure a payment - as such invoices can remain open and uncollected if payment is missed. The Payment tab will provide you the insights on payments associated with an invoice.)
For existing payments, you will be able to manage the individual transaction, send an acknowledgement, delete the transaction, and update the contact record.
You can also create a new payment by clicking Add New.

Instructions - Creating Membership Web Forms

Step 1: Navigate to the Online App > Web Forms > Search & Manage > Create New > select Membership Form

Step 2: Select Membership Types to expose through your web form > click CREATE to continue to build the Membership Form.

Step 3: Continue with configuration needs within the web form.

Note, similar to other web form features, users have the ability to leverage available tokens for receipt acknowledgement. Leverage the Email tab > Donor or Constituent Auto-Responder (and/or Internal (carbon copy)) to create or modify an existing Email Message.

Use Case - Communication for Membership Renewal

Leveraging CharityEngine's automation and workflows can assist organizations with automated membership renewal and support upgrade opportunities. 

Integrated Send Message Feature (Individual Management)

Step 1: Navigate to Contacts App > Members > locate the desired record from the listing screen

Step 2: Select one or more records using the checkbox on the left side of the record

Step 3: Navigate to More > Send Message

Step 4: Determine sending preference (Letter/Email), enter sender details and elect to create an activity for tracking and management

Step 5:Create a new message or select a pre-designed template from Load Message and click NEXT

Step 6: Click PROCESS to initiate the send

Step 7: Receive success message and continue to click CLOSE

Automated Send Message Feature (Bulk/Automated Sending Management)

This use case could be applied for notification to members who are about to end their membership cycle and are ready for renewal. In this use case, the construct is to identify members who are expiring in 90 days in order to deliver an automated email with a link to select/pay for their next annual membership. In this use case, targeting expiring membership in January 2024.

Create the audience using queries

Step 1: Navigate to Automation & Workflow App > General > Queries > Create New > Filter: Donations > Select: Memberships > CONTINUE

Step 2: Add needed fields for the audience query (including any custom tokens to be used within the email content)

  • Critical - ensure the Contact Id from the Membership Table is included in order to initiate an email blast

Step 3: Use the filter to identify the future end date range

  • In this example, the organization is looking for "Payment End Date" is In Future AND "Payment End Date" is Before next 90 Days
  • Hint: To expose filter option, hover over the right side of the filter field and click on the Beaker icon - this will exclude the options such as "In Future" and "Before next 90 Days"

Step 4: Save the query.

Step 5: Access the Campaigns App > Quick Actions > Email Blast

Step 6: Select the query for audience and click next

Step 7: Next, select create new or select existing for the creative and click next

Note: In this example, a button listed as "Renew Today" will route the donor/member to a membership type web forms

Step 8: Create the desired send schedule and additional settings as needed and click next

Step 9: Review the delivery and click PROCESS > OK

To set a recurring schedule continue with the following steps:

Step 10: Access the Campaigns App > Creative & Publish > locate the creative ACTION > Schedule 

Steps 11: The user will be routed the Automation & Workflow App > Enter the schedule Name (required), Start (End) Dates, select Audience Type: Smart List and then select the query created above and complete other attribution selections > Click Save

Step 12: From the Triggers tab, select the appropriate frequency and click SAVE. In this example the email will be delivered on the 5th of each month at 10:00am EST to members who are expiring up to 90 days in the future


FAQs & Additional Reading

Q. I am using an email creative and am using the Special Link feature. Which option do I select to allow the donor to make a payment or update their payment details?
A. Using the appropriate special link requires alignment with your audience source (query or report). Please follow these guidelines when using payment special links:
Special Link When to Use Audience Source
"Sustainer Payment Link" Donor updating sustainer account payment details Automation & Workflow > General > Queries > Create New > Filter: Donation > Select: Sustainers
Ensure "Sustainer ID" is within query for reference in communication series
"Membership Payment Link" Donor updating membership account payment details Automation & Workflow > General > Queries > Create New > Filter: Donation > Select: Memberships
Ensure "Membership ID" is within query for reference in communication series
"Pledge Payment Link" Donor updating pledge account payment details Automation & Workflow > General > Queries > Create New > Filter: Donation > Select: Pledges
Ensure "Pledge ID" is within query for reference in communication series
"Invoice Payment Link" Donor updating an invoice/installment for sustainer, pledge.
Donor has option to update payment for one invoice with an option to apply payment details to all future invoices.
Automation & Workflow > General > Queries > Create New > Filter: Donation > Select: Invoices
Ensure "Invoice ID" is within query for reference in communication series


 Q. Where can I access the membership change log?

A. Access the membership record and scroll to the bottom of the screen to access the view change log. From here the user will have access to details surrounding changes related to the membership record.

Q. Can a user overcharge a donor when adding a new invoice?

A. No. There are fail-safes in place to ensure that a donor is not charged for more than that total value of their pledge commitment.

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