11 Steps to Membership Management Success – Planning Your Database I – Prepare Your Master Import File

Young woman designs database

Step 3 – Prepare Your Master Import File

In Step 2, you learned about managing memberships using levels and bundles. Now, we’re on to Step 3: creating the master import file that you’ll use to import your membership data into Wild Apricot.

But first, a few other quick tips to help you get your membership database in tip-top shape, to help enable a smooth migration.

Archived records are included

Do you wish to store certain contacts or members in Wild Apricot, but do not want to upgrade to a more expensive Wild Apricot plan? You can do this with archived records— and at no extra charge. And, you can still “revive” archived records and make them active at any time. If you exceed your Wild Apricot database contact limit by unarchiving records, you will have to upgrade to the next higher subscription plan.  

Either an administrative user or an archived member can reclassify archived records in Wild Apricot using the administrative system in Wild Apricot. However, there are some technical limits on archives: know these limits before you prepare to archive!

Keep prep work in the background

Here are some tools we recommend you check out before we move on to preparing your master file for migration, configuration and testing:

  • Prevent surprise emails being sent automatically by turning off emailing for all contacts during the import. Wild Apricot does start the renewal workflows when data is loaded, so make sure you load data with email subscriptions set to “no”.
  • Wild Apricot also has a handy member set-up checklist that might help you create some subtasks within your project’s data migration plan.
  • If you want to verify your email addresses before loading them into the new database, you can try this excellent (paid) service called BriteVerity.

Not sure your data is ready?

If you still think there’s more to do to get your database ready to import, we can help — Contact NewPath Consulting for a free consultation.

If you’ve followed all the steps previous to this one, you will have assessed and inventoried your membership data and made critical decisions about how to organize it as you prepare for migration to Wild Apricot.

Before we move on to starting to create your master import file — Congratulate yourself on completing this final preparation phase [it might be a good time to get yourself a beverage 😊].

Whether you plan to build your public and members’ website in Wild Apricot, or only to link your existing website to the Wild Apricot membership website, you will need to do three things:

  • Decide on the custom database fields you need
  • Clean your database
  • Do some test imports to check data integrity

First, build the master import file locally…

To start creating the master import file you will need to create a spreadsheet containing your contacts and members. This file will have data organized into all the fields (or columns in a spreadsheet) you’d like to migrate into Wild Apricot.

Start by building your “master import file” spreadsheet, which you’ll create based on the raw data you brought together in Step 1. Excel, Google Sheets or Pages are all good choices for manipulating and getting the file ready. We like to use Excel because it is great at handling a lot of data (up to 1 million rows per worksheet). It also has a lot of useful formulas for cleaning up and transforming data.

Creating a master “data model” can be challenging, especially if you have not been using another database but rather have had all your membership data in unstructured documents like Word documents or many Excel spreadsheets.  

Tools to help with data hygiene

Be aware that a messy database will create problems in Wild Apricot! Migration of data between systems is a perfect time to clean up your database and put into place some new data-hygiene rules.

The right steps, still in the right order …

As we’ve said earlier, it’s tempting to start planning the website before, or in parallel with, preparing to migrate membership data.

You’ll benefit more if you lay a strong and reliable foundation, before building the house and designing the front entrance. How? By preparing and accurately describing your database.

Let the pros help

NewPath can advise on how to use filtering, formulas and other spreadsheet tricks to get your data in tip top shape. Contact us to learn more

Watch for our next chapter to complete Step 3, where you’ll complete the build of your master import file. We will include a handy worksheet that will help you create a master import file and define a “dictionary” of all the fields in your Wild Apricot data model.

About the author

Alex is a pioneer in using the cloud to meet the needs of small and medium sized business (SMBs) and membership-based organizations. He has a BSc in computer science from the University of Michigan and has worked as a product manager at two Internet startups. Alex is a father of 2 and plays the trumpet for fun. He is the founder and the president of the University of Michigan Alumni Club of Toronto.