11 Steps to Membership Management Success – Planning Your Database II – Final Prep of Your Master Import File

Step 3 con't - Final Prep Your Master Import File

Step 3 con’t – Final Prep Your Master Import File


In our previous “11 Steps to Membership Management Success” article you created the spreadsheet containing your data for migration into Wild Apricot. Hopefully you’ve tried our suggestions for ensuring your data is clean before the import.  

Now, we’ll look at how you’ll combine the fields you’ve created in your master import file with those fields required for Wild Apricot. This is a crucial step, as including the system fields and assigning them valid values will make your import much easier to complete!

Mapping your database fields

Wild Apricot has a very powerful and flexible data import module that lets you import your member and contact data. The step-by-step data import process will:

  • Validate your data against business rules in Wild Apricot
  • Create the database fields you need on the fly
  • Do bulk updates of existing data already in the system

When you start the import, the system will ask you to map your fields to the fields already in Wild Apricot. If you have data that’s not already a field in their database, Wild Apricot can create any custom fields you need during the import.

We recommend that you create the custom fields based on your spreadsheet columns, before you import your data. Why is this important? If the field names in Wild Apricot are the same as the column header fields (the first row) in your spreadsheet, the field mapping will be done “automagically”!

Need to upgrade your account?

Remember, a trial account will allow you to import up to 50 contacts (see Step 0 for more on the Wild Apricot pricing model).

Differentiating contacts and members

In Wild Apricot, all members are also automatically classified as contactsbut it doesn’t work in reverse: not all contacts are classified as members.

Here’s are some ways to tell the difference:

  • Members have exactly one membership level assigned, whereas contacts do not have any membership level assigned.
  • You can create custom fields for contacts (known as common fields) as well as for members (known as membership fields).
  • Members pay fees and have access to members’ benefits, contacts do not. However, unarchived members and contacts can both log in with a password to your Wild Apricot website.
  • Members get all contact common fields as part of their record. Membership fields are available only for members. Membership fields can also be activated and available for specific membership levels.
  • The handy diagram in the Common vs Specialized Fields section of Wild Apricot’s help page is super useful!

The best way to think about it for most organizations is like this: contacts are all records that may eventually become members when they join the organization under a membership level. Members are people (or organizations) that have joined and are enjoying special benefits provided under their membership plan, like discounted events, products and services.

Wild Apricot encourages you to load all contacts and members into the database to use the marketing features like email to convert contacts into members. You don’t have to load contacts into Wild Apricot and can use external email systems like MailChimp to drive conversions, but the experience is not as well-integrated.

To learn more, check out this help document to distinguish between contacts and members in Wild Apricot. It is really important to understand this difference and get to know all the Wild Apricot features that are available for members but not for contacts.

Creating custom fields

There are several Wild Apricot system fields that can be updated. For example, to suspend a member, you simply set the “Membership enabled” field to “no”. Read more in this description of all the system fields you can set and update in Wild Apricot. These must be part of the initial master import file, especially if you wish to assign membership levels during the initial import.

Learn to update your system fields

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.

Extra charge calculation fields will likely not be part of your legacy database. These are powerful fields that allow you to add costs to the base membership fees. They can be used to add various options to a membership subscription, like a t-shirt, or to add fees based on member salaries. Extra charge calculation fields enable an organization to have dynamically-priced membership fees.

Now that you’ve defined custom fields for both contacts and members, you can try an export of any current records in the  Wild Apricot. The correct field names will be in row 1 of the export (also known as the header row). You can use this header row in your master import file. This will make importing your full database easy and simple, as your columns will be “automagically” matched during the mapping process!

Want to practice before using your own file?

 Try this sample master import file to make simple transformations of data from your legacy database.

The database customization, membership renewal and event management features are where Wild Apricot shines and is most powerful. These are the tools that save the most time. In fact, some organizations are satisfied with these features alone and don’t move on to create a Wild Apricot-powered website. But we think this is a mistakethe full power of the platform comes when you combine Wild Apricot’s website-building capabilities with all the automation modules.

If you want to take full advantage of Wild Apricot’s website tool, don’t worry. We’ll take you through those steps in the next few articles in this series.

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.