Four Ways to Integrate Your Membership CRM with Your Online Registration Form

Many professional trade organizations offer preferential conference registration pricing to their active members. This is an important technique to encourage membership growth by providing a clear, tangible value to being a member. In fact, your online registration form is a great way to grow your membership. The trick is finding the correct combination of software products that make it easy to validate active membership during the online registration process.

Unfortunately, many online registration software products do not provide an easy way to validate membership. However, there does exist online registration software designed for membership organizations. Such products use a number of techniques to make it easy to perform important validation functions.

Manual List Upload

This is the most basic method and still very popular. This technique simply involves uploading the membership list into the online registration system. The latter then can validate members by looking at this list. The most common ways to validate a member is by Email, Member ID, or company.

The main reason manual uploads are still popular is that many organizations are still using antiquated CRM systems. These systems do not lend themselves to the real-time interfaces that the below techniques allow. The manual list upload process suffers from a variety of shortcomings including being very time consuming, error prone, and an ongoing time lag between the members on the list and those that joined since the list was prepared.

Real-time Web Service to Membership CRM

In most cases, membership data is kept in a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. Newer CRM systems have been designed to work on the Internet so that people can join and renew their memberships online. One advantage of having such systems is that these CRMs will often offer an online Application Programming Interface (API). APIs are great because third-party software platforms may also access the membership data. The conduit for such environments is called a “web service” and these may be used by online registration systems to validate memberships in real-time.

Here is how such a web service process may work.

  • On the online registration form, the registrant enters their unique membership identifier such as Email or MemberID.

  • The online registration system calls the CRM’s web service with that identifier.

  • The CRM returns to the online registration software whether or not the member is active and, if appropriate, their contact information.

  • If the member is identified as active, the online registration shows the registrant the preferential pricing as well as pre-populating the form with their contact info, thus making the registration process easier.

  • If the member is not found as active, a message is returned stating so and along with steps to take to become active.

This type of interface eliminates all the problems associated with manual list uploads. Validation is in real-time and the data is accurate. New members benefit as they do not have to wait for the data to be uploaded to the online registration system.

Single Sign On (SSO)

Member-based associations want to have a good understanding of users’ navigation of their website. For that reason, many sites require users to login before accessing resources or information about events. This technique is also useful for collecting information on prospective members as they to need to create a login to access valuable resources.

When it is time for someone to register for an event in this environment, they can only go to the registration form if they have logged on to the CRM system. When they go to the online registration form, a token is passed to the registration system that indicates the login session corresponding to the user. The registration system then makes a web-system call back to the CRM validating the session and collecting data such as contact information and membership status. At this point, much of the work of the registration form is already completed when the process starts (since the registration system has much of the contact information.) This technique is called Single Sign On (SSO).

Only a small set of powerful CRMs such as iMIS are able to support such mechanisms. Similarly, only a few full featured online registration software packages can support the SSO handoff from the CRM. SSO has many advantages including be able to track an entire user experience from accessing the organization’s website to the completion or abandonment of a registration. Data is also tracked in a more structured manner. Of course, the registrant benefits from fewer steps and not having to retype much of their contact information.


There are few standards for SSO. Consequently, each implementation of SSO tends to be customized. For example, if one CRM system is iMIS and another is YourMembership, their SSO links to the online registration form will require a different implementation, and thus an additional cost to setup.

Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML) solves this problem by creating a standard for SSO. This means that this protocol is the same across platforms, thus avoiding duplicate customization efforts. Another advantage of SAML is increased security as it uses a third-party “Identity Provider” to authenticate the requesting parties. SAML is a newer technology, but is likely to supplant many current SSO implementations.

Contact us to see how easy to integrate membership experience into your online registration forms!