Collecting memberships with Beacon

Updated 8 months ago

Beacon makes it easy to collect memberships online. You can also use the same system for sponsorships, or any other specific wording you use at your organisation. There's no code to write, plus we take care of a lot of the things you probably don't want to worry about, like:

  • Security - secure PCI compliant payment processing
  • Data entry - so the data ends up in the right place
  • Email acknowlegements - so members get notified
  • Gift Aid - new donations are automatically added to your open claim
  • Direct debits - recurring memberships only
  • Mobile - Google Pay & Apple Pay


link Quick start: How to get set up with an example membership form

link Connect with payment providers

We connect with industry leading payment processors like Stripe, PayPal, or GoCardless so you can securely process credit card payments and direct debits online.

To make it possible for Beacon to accept donations, go to Settings > Payments in your sidebar (you'll need to be an admin), and connect with at least one payment provider. The following payment providers are supported with memberships:

link Create your first membership form

Once you've connected your payment provider(s) with Beacon, you can create your first membership form.

  1. Go to Forms

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  1. Click Create form. Give your new form a title (will be shown to members). Set the type to Membership.

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  1. Click Create

  2. Create a membership option for your form. Click ADD MEMBERSHIP OPTION in the bottom left of the Membership options section. Add some information about this new membership option like the example here. The Membership Type at the top is pulled from the Type of your Membership record type, so you'll need to update the Membership record type to make more types available.

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  1. Add monthly and annual prices (it doesn't matter what these are for now - you can always change them later!) and click SAVE.

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  1. Click VIEW FORM in the top right corner of the EDIT FORM page. You'll see that a new form is created, and good to go!

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  1. That's it! Try signing up as a new member through the form. After the form is submitted, you'll see that the following happens automatically:
  • A new payment or subscription has been created
  • The member has been created (or updated) as a person
  • A new membership has been created for this person
  • If the Gift Aid checkbox was checked, a declaration has been added to the person's profile
  • The member is acknowledged immediately via email
  • You've been notified via email that the membership has been set up

check_circle_outline Forms can do lots more than just take memberships! Click here to learn more.

link Memberships in detail

The following sections take a closer look at how to set up your memberships.

link Wording settings

Whilst we call them 'Memberships', you might run a 'Sponsorship' program, or maybe your call your members 'Friends'. These are all possible! You can adjust the wording on the form by setting three different words to use. We even provide an example so you can check that it reads nicely. Membership wording

link Membership options

A membership option describes a specific type of membership that a new member can sign up for. You might have a membership option for individual adults, one for children, and one for families. Membership options allow you to specify the important details about each membership, like how much they cost and when they need to be renewed.

Your membership options are displayed at the top of your membership form and they are configured in the Membership options section of your form configuration.

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link Membership types

Each membership option corresponds to a single membership type. You can only have one option for each membership type. Your available membership types are defined in the type field of the membership record.

link Membership frequencies

Memberships can have different frequencies. A frequency describes how often the member has to pay for their membership. Memberships can be monthly, annual, or lifetime memberships.

Monthly memberships must be paid using a recurring payment method such as a recurring card payment or direct debit.

Annual memberships can either be paid by a recurring payment method such as a recurring card payment or direct debit or they can be paid as a single payment for the year. You can set different prices for annual memberships based on whether the member chooses to pay with recurring payment method or makes a single payment.

Lifetime memberships are paid for with a single payment.

link Single membership payments (lifetime and annual)

Single payments are collected via credit/debit card through Stripe and are charged immediately.

When a single membership payment is made via a Beacon form, the data flows into Beacon like this:

  • A person record is created for the primary member
  • If any additional members need to be created a person record is created for each of them
  • The membership and Gift Aid declaration records are automatically created
  • A payment record is created in Beacon (linked to the primary member)
  • Notifications and acknowledgements from the Single memberships section are sent out via email

If a membership is paid for with a single payment then the membership will expire and the member will need to renew their membership. You can find the expiry date by looking at the Expiry date field on the new membership record.

If the payment is for a lifetime membership the Expiry date field on the membership record will not be set (as the membership never expires).

link Recurring membership payments (monthly and annual)

Recurring payments are handled a little differently to single payments. They're collected via either Direct Debit (GoCardless) or credit cards (Stripe).

Each month or year, the amount is automatically taken from the member's account until they cancel their membership.

It usually takes GoCardless ~1-2 weeks to set up a direct debit mandate with a bank (this is normal), and then the mandate becomes active. Once active, you're able to charge payments directly to the member's bank account.

For credit cards, the first payment is charged immediately.

As such, when a recurring membership payment is made via a Beacon form, the data flows into Beacon like this:

  • A person record is created for the primary member
  • If any additional members need to be created a person record is created for each of them
  • The membership and Gift Aid declaration records are automatically created
  • A subscription record is created in Beacon (linked to the primary member)
  • Notifications and acknowledgements from the Recurring memberships section are sent out via email

We also set up a subscription in GoCardless/Stripe, which will automatically bill the member at the earliest possible date, and then every month after that.

When each monthly payment comes in Beacon automatically saves them on your behalf, linked to the relevant subscription and member. This happens in real-time; Beacon gets notified as soon as each payment is processed.

link Collecting details about members

You need to collect information about your new members. This is done in the Member details section.

Here you can configure each membership option to specify the information you want to collect about your new member. Each membership needs a "primary member", this is the person to whom the membership belongs. Some information about the primary member will already have been collected elsewhere on the form, so this is an opportunity to collect additional information about the member.

link Collecting details about additional members

Sometimes a membership is for more than one person. For example, a Family membership might allow for up to two adults and up to three children to be members within the same membership. The Additional members section at the bottom of the Edit members dialog allows you to collect information from these members.

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When you add an additional member you will need to provide a label for the member along with a maximum number of members of this kind that are allowed for this membership option. For example, in our example above we would allow for a minimum of 0 and a maximum of 1 additional "Adult" members, and a minimum of 0 and a maximum of 3 "Child" members.

Remember that these are members in additional to the primary member. In our example the primary member counts as one of the "Adult" member types.

link Memberships as gifts

You can allow memberships to be given as gifts.

If you select the Allow memberships to be given as gifts? option you'll see some new options appear. You can customise the labels on the options for giving memberships as gifts by changing the Gift Option and Personal Option values. You can also allow the user to set a custom start date. This means that a membership can be given as a gift but won't start until the special occasion that the gift is being given for.

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If a membership is given as a gift you need to collect information about both the gift giver and the primary member - these are now two different people! The Edit Members dialog displays a new section in which you can specify the information you want to collect about the primary member if they are recieving the membership as a gift.

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Importantly, giving a membership as a gift changes the way that the membership data is stored. Beacon creates separate person records for the person who is paying for the membership and the person who is going to become the new member (the primary member).

All memberships can be given as gifts - one-off, recurring, and lifetime memberships.

link Making an additional donation

When a new member creates or renews their membership you can take this opportunity to ask them for an additional donation. This works in exactly the same way as a donation form.

You can choose whether to allow members to give additional donations in the Additional donations section.

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You can configure the donation amounts in the Donation amount section just as you would with a donation form.

Donations are created as entirely separate payments and charges in Beacon which makes it easier to track where payments are coming from and to claim gift aid.

link Renewing Memberships

You can use a membership form to renew memberships.

This functionality is set in the Membership Options section.

An existing member can enter their membership number and add their payment information to renew their membership, or convert to a recurring membership. Beacon will use their membership number to join up their new payment with their person record and extend their existing membership in Beacon.

help_outline Tip: if a member sees the below message, it means an Expiry date hasn't been set on the membership. Set the expiry date to allow them to renew.

Your Adult membership is set up to auto-renew. You don't need to fill in this form.

link Acknowledging members

When someone creates a new membership via a Beacon form, Beacon immediately sends an acknowledgement email to them.

You can customise the subject and content of this email, as well as the team member who the email is from in the acknowledgement part of the form settings:

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There are a number of different emails that are sent under different circumstances. Donation emails are sent in addition to membership acknowledgement emails when an additional donation is made. The Gift email is sent to a gift giver instead of a membership email.

link Getting notified

It can be useful to know when someone has created a new membership online through one of your forms.

In the notifications section, you can customise who receives email notifications from Beacon each time a membership is created, as well as the subject and content of the email.

There are a number of different emails that are sent under different circumstances. Donation emails are sent in addition to membership notification emails when an additional donation is made. The Gift email is sent to a gift giver instead of a membership email.

link Fixed data

When membership forms are submitted, we automatically create the relevant records in your Beacon database. There's no manual entry.

Each time a new membership is created, you'll probably want to make sure it's categorised in the right way. For example, it might make sense to set the following on all new membership payments:

  • Type = membership
  • Gift Aid allowed = no
  • Source = website

This is how the fixed data section helps you. It makes it easy to segment your data going forwards.

When new people, memberships, payments, subscriptions, or declarations are created via a Beacon form, Beacon auto-sets the fixed data on each record created (as well as the data that comes from the form).

You can customise the fixed data that Beacon sets to fit your needs:

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link Frequently asked questions

link One of our members signed up twice, rather than renewing using their existing member number!

If someone signs up twice, in Beacon they'll now have two membership records. As such, they'll also have two member numbers. This can be a problem, if you'd like to use the member number to uniquely identify a member.

If someone bought a new membership instead of renewing it, we recommend that you merge the memberships together.

If someone had a different membership, or was a member in the past but their membership expired a few years ago, we would recommend keeping the old membership record and requiring them to use a new membership number, as it can be useful to better understand how they have interacted with you over time.

link Does Beacon automatically send out emails to members when they need to renew?

At the moment, no. However, you can filter your memberships in Beacon to find out the expiring/expired members, and either use document merge to generate them a letter asking them to renew, or export to Mailchimp or dotdigital for bulk emailing. If you want to send individual emails directly from Beacon, you can set up an email template to quickly issue reminders with key details from the member's records.

link When a member renews, what happens to their expiry dates?

If a member renews their membership for another year, Beacon will update their expiry date differently depending on when they renewed:

  • If someone renews before their membership expires, we'll add a year to the expiry date (so they don't lose out for doing it early!)
  • If someone renews after their membership has expired, we'll add a year to today's date (so that they aren't getting less time than what they pay for)

help_outline If someone renews and selects a recurring membership option, we will clear their expiry date (as it won't expire now!)


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